Accidents that happen offshore — such as on oil rigs, drilling platforms, or commercial vessels — are different than car accidents or other personal injuries that happen on land. A unique set of laws often applies to maritime accidents and injuries, and even when these injuries occur dockside. You may be able to pursue a lawsuit under federal maritime laws or Texas personal injury laws.
There are several laws that might apply in a maritime case. The laws are designed to apply to specific situations and specific categories of people. For example, someone who is injured while working as a crew member on a shipping vessel may file a lawsuit under a different law than someone who is hurt on an oil exploration platform. The damages you’re able to recover may differ based on the circumstances of your injury and which maritime law or laws apply to your case.
Because of the complexity of maritime laws and how they may intersect in your case, it’s important when you’ve suffered an offshore injury to talk to an experienced Houston maritime accidents lawyer immediately. The attorneys at The Krist Law Firm, P.C. can explain the different maritime laws that apply to your situation and what to expect from the legal process.
At The Krist Law Firm, P.C., our team of Houston maritime accident lawyers has extensive experience with every aspect of offshore injury cases. We have a history of working diligently on behalf of injured maritime workers to get the maximum possible compensation — including one of the largest published recoveries in Texas for a single plaintiff, in which we earned a $15,120,000 award for a man who suffered major injuries after a mooring cable that had fallen into serious disrepair snapped and struck his head.
Our team of award-winning trial lawyers has the knowledge, experience, and resources to win maritime accident cases — including a network of the best medical, engineering, life care planning, and maritime industry experts in the nation. We are proud of our work on offshore injury cases and our track record of representing people injured in maritime accidents.
Maritime law, also known as admiralty law, is the body of law covering legal issues that happen on what are known as navigable waters. Navigable waters are bodies of water used for interstate or international commerce and include interconnected systems of lakes, rivers, seas, and oceans.
The primary navigable water body near Houston is the Gulf of Mexico, although rivers, lakes, and shipping channels that connect to the Gulf and are used for shipping or commerce with other states or nations would also be considered navigable waters under maritime laws.
When you’re injured on navigable waters, one of the maritime laws described below may apply to your case.
When a person is killed more than 3 miles from a coastal shoreline due to negligence, default, or wrongful acts, the Death on the High Seas Act allows the spouse, children, or financially dependent relatives to recover compensation for their loss. Compensation may include the value of any financial contributions your lost loved one would have made to your family for the duration of his or her life, as well as the value of care and guidance that children would have received from a lost parent.
The act also covers deaths in commercial plane crashes more than 12 nautical miles from U.S. shorelines. However, the Death on the High Seas Act generally does not cover general aviation accidents or offshore oil rig accidents. A knowledgeable Houston maritime accident lawyer can explain whether the Death on the High Seas Act might apply to your situation and what options for compensation might be available for the loss of your loved one.
The Merchant Marine Act of 1920, also known as the Jones Act, is the federal law that addresses legal remedies for mariners injured at sea. The act specifically provides for recovery of damages for “seamen” who suffer maritime injuries. The term “seamen” includes men and women who perform a substantial amount of work on boats or ships as crew members or who otherwise contribute to the vessel’s function or navigation.
The Jones Act allows anyone who qualifies as an injured seaman to sue his or her employer for negligence and to recover compensation for medical costs, physical pain, physical limitations, mental anguish, and the loss of earning potential. A good Houston offshore injuries lawyer can explain what damages might be available to you under the Jones Act based on the specific circumstances of your case.
A ship owner has a duty to ensure that a vessel is reasonably fit for its intended use, or in other words that a ship or boat is seaworthy. When a vessel’s crew member is hurt or killed because the vessel wasn’t seaworthy, then the crew member or his or her family can sue the owner for compensation of damages under the Unseaworthiness Doctrine.
A claim of unseaworthiness does not have to prove negligence or fault. If a jury finds that the vessel was unseaworthy, then the owner is liable for damages. An unseaworthiness claim is separate from a negligence claim under the Jones Act and may offer an additional possibility for recovery of damages. A skilled Houston ship accident lawyer can listen to your story and explain whether you might have an unseaworthiness case.
Another legal doctrine that provides help for injured seamen is that of Maintenance and Cure. When a maritime worker is hurt on the job, the worker has the right to maintenance payments for daily expenses such as food and housing. The worker also has the right to “cure,” which includes payment of medical costs for treatment of the injury until the worker reaches maximum medical improvement.
In essence, maintenance and cure are somewhat similar to workers’ compensation payments, but specifically for people covered by the Jones Act. There are no fixed amounts for payments. Instead, payments are determined based on your individual circumstances, which makes it important to seek the help of an experienced Houston maritime injury lawyer to ensure that you receive the maintenance and cure payments to which you are entitled.
When a shore-based worker is injured while working dockside in activities related to a vessel, the worker may be able to recover compensation for medical bills and disability under the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act. In addition to disability and medical payments to injured workers, the act provides for the payment of benefits to the surviving spouse or children of a maritime worker, longshoreman, or harbor worker who is killed on the job.
In addition to providing for workers’ compensation payments, the act allows an injured worker or surviving family member to sue a third party for negligence in causing the injury or death. If you are an injured maritime worker, or the surviving family member of a maritime worker who was killed, a qualified Houston harbor accident lawyer can discuss your options for compensation of your losses.
For workers involved in dangerous offshore oil and gas exploration, the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act may provide compensation for injuries sustained on the job. The act extends the protections of the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act to employees involved in exploring and developing natural resources on the outer continental shelf.
The act generally applies to oil rig and harbor workers, longshoremen, and people working in ship repair, ship-building, and ship-breaking. The act does not cover people working as the crew of a vessel. When an oil rig worker or another type of worker covered by the OCSLA is hurt, he or she may recover compensation for medical expenses, lost wages, loss of earning capacity, and physical pain.
If you have suffered a maritime injury, you need the services of a competent lawyer at The Krist Law Firm, P.C. For a free initial consultation, contact us at .