Workers in the maritime industry face some of the highest risks of being injured on the job compared to other fields of employment. Maritime law recognizes the hazards that seamen and maritime workers face. The law provides them with rights to seek extensive compensation and benefits when they are injured or develop an occupational illness due to the negligence of their employers or the owner-operator of their vessel.
For more than 25 years, the Houston maritime injury attorneys of The Callahan Law Firm have fought to secure maximum compensation for our clients who have been injured. We understand the difficulties that injured accident victims face when trying to get compensation from big corporations and their insurance companies. That’s why we take a small firm approach. We limit the number of cases we take on so that we can give you and your case the full attention and effort you deserve.
We bring extensive knowledge and experience to every case we handle. Founding attorney Michael S. Callahan has an engineering background and is board-certified in Personal Injury Trial Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization. You can trust that we have the ability to handle even the most complex offshore accident injury claims.
Learn more about the compensation and benefits you may be entitled to for your injuries. Contact our firm today to set up a free initial case review with a Houston maritime law firm.
Understanding Maritime Law
Maritime law is comprised of several different federal statutes. Those statutes give people who are injured on sea vessels or in maritime facilities the right to pursue compensation when their injuries are caused by the negligence of employers or vessel/facility owners and operators.
- Injuries on land – Injuries to maritime workers that occur at shore-based maritime facilities such as drydocks, cargo facilities and ports, are usually covered under the Longshore & Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act.
- Injuries in navigable waters – Injuries to maritime workers that occur on the navigable waters of the United States are usually covered by the Jones Act. Injuries to workers on sea-based facilities, such as offshore drilling platforms, are usually covered by statutory extensions to the Longshore & Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act. However, there are a number of exceptions to these rules that depend on the type of vessel the maritime worker was on at the time he was injured.
- Injuries in the harbor – Depending on the exact circumstances of the accident and the injured worker, the Jones Act or the Longshore & Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act may apply.
What Is the Jones Act?
The Jones Act, formally called The Merchant Marine Act of 1920, provides legal protections and benefits under admiralty law to persons working as seamen aboard vessels who are injured due to unseaworthiness of the vessel or other acts of negligence that occur aboard a vessel in navigable waters. The Jones Act was intended to ensure that maritime workers received compensation when they suffered injuries or illnesses due to accidents or exposure on board the vessels on which they served. However, unlike a workers’ compensation claim under Texas law or the laws of other states, the Jones Act provides injured maritime workers with a much broader array of benefits.
Your Rights Under the Jones Act
Traditional state workers’ compensation laws provide injured or ill workers with medical care for their work-related injury or illness. Those workers get disability benefits for permanent injuries and partial wage replacement if they miss time from work.
The Jones Act gives injured maritime workers several other benefits not all of which are available under state workers’ compensation laws. Jones Act benefits can include:
- Medical care for work-related injuries and illnesses
- Living expenses during the period of recovery
- Lost wages
- Loss of future earning capacity due to permanent injuries and disabilities
- Compensation for pain and suffering, physical impairment, and mental anguish
Our Jones Act attorneys have handled many of these cases, and our Jones Act lawyers are ready to help you. The Jones Act gives injured or ill maritime workers the right to file a maritime or admiralty lawsuit to recover compensation and benefits for injuries and illnesses that arise when working aboard a vessel in navigable waters due to the negligence of the vessel’s owner, operator, or another employee of the owner or operator.
Because the Jones Act requires vessel owners and operators to provide seaworthy vessels, the statute effectively protects several important rights of maritime workers:
- The right to a reasonably safe work environment
- The right to bring a lawsuit to recover compensation for injuries and illnesses caused by someone’s negligence
- The right to compensation for medical care, costs of return to shore, living expenses, and lost wages
- The right to lost compensation if one’s vessel is deemed unseaworthy
- The right to punitive damages when one’s employer refuses payment of benefits the maritime worker is entitled to
If you have a Jones Act case, contact our Jones Act injury attorneys today.
What Is the Longshoremen & Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act?
The Longshoremen & Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act (LHWCA) provides workers’ compensation benefits to employees who work on loading, unloading, crafting, and repairing maritime vessels. Maritime workers covered by the statute include longshoremen, harbor workers, ship repairmen and shipbuilders.
The LHWCA also covers some workers aboard vessels in navigable waters. The LHWCA obligates employers to compensate employees’ whose work-related injury or illness requires medical treatment, causes them to miss work, or necessitates vocational rehabilitation. The LHWCA also provides survivor benefits to the families of maritime workers killed on the job.
Various federal statutes have further extended the scope of the LHWCA to other kinds of workers, including private employees working on military bases or other government property under contract to the government and offshore drilling workers on the Outer Continental Shelf of the U.S.
Government employees and workers who are otherwise covered by state workers’ compensation laws are excluded from the scope of the LHWCA. Workers who directly aid in the mission of a seagoing vessel are instead covered by the Jones Act.
Your Rights Under the Longshoremen & Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act
If you are a worker covered by the LHWCA, you have the right to receive certain types of benefits for a work-related injury or illness, including:
- Reasonable and necessary medical treatment
- Temporary partial wage replacement equal to two-thirds of your average weekly wage while recovering from your injury or illness
- Disability benefits, the amount of which depends on the scope of your disability and whether you have reached maximum medical improvement for your disability
- Vocational rehabilitation
A family of a covered worker killed on the job also has the right to receive survivor benefits, including contribution toward funeral and burial expenses and partial replacement of the worker’s wages.
hat Is the Death on the High Seas Act?
A federal law, the Death on the High Seas Act (DOHSA) enables the families of seamen killed in international waters to recover under a wrongful death claim. The statute also allows recovery for families whose loved ones are killed in air disasters that occur over the high seas.
In addition to protecting maritime workers on vessels on the high seas, DOHSA also provides a right of action for the families of passengers on maritime vessels who are killed while the vessel is past the three-mile territorial limit of the U.S. coast.
Your Rights Under the Death on the High Seas Act
DOHSA allows you and your family to file a wrongful death suit against the owner or operator of a sea vessel when your loved one dies due to the owner or operator’s negligence, recklessness, or intentional actions while the vessel is located in international waters. Examples of negligence might include failing to conduct adequate safety inspections, failing to maintain sufficient lifeboats or other safety equipment aboard, or failing to properly maintain the vessel in a seaworthy condition and allowing unsafe conditions to persist for those onboard.
Successfully proving negligence or recklessness will allow your family to recover compensation for damages such as:
- The loss of your loved one’s economic contributions to your family and household
- The loss of your loved one’s society, companionship, and the value of their household work
- Your loved one’s funeral and burial expenses
- The cost of your loved one’s last injury or illness
- Conscious pain and suffering experienced by your loved one prior to their death
Understanding the Limitation of Liability Act
Although the above maritime statutes and other admiralty laws impose liability on the owners and operators of sea vessels and maritime facilities for work injuries and occupational illnesses suffered by maritime workers and for wrongful deaths that occur aboard their vessels, many vessel owners and operators may turn to the Limitation of Liability Act to try to avoid financial liability to injured workers or the families of deceased seamen and passengers.
The Limitation of Liability Act allows the owner-operator of a sea vessel to limit its liability under the Jones Act, the LHWCA, DOHSA, or other maritime law for injuries, illness or death caused by the unseaworthy condition of the vessel if that unseaworthy condition occurred without the knowledge of the owner or operator of the vessel. Specifically, the Act limits a vessel owner’s liability to the value of the vessel and its “freight then pending” at the time that a claimant’s loss occurred.
The Act was enacted in the mid-19th century, when ocean-based commerce represented a far more dangerous proposition due to weather, piracy, commerce raiding, and other hazards at sea that have largely been rendered obsolete in modern times. Critics of the Act argue that the hazards no longer exist.
Injured maritime workers or the families of those killed aboard vessels in international waters who may have a claim for compensation under maritime law may have their lawsuits consolidated into one action if a vessel owner files suit under the Act to limit its liability.
How Long Do You Have to File a Claim After a Maritime Accident?
The time you have following a maritime accident to file a claim for compensation depends on which statute your claim arises under.
- Jones Act – Three years from the date of your injury to file a lawsuit
- Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act – 30 days from the date of injury to provide your employer with notice of your injury, and one year to file a formal claim with the U.S. Department of Labor
- Death on the High Seas Act – Three years from the date of your family member’s death to file a lawsuit
If you fail to timely file your claim or lawsuit, you may be deemed ineligible for benefits or compensation, and any formal claim you file will most likely be dismissed by the agency or by the courts.
How Our Houston Maritime Attorneys Can Help You
Pursuing a maritime accident claim can often prove incredibly difficult. Vessel owners and operators and maritime employers have many legal tools at their disposal to limit the extent of their liability when seamen and workers are harmed due to the employer’s or vessel owner’s negligence.
You need an experienced Houston maritime attorney from The Callahan Law Firm to ensure that you have the best chance at recovering the financial compensation you deserve. Our firm can help you with your maritime accident case by:
- Conducting a detailed, independent investigation into the circumstances of your accident and securing important evidence and documents we can use in your case.
- Identifying liable parties and potential sources of compensation (such as insurance coverage).
- Working with expert witnesses who can help us build a strong, persuasive case on your behalf.
- Filing timely claims on your behalf and aggressively negotiating for a settlement or resolution that provides you with the full compensation and benefits you deserve.
- Vigorously advocating your case in court if liable employers or vessel owners refuse to agree to a settlement that gives you the fair financial recovery you deserve.
Schedule a free, no-obligation consultation with a Houston maritime accident lawyer from The Callahan Law Firm today. You will learn more about your legal rights and how our firm can help you pursue the full and fair compensation that you deserve.
You pay nothing unless you win. Do not hesitate to contact our maritime injury law firm by phone or online now.