The maritime industry is big business for the Gulf Coast and the people that call this region home. However, the work is quite dangerous, with both seamen and longshoremen frequently suffering devastating injuries as a result of terrible working conditions on tugboats, push boats, offshore platforms, jack-up rigs, semi-submersible rigs, crew boats, drill barges, and other types of vessels.
Because of the nature of the industry, there is a specific system known as Maritime Law that governs regulations, as well as legal issues. Your Houston maritime attorneys at Lapeze & Johns have over two decades of experience fighting diligently to ensure that offshore workers and their families receive the verdicts and settlements they deserve to get their lives back on track.
If you have been injured in a near-shore or deep-water operation, there are a few things you should be familiar with when it comes to maritime laws and injuries.
What exactly is Maritime Law?
Also known as Admiralty Law, Maritime Law is the field of law intended to regulate and settle legal issues associated with sea navigation, commerce, and transport for maritime workers and their cargo.
There are a number of laws and acts that have been established as guidelines for compensation maritime workers can receive if they are injured on the job. It is also worth noting that Maritime Law falls under federal jurisdiction, which generally means that any legal claims and trials must be handled by a federal court. Because of the variations in law, it is important that you hire a maritime attorney, rather than just a personal injury lawyer.
Complications can arise during the process and you need a lawyer that can successfully navigate this field of law and deliver meaningful results for you.
The Different Types of Maritime Laws
Maritime laws are separated into different types of damages that are affected by who was injured, where the accident occurred, and the specifics of the injury.
The major laws include:
Maintenance and Cure
When a seaman is injured on the job, they will receive maintenance care regardless of how or when the injury took place. This law ensures that the seamen’s daily living expense are covered during the recovery period. This can include:
- Rent or mortgage
- Property taxes
- Homeowner’s insurance
- Medical expenses
What is not included in the maintenance coverage are expenses like telephone, internet, car payments, gas, and other such items.
The “cure” portion of this benefit covers medical expenses sustained during the injury and time of recovery such as doctor visits, medications, examinations, rehabilitation, and more. However, these benefits are only provided until the seaman is given a clean bill by a physician to return back to work.
The Jones Act
This federal law provides seamen the ability to sue a negligent party (i.e. employer), however, the burden of proof is on them. Should you choose to file under the Jones Act, you must prove that:
- The injury occurred as a result of unsafe working conditions.
- The injury occurred while on the job.
What works best on behalf of the injured party is that the Jones Act carries a low burden of proof. An injured seaman only needs to show that the employer’s negligence – however small – played a part in the injury. Some of the most frequently cited reasons for employer liability include but are not limited to:
- Employer failing to ensure equipment work properly.
- Spills on ship’s deck.
- Failure to provide employee with safety gear.
The compensation an injured employee is able to receive through the Jones Act depends on the specifics of the case and the severity of the injury. Our Houston maritime lawyers at Lapeze & Johns will work diligently to ensure you obtain all damages available to you including lost wages and earning capacity, medical expenses, pain, suffering, and more. Remember to never sign any documents or forms given to you by your employer or insurer until you hired a maritime lawyer.
Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act (LHWCA)
The LHWCA is a workers’ compensation program provided to maritime employees who are not seamen (i.e. longshoremen). These employees include longshoremen, harbor workers, dock workers, and those working in shipping terminals and shipyards.
The compensation and benefits can include but are not limited to:
- Eligibility to receive approximately 66.7% of weekly wages during the recovery period.
- Compensation eligibility for permanent disabilities.
- Compensation for loss of limb resulting in loss of earning capacity.
It is highly recommended that you file a formal claim immediately after your injury. There is a one-year statute of limitation to file for LHWCA benefits and it is in your best interest to do within this time frame.
Death On the High Seas Act (DOHSA)
This act allows family members to file legal damages against the owner of a vessel if their family member was killed during work while out at sea.
Compensation usually consists of:
- Loss of financial support
- Funeral expenses
- Other expenses incurred as a result of the family member’s death
The individuals eligible to receive these benefits are:
When a plaintiff makes a claim under DOHSA they must provide evidence that their loved one met their untimely passing as a result of a negligent vessel owner or as a result of poor judgment that led to some catastrophic event. Types of accidents that are most commonly resolved under the act include:
- Sunken vessel
- Explosion or onboard fire
- Defective equipment
- No safety protocols set in place to prevent
There is a three-year statute of limitation when filing under DOHSA. It is absolutely vital that you hire an experienced and well informed maritime lawyer as these types of cases are often complicated and can require a sufficient amount of time to properly prepare for.
When tragedy strikes you deserve the guidance and support of dedicated Houston maritime lawyers. Lapeze & Johns is here for you during your time of need.
With over two decades years of experience in maritime litigation and over $350 million in compensation recovered for families, our team of maritime attorneys in Texas have the ability to provide you the legal care you deserve. Contact us today to begin setting your life back on the right path.