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Seamen are at risk for work related injuries whenever they are on the clock, just like any other industry. The courts work diligently to protect injured seamen through general maritime law.
Workers who have been injured in the maritime industry can take advantage of the maritime law to get compensation for their medical problems.
The following acts are foundational to maritime law:
- Jones Act
- Death on the High Seas Act
- Limitation of Liability Act
- Longshoreman & Harbor Workers Compensation Act
General maritime law is the basis for all injuries sustained by seamen. It is important to have a comprehensive understanding of the general law before delving into the subsequent acts.
History of Admiralty & Maritime Law
Most accidents that occur on navigable waters are governed by maritime law, which is nearly as old as the industry itself. The law’s roots go back to nautical behavior of the Egyptians and Greeks. The earliest formal codes were established on the island of Rhodes.
The ancient customs and rules of shipping gave birth to the maritime laws and codes.
When we think of history and ancient cultures, many people know about ancient Egypt, Greece, Rome, or even China, but the history of the Byzantine Empire might be something people don’t know very much about. But it’s time to change that! The Byzantine Empire was one of the largest and most influential empires in history.
During her travels in the Mediterranean Sea, Queen Eleanor of Aquitaine encountered a maritime law authority.
Admiralty law comes from the British admiralty courts, which have a separate set of rules from common law courts.
The United States’ judicial system is based on the British system, which has been amended over the years to incorporate admiralty law.
When Does Maritime Law Apply?
Accidents that happen beyond the territorial waters of any country are covered by maritime law. The territorial sea can be found within 12 miles of the shore. The law’s applicability is less clear further inland.
The Great Lakes and nontidal inland waterways were excluded from maritime law because they were not in the country. In the 19th century the exclusion was gone.
Accidents that happen beyond the territorial waters of any country are covered by maritime law. The territorial sea can be found within 12 miles of the shore. The law’s applicability is less clear further inland.
The Great Lakes and nontidal inland waterways were excluded from maritime law because they were not within the body of the country. In the 19th century, this exclusion eroded away.
Incidents That Require Texas Maritime Accident Attorneys
Houston maritime injury attorneys exist to help injured seamen or dock workers get the compensation they need to recover from serious injuries and afford long-term medical costs that occurred offshore. That includes any accidents that occur on “navigable waters” (rivers and ocean) and in harbors or docks.
Our maritime lawyers have represented clients who were injured in:
- Jack-up rig accidents
- Tugboat and barge accidents
- Deck accidents
- Commercial fishing accidents
- Falls overboard
- Cargo ship accidents
- Dredge accidents
- Oil platform accidents
- Shipyard accidents
- Cruise ship accidents
A maritime accident can be devastating to people and can be a major threat for ships and sailors. There are many incidents of vessels colliding with oil rigs off the coast. The lives of the men working on the oil platforms can be affected by the platforms.
Lawyers for the maritime industry try to make sure that employees are compensated for injuries they suffer while working offshore. If you were injured because of unsafe working conditions, you should immediately contact a maritime lawyer.
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The Basics of Maritime Law
Maritime law is derived from many sources: federal statutes and general maritime law being two of the most prominent. These sources provide some of the maritime doctrines that are commonly used in cases involving vessels and their passengers and crew.
Maritime law sets forth many of the basic legal tenets associated with the sea and seamen, including:
- Seaman’s Right to Maintenance and Cure: Maintenance and cure are benefits that an injured seaman receives from an employer during the course of recovery. Maintenance includes such expenses as the seaman’s rent or mortgage, utilities, property taxes, homeowner’s insurance, and food. Cure is similar to workers’ compensation benefits for land-based employees; it covers costs related to medical treatment for the work-related injury. A seaman is someone who is a captain or crew member aboard a vessel in navigation. Also similar to worker’s compensation, Maintenance and cure does not require that the seaman prove any fault for their injury—the employer is required to pay.
Jurisdiction in Maritime Law Cases
In the U.S., jurisdiction over admiralty law matters was originally given to the federal courts. However, today most admiralty cases can be heard by both state and federal courts under the saving to suitors clause in Title 28 of the United States Code (28 U.S.C. § 1333). The exception to this is any matter involving maritime property; those cases may only be tried in federal court. If a state court presides over an admiralty case, the court is required to apply admiralty or maritime law rather than its state law.
How Does Maritime Law Provide for Hurt Workers?
Without maritime law, injured seamen would be left on their own to counteract the suffering they sustained while working. Anytime a ship employee becomes injured or sick, the vessel owner is required to reimburse their losses. Maritime law refers to this reimbursement as maintenance and cure, meaning that until the seaman fully recovers, the employer must provide for their affliction. The court views this obligation as an unquestionable duty that the shipowner owes any seaman aboard their vessel. Seamen are also eligible to recover full wages for the length of the voyage during which they sustained injuries or illness. An employment contract may dictate the amount of unearned wages a seaman can receive.
PROVISIONS FOR MAINTENANCE & CURE
Maintenance and cure refer to the benefits a seaman is entitled to until he/she recovers and is fit for duty. However, there is a maximum medical improvement (MMI) limit that can control the amount of compensation received.
Because many ship owners are loathe to pay the highest amount possible, they either follow old rates (from $15 to $35 a day) or regulate cure benefits by hand-picking covered medical treatments. The U.S. Supreme Court states the duty to provide maintenance and cure must be broad and inclusive. In the case of compensation, the seaman is almost always favored when skepticism is involved.
Catastrophic Maritime Injuries
In some instances, an offshore accident can cause injuries that are so serious that they change a person’s life permanently. These types of injuries are so notorious that the medical and legal community has a word for them: catastrophic injuries. When a person has this type of offshore injury, their injuries will likely impact the rest of their life. In some instances, certain injuries mean that a person won’t be able to earn a living with physical work as they once didn’t. In other cases, it means that every aspect of a person’s life is impacted by the severity of their injuries.
Serious maritime injuries that change lives include:
- Traumatic brain injuries (TBI)
- Spinal cord injuries
- Burn injuries
- Crush injuries
Often, these offshore injuries require a lifetime of medical care. When workers are suffering from an accident they didn’t cause, they deserve compensation for the care that will make their life as comfortable as possible.
Maritime Burn Injuries
One of the most catastrophic injuries that can occur in a maritime accident is a burn injury. If you suffered a burn injury during a maritime accident, it is vital to contact a top-rated Houston maritime burn injury lawyer as quickly as possible. Arnold & Itkin LLP has helped hundreds of injured seamen advocate for their rights, including those who have suffered serious burn injuries while working offshore.
Experienced maritime workers know that fires can ignite in most offshore environments. These incidents can lead to severe burn injuries.
Common causes of offshore burn injuries include:
- Contact with Hazardous Chemicals: Highly flammable chemicals can cause severe burns.
- Electrical accidents: Faulty or improperly handled electrical equipment can spark a fire.
- Engine Room Fires: Malfunctions in engine room can cause an explosion or fire.
- Equipment Malfunctions: Hazardous or defective equipment can cause a fire.
- Explosions: Caused by highly flammable chemicals used for vessels or onboard equipment.
Types of Burn Injuries a Maritime Worker Can Experience
There are several degrees of burn injuries depending on the severity of the burn. Burn injuries can be caused by extreme heat, electricity, chemicals, radiation, or friction. Any of these burn hazards are present on seafaring vessels or offshore rigs.
Burn injuries can range from mild to life-altering burns, including:
- First-Degree Burns: This is usually a surface burn that does not necessarily require medical attention, but may cause irritation and pain.
- Second-Degree Burns: This is a more severe burn that may cause blisters and may extend below the surface. Healing can take a few weeks.
- Third & Fourth-Degree Burns: These are the most serious burn injuries because they extend through the entire layer of tissue that lies below the surface. This layer contains structures, such as nerve endings, sweat glands, hair follicles, and blood capillaries. These burn injuries are much more severe and will require a longer healing process and more medical attention.
Serious Burn Injury Complications
Severe burn injuries can lead to serious complications if not treated properly.
Third- or fourth-degree burn complications include:
- Hypothermia resulting from the loss of body heat due to the damaged skin.
- Hypovolemia from damaged blood vessels causing your body to lose blood and other fluids.
- Infections resulting from the lack of protective barriers due to the damaged skin.
- Joint difficulties can result from the build-up of scar tissue.
- Sepsis can result from an infection—this is a life-threatening condition.
Hospitalization costs for catastrophic burns can run into the six-figure range. This is why it is vital to contact an attorney as soon as possible to recover financial compensation for your injuries. Suffering these injuries without support can destabilize your future, and the sooner you get in contact with a maritime burn injury lawyer, the better your chances of achieving the best possible outcome for your case.
Houston Maritime Brain Injury Attorneys
Head injuries occur frequently in the maritime industry—depending on the severity of the injury, lifelong treatment may be needed. In many cases it may seem as though cases could have not been prevented; in reality, many brain injury accidents could have been prevented with the proper precautions. If that’s the case, you may be able to file a claim under the Jones Act.
Some of the most common causes of brain injuries include:
- Broken equipment
- Conveyor belt accidents
- Crane and cargo accidents
- Improper safety guidelines/training
- Improperly stored equipment
- Lack of safety equipment
- Poor ship maintenance
- Slip and fall accidents
Types of Brain Injuries & Common Symptoms
When a maritime worker suffers a head injury, it’s one of two types: a closed head injury and an open head injury. A closed head injury is when an injury doesn’t cause the skull to be broken, fractured, or pierced. An open head injury is when the skull is pierced or fractured. Although open head injuries may seem more severe, closed head injuries are difficult to diagnose and can require extensive treatment.
Common symptoms of brain injuries include:
- Cognitive Damage – Memory loss, trouble with concentration and attention.
- Sensory Symptoms – Loss of vision, hearing loss, or loss of taste or smell.
- Physical Symptoms – Seizures, headaches, paralysis, insomnia, chronic pain, or language difficulties.
- Behavioral/Emotional Symptoms – Irritability, anger, depression, and dramatic mood swings.
Any level of brain damage can have a serious impact on an employee’s daily life, altering their personality and their ability to make a living. When a brain injury happens because an employer or co-worker was negligent, it’s vital for injured people to hold at-fault parties accountable—for their own sake, the sake of other employees, and the sake of the loved ones they support.
Maritime Amputation Injury Lawyers
Although not all maritime injuries are caused by negligence, amputation injuries often are. If an employer or vessel owner fails to maintain equipment, train the crew, or create a safe work environment, it can cause serious injuries that require amputation.
Some of these accidents may be caused due to the following:
- Unsecured cargo
- Navigation collisions
- Lack of safety and equipment training
- Defective and malfunctioning equipment
It is vital to work with equipment and machinery that is regularly maintained so that it is working correctly. It is the employer’s responsibility to ensure that workers are properly trained to use the equipment. If your employer has not met this standard and you lost a limb as a result, he or she was negligent and should be held accountable.
To learn how, read more about the Jones Act here.
Surgery is required to treat a lost limb or to amputate a limb. Once you have had surgery, you may still need extensive physical and emotional therapy to help you adjust to the new reality of missing a limb or using a prosthetic limb. These payment costs can be difficult for an injured maritime worker to handle, especially while supporting a family. Our firm often has to help our clients rebuild their financial security in the wake of costly medical treatments. This is why it is vital to contact a maritime amputation injury attorney as soon as possible.
Recovering Compensation for Amputation Injuries
If you suffered severe injuries in a maritime accident that required amputation, you have the right to receive compensation. Limb loss is a financially costly loss; patients face treatment costs for the rest of their lives. Under maritime law, you have several avenues for recovering damages, especially if negligence is involved. Since maritime law is different from laws on land, it is vital to contact an experienced maritime amputation injury attorney as soon as possible to help you receive the best possible results for your case.
Understanding Maritime Injuries
In 2013, the Centers for Disease Control released a report examining fatal maritime injuries from 2003-2010. It found that those working in the offshore oil and gas industry are seven times more likely to die than workers in other industries. However, the oil and gas industry isn’t the only common sector for maritime injuries. Anytime people are on a vessel or working in the maritime industry, dangerous conditions are present, and vessel owners and employers must take appropriate measures to protect them.
Those in charge of a vessel are responsible for maritime injuries. Vessel owners and employers must ensure they provide safety training for workers and ensure that their ships and rigs are seaworthy. This is true even in the face of natural disasters and heavy weather like hurricanes and tropical storms. Rough seas are no excuse for a vessel capsizing or sinking, if the owner knew of the storm and failed to evacuate crew or take measures to evade it.
Vessel owners and employers are responsible for making sure the following exist:
- Safety training
- Safety equipment
- Vessel maintenance
- Safe work practices
Offshore workers who sustain maritime injuries have a chance for recovery through the Jones Act. Also known as The Merchant Marine Act of 1920, this protects U.S. citizens working offshore. It enables injured workers to hold vessel owners accountable for failing to protect their safety. Essentially, the Jones Act provides similar protections to offshore workers that their onshore counterparts enjoy. It requires employers and vessel owners to be responsible and holds them accountable for negligence.
Jones Act settlements include compensation for the following:
- Lost wages
- Loss of earning capacity
- Pain and suffering
- Medical bills
Recovering Full Costs for Maritime & Offshore Accidents
Following a serious accident, injured seamen may face a host of costs. These do not only have an immediate impact but can affect them for years. In almost all cases, the immediate effects are obvious in the inability to work, steep bills, and the pain and suffering associated with the injury or illness. Even the future costs of rehabilitation are often well-known. However, it is not always easy to see what the future costs of an injury will be. In some cases, the individual may require lifelong medical attention or may eventually pass away from the side effects. For this reason, it is crucial that the injured and their family recover just damages for the injury under maritime law.
Consider these costs that could result from a maritime injury or death of a seaman:
- Long-term rehabilitation
- In-home care
- Lost wages and earning capacity
- Emotional and financial counseling
- Vocational rehabilitation
Maritime Law as It Applies to Employers
Under general maritime law, ship owners are required to keep their vessels maintained per a certain standard.
As the employer and owner, the vessel holder must preserve the safety and structure of the ship in a way appropriate for all employees on board. Manning, equipping, and supplying the vessel are all key aspects of a ship owner’s duty per maritime law. Subsequently, if an employee of the vessel becomes injured or ill due to a ship’s unseaworthiness, the owner will be held accountable for any loss.
Why Do I Need to Hire a Houston Maritime Injury Lawyer?
If you are not ready to consider litigation, you should still consult with an experienced Texas maritime attorney to discuss your claim. In many instances, your company may ask you to sign an agreement or release in exchange for payment of unearned wages, maintenance, or medical benefits. It is imperative that you have any documents you are given reviewed by a competent Houston maritime injury attorney before signing so you do not waive any of your rights to recovery.
Perhaps the most important reason you need a lawyer is that employers and insurance companies have teams of lawyers representing them. Their goal is to dispose of your claim as cheaply as possible. The only way to level the playing field with your employer or the insurance company is to have an experienced attorney representing your interests. As an injured employee, you are new to the process, whereas your employer, his insurer, and their attorneys deal with these cases on a regular basis. It is critical to the outcome of your claim that you have a team who regularly handles maritime law claims.
Hire a Top-Rated Texas Maritime Accident Attorney for Your Case
An experienced maritime lawyer can review your case’s facts and determine your best legal options.
They will do this by examining the following:
- Your worker status at the time of injury
- The seaworthiness of the vessel you were working on
- The timeframe for bringing a claim
- All other factors that may have contributed to your injury
Another reason you may benefit from hiring a lawyer is that they know how to deal with offshore companies. On your own, you may feel like you have no hope. After all, you’re just one person, and your company is likely an established corporation that knows how to handle injury cases.
There is no reason why you can’t have aggressive representation as well. You may feel as if any attorney will do, but if you are an offshore worker, you and your company are bound to a specific set of laws called maritime law or admiralty law. You need a lawyer who is well versed in this specific and specialized area of the law if you want to get the full amount of compensation that you are entitled to. Turn to us when you need the best.
WHAT’S A MARITIME ATTORNEY?
A maritime attorney is a legal professional who focuses on helping those who have experienced injuries, accidents, and wrongful deaths caused by recreational and commercial maritime accidents. These incidents are governed by maritime law, which lays out specific roads to recovery for people who have been injured or lost loved ones on the water.
A competent Houston maritime attorney will have a thorough understanding of how maritime law affects incidents in national and international waters, plus the commitment to see each case through to a successful result. Often, maritime injury cases require extensive investigations, a thorough knowledge of laws that are hundreds of years old, and the willingness to try cases in court. Maritime companies are some of the most powerful in the world, so having an experienced maritime attorney is crucial to countering their tactics.
DO I NEED TO HIRE A MARITIME INJURY LAWYER?
Yes, you likely need a maritime injury lawyer because laws governing offshore injuries can be complicated. Deciding whether to hire a maritime injury lawyer might seem like a hard decision. What you should know is this: if you were injured or lost a family member at sea, there is no one who can defend your rights and help you rebuild your life like a skilled maritime injury lawyer can. Your employer won’t have your back. Your loved ones won’t know how to help. It takes a powerful lawyer who knows the ins and outs of maritime injury cases to protect you.
Importantly, hiring a maritime lawyer also means having help from someone who’ll seek the compensation you deserve rather than the compensation you’re offered. A maritime attorney will investigate your case help make sure the other side is being fair. If they aren’t they’ll be prepared to fight for your recovery in court.
WHAT IS A MARITIME INJURY?
A maritime injury may include any type of physical or psychological trauma experienced at sea. Offshore workers, cruise ship passengers, crew members of fishing vessels, and all others who are injured or lost while in U.S. or international waters may be considered to have suffered a maritime injury. These injuries are often severe and life-changing, warranting the involvement of an attorney who knows how to hold at-fault parties accountable under maritime injury law.
Importantly, maritime injuries aren’t covered by typical onshore laws. For example, injured maritime workers can’t file a workers’ compensation as onshore workers can. Instead, they’ll need to use laws such as the LHWCA and Jones Act to seek compensation. In other instances, workers can use old maritime laws such as maintenance and cure to secure needed compensation after an accident.
WHAT IS MARITIME LAW?
Maritime law, also known as admiralty law, governs navigation and shipping. Maritime law is one of the oldest sets of rules used to protect offshore workers before the Jones Act, Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act, and the Death on the High Seas act. It provides basic provisions that make sure workers are provided with maintenance and cure after an injury.
Maritime law is complicated in part due to how old it is. In fact, the Maritime Law Association of the United States was founded in 1899. Since maritime law is unique, those in need of legal help should always look for attorneys who have experience with it.
IS MARITIME LAW THE SAME EVERYWHERE?
No, maritime law is not the same everywhere. Although the admiralty laws of many nations have common roots, those nations have since modified them with unique stipulations. For example, the Jones Act is a law that only applies to vessels flying the American flag.
WHAT ARE COMMON CAUSES OF MARITIME INJURIES?
Common causes of maritime injuries are accidents that should have been prevented and weren’t. Importantly, it’s the duty of vessel owners and employers to prevent these accidents and protect workers.
Maritime injuries are often caused by:
- Dangerous deck conditions
- Toxic exposure
- Explosions and fires
- Unseaworthy vessels
- Sailing in dangerous conditions
- Lack of safety training
- Enclosed spaces
- Falling objects
- Mechanical failures
- Slip and falls
WHAT SHOULD I DO AFTER A MARITIME ACCIDENT?
There are five things you should do after a maritime accident:
- Get the medical attention you need.
- Inform your employer about your injury.
- Compile all information about your accident, who saw it, and the circumstances surrounding it.
- Don’t sign any documents, answer any questions, or give any statements.
- Call a maritime lawyer.
You should always speak with a lawyer after a maritime accident to make sure your rights are being protected. A lawyer will listen to your story, ask you questions, and help you decide what your options are at no cost. A consultation with our maritime lawyers is free and we’ve helped people in Texas, Louisiana, and across the nation recover after all types of offshore accidents.
Our Texas Maritime Lawyers Can Help: Call (888) 493-1629!
At Arnold & Itkin, we have seen all too often how maritime injuries occur not only in the Gulf of Mexico but also in our inland waterways and around the globe. For this reason, we remain wholly committed to helping injured workers and their families recover just compensation. We believe what we do is about more than just money. We work tirelessly to see that our clients recover not only financially, but physically, emotionally, and mentally.
Our team is dedicated to helping people and families who have suffered from life-changing injuries recover the compensation they need for past, current, and future costs. We help clients nationwide, including Dallas, Baton Rouge, and beyond. Armed with years of experience, we have a unique perspective in our approach, and we can work toward helping our clients receive the compensation that they need to pay for the long-term costs.
If you believe you have a case that falls under maritime law, contact our firm. During your free consultation, you can get your questions answered and learn how we can help.