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Houston Maritime Attorneys

We Serve Injured Maritime Workers Nationwide. Offices in Texas & Louisiana.

Just like any other industry, seamen are at risk for suffering work-related injuries any time they are on the clock. The courts recognize this and are continually working to protect injured seamen through general maritime law. Maritime law gives workers who have been injured offshore or in the maritime industry the chance to claim necessary compensation for any suffering of medical complications.

The following acts are foundational to maritime law:

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.

Abogados de lesiones por accidentes marítimos y en alta mar en Houston

How to Choose the Right Attorney

Maritime law can be complex. Although these laws are designed to protect the rights of maritime workers who become injured or ill, they can be difficult to navigate. This is why it's crucial to seek legal representation from an attorney who has a deep background in this specialized area of the law. It is essential to select an experienced maritime lawyer. When choosing an attorney, you should inquire about the number of cases they have tried. Don't allow an attorney to dance around your questions; you need to select someone who is prepared to give honest, direct answers to all of your inquiries.

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  • $8 Billion Top 3 Largest Jury Verdict in U.S. History Arnold & Itkin LLP tried a Risperdal case against Johnson & Johnson for failing to warn about one of the drug’s most damaging side effects: gynecomastia. Our skill, hard work, and dedication resulted in the third-largest jury verdict ever obtained ...
  • $357 Million Largest Workplace Accident Settlement in Texas history Arnold & Itkin LLP secured a massive nine-figure settlement against a transnational corporation for a workplace incident. The settlement set a Texas record for being the largest personal injury settlement in the state’s history.
  • $222 Million Record-Breaking Verdict for Widow Our firm won $222 million for a woman who lost her husband in an industrial accident caused by a faulty valve. We took the case to trial because the at-fault company refused to take responsibility. The jury saw through the corporate lies and double ...
  • $205 Million Confidential Settlement Obtained for Numerous Clients Arnold & Itkin reached a record $205,000,000 settlement on behalf of clients after several years of hard-fought litigation. The case settled just before trial was set to begin.
  • $171 Million One of the Largest Confidential Settlements in History Arnold & Itkin worked over the course of several years to represent clients in a case that many other law firms turned down. In the end, we were able to obtain a record-setting confidential settlement of $171 million.
  • $117 Million Largest Single-Event Personal Injury Verdict in Louisiana History Arnold & Itkin represented a pregnant woman who experienced stomach pain and called Acadian Ambulance. The driver of the ambulance drove the ambulance into the back of a sugar cane truck causing the plaintiff's spine to be severed at T4 and for her ...
  • $116 Million Confidential Settlement Arnold & Itkin LLP negotiated a massive nine figure settlement on behalf of their clients after several years of hard fought litigation.
  • $110 Million Record Settlement Achieved for Victims of Defective Products Arnold & Itkin obtained a record settlement for individuals harmed by defective, dangerous products. The result exemplifies our commitment to clients and justice for those seriously injured by the conduct of others.
  • $105 Million Record Settlement for Dangerous Product Victims Arnold & Itkin’s legal team helped represent those harmed by dangerous products. We were successful in recovering a $105 million settlement.
  • $97 Million Massive Settlement Secured for Refinery Workers Arnold & Itkin is proud to share that after months of preparation for trial, our firm was able to secure a huge settlement for clients who were injured in a refinery fire. Find out more now.
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History of Admiralty & Maritime Law

Maritime law—also referred to as admiralty law—is nearly as old as the shipping industry itself and governs most accidents that occur on navigable waters. The law’s roots can be traced back to the unwritten customs of nautical behavior of the Egyptians and Greeks. However, the earliest formal codes were established around 900 BC on the Greek island of Rhodes. The original maritime laws and codes stemmed from the ancient customs and rules of shipping. For example, the Doctrine of General Average—the concept that all sea cargo stakeholders (owner, shipper, etc.) evenly share any damage or losses that may occur as a result of a voluntary sacrifice of part of the vessel or cargo to save the whole—can be traced back to the early shipping customs of the Rhodians.

The concept of a separate legal authority regulating maritime issues was brought to the west by Eleanor of Aquitaine, who learned of the concept when she accompanied her first husband King Louis VII of France to the Mediterranean on the Second Crusade. The term admiralty law came from the British admiralty courts, who presided over maritime matters separately from England's common law courts. As the U.S. judicial system is based on the British system, amended admiralty laws were gradually incorporated into our legal system soon after the constitution was ratified.

Though still based on industry standards and customs, maritime law is largely found in the U.S. Constitution, treatises and international conventions, federal statutes, the general maritime law, and other judicial decisions, administrative regulations, and customs.

When Does Maritime Law Apply?

Perhaps most obviously, maritime law applies to events that occur on high seas—in other words, accidents that happen beyond the territorial waters of any country. Furthermore, maritime law applies to the territorial sea, which are waters within 12 miles of the shore. However, the law’s applicability becomes less clear further inland. Early in the United States’ history, maritime law did not apply to incidents that occurred within the “body of the country” and therefore excluded incidents involving the Great Lakes and nontidal inland waterways. However, throughout the 19th century, this exclusion eroded away.

Maritime law is now applied to “navigable waters.” A waterway is deemed navigable if by itself, or by uniting with other waters, it can serve as a “continued highway over which commerce is or may be carried on with other States or foreign countries.” Consequently, if a body of water is completely landlocked within a single state, then it is not navigable for purposes of admiralty jurisdiction. However, a body of water doesn’t need to flow between states to be deemed navigable. A body of water may be deemed navigable if it is a link in a chain of bodies of water that can be used to service interstate commerce. Ultimately, the test is that the commerce of one state must be capable of being carried into another state or a foreign country. Once this test has been passed, it is likely that maritime law will be applicable, even if it is a recreational vessel.

Incidents That Require Maritime Accident Attorneys

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:

One notable aspect of maritime accidents is that they're often devastating. Offshore oil rig explosions cause significant damages, vessel collisions are frequently catastrophic, and oil platforms can unfairly change the lives of workers. Maritime lawyers fight to help workers recover the compensation they deserve, whether they're suffering after a major explosion or have injuries caused by unsafe working conditions.

Our maritime attorneys represented more crew members of the Deepwater Horizon and the El Faro than any other law firm. We not only understand maritime law but the practices and culture of maritime employers. Speak with us to discuss your case so we can go over your legal and financial options.

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.
  • The Jones Act: The Jones Act is a federal law that gives seamen a statutory right to sue their employer for personal injury damages. However, a seaman must spend at least 30% of their time working on a vessel to qualify for the Jones Act. Not only does the Jones Act provide the seaman a statutory right to sue their employer, it also eases the burden of proof needed to prove causation between the employer’s negligence and the seaman’s injury; under the Jones Act, the employer’s negligence only needs to play a part in the seaman’s injury rather than being a proximate cause. The Jones Act also incorporates aspects of the Federal Employment Liability Act. In particular, claims filed in state court under the Jones Act are not removable to federal court.
  • The Death on High Seas Act: When the death of an individual is caused by a wrongful act or neglect occurring on the high seas, the Death on High Seas Act guarantees that a personal representative of the decedent can bring a claim.
  • The Saving to Suitors Clause: Federal law establishes exclusive jurisdiction for admiralty and maritime cases in the federal district courts absent any language indicating the contrary within a statutorily created right, such as the Jones Act. However, the “saving to suitors” clause reserves any non-admiralty remedies that may be available to an individual. An example of an admiralty remedy is a suit in which the claim is brought against the ship.
  • Longshore and Harbor Worker’s Compensation Act: Federal law created certain statutory rights for employees who are not necessarily “seamen” but nonetheless work on harbors or vessels that are under repair or being built. This law covers longshore workers, ship-repairers, shipbuilders or ship-breakers, and harbor construction workers. Moreover, the injuries must occur on navigable waters or an adjoining area, such as a dock. This law provides for the payment of compensation and medical care for an individual injured while on the job or survivor benefits. The Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act extends the Longshore and Harbor Worker’s Compensation Act to employees engaged in offshore drilling on the Outer Continental Shelf.

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:

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.

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:

  • Hospitalization
  • Long-term rehabilitation
  • In-home care
  • Lost wages and earning capacity
  • Emotional and financial counseling
  • Vocational rehabilitation

Maritime Injuries: Do You Know Your Rights?

After an accident, one of the most important things you can do is to ensure all of your needs are met: medically, legally, emotionally, and financially. However, this can be difficult.

Therefore, it is important to keep in mind a few issues that could be compromised.

  • First, remember you have the legal right to select your doctor. Never feel obligated to choose the doctor's office or attending physician your business or insurance company may be pushing on you. Often, you will need to see the recommended doctor for an evaluation, but this is the extent of your obligation. Who you choose for treatment is up to you and should not be threatened by any employer or adjuster you may be working with in regards to your case.
  • Second, you are entitled to medical treatment. The provision of medical benefits is protected under the Jones Act, so injured maritime workers need not worry about being compensated for recovery. This is true regardless of who may be at fault for the accident. Furthermore, the Jones Act protects injured seamen who may be given differing opinions by doctors.

    This means that if one doctor recommends treatment while another claims it is not necessary, the disagreement will be resolved in favor of treatment. Unfortunately, many injured seamen have not been hurt for the first time. However, if a pre-existing condition is aggravated, then employers will be obligated to ensure that adequate coverage is provided. All that will be needed is an evidentiary statement made by your doctor on your behalf.

    You are entitled to medical benefits and financial maintenance payments, whether or not you sign paperwork brought forth by an insurance adjuster. In fact, it is in your best interests to be cautious of any documents brought to you by an insurance adjuster; these often don't have your safety and well-being as a priority. As such, you should be hesitant to sign any paperwork under the condition that medical benefits and/or maintenance payments rely on a signature.
  • Third, you are not required to give a recorded statement after any sort of accident and/or injury. Of course, reporting the incident as quickly as possible is a crucial step of the process; however, attention must be paid to the fact that many accidents can affect the memory and mental functioning of an injured person. Therefore, it is unwise to record a statement of events that may later need to be adjusted—a process that can prove to be quite difficult.

From the initial filing of a claim to the preparation and proceedings of a court case, there are a number of instances in which your rights can be compromised. Unsympathetic employers and insurance companies care little, if at all, about the well-being of injured employees. Therefore, is it imperative to seek legal representation from an attorney who does care about the future of your health and well-being.

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 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.

Maritime Law FAQ

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 Is the Jones Act?

The Jones Act is a law that enables injured maritime workers to secure the compensation they need for the full extent of their injuries. Before the Jones Act was passed in 1920, maritime workers injured by preventable accidents weren't able to collect the full amount of compensation that they needed for their injuries. With the Jones Act, workers can recover losses such as medical bills, lost wages, the cost of future care, and more.

What Is Maintenance & Cure?

Maintenance and cure describes the cost of living (maintenance) and the medical expenses (cure) that an offshore worker needs after an accident. For decades, maritime law has required vessel owners to ensure that injured workers receive maintenance and cure after sustaining an injury.

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.

What Type of Compensation Do I Qualify for After My Offshore Injuries?

This depends on what type of job you were performing during your injury and what laws govern it. Some workers will be entitled to compensation under the Jones Act while others might qualify for recovery with the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act. Defining what workers qualify for assistance from these laws is not always simple. Speaking with our offshore injury lawyers during a free consultation is the best way to discover your options.

What If I Can't Afford a Maritime Attorney?

The right maritime law firm will help you afford their services. Injured maritime workers are often facing difficult financial circumstances and need to have special financial arrangements made with their maritime lawyers. For example, Arnold & Itkin LLP works on a contingency fee basis—meaning we cover all costs of a case and don't collect payment unless we win it. Besides taking on the financial burden of a case's fees and investigative costs, our firm has helped our clients get the medical care they need as their trial progresses.

What Are The Differences Between Maritime Law and Ordinary Law?

In many ways, there is little difference between how maritime law is handled and how ordinary law is handled. However, some meaningful differences exist, but those differences exist more so in the court rather than the substantive law itself. For example, there is no right to a jury trial when an admiralty action is brought in an admiralty court. Important to remember though, the only cases that must be brought in federal admiralty court are those enforcing a maritime lien, foreclosure on a preferred ship mortgage, limitation of the vessel owner’s liability, and any proceeding where the ship itself is being sued.

Is Maritime Law The Same as The Law of the Sea?

Maritime law is not the same as the law of the sea. Maritime law is United States law that governs incidents on navigable waters. The law of the sea is primarily based on international treatises and agreements that govern how nations interact with one another on matters that involve the high seas. For example, the law of the sea governs countries’ jurisdiction over coastal waters, ownership of natural resources, and navigational rights.

What Does a Maritime Lawyer Do?

Maritime lawyers handle cases involving marine vessels, sea crafts, offshore oil rigs, and harbor workers. Because of the nuanced law involving injuries or contract disputes pertaining to shipping or activities on navigable waters, experienced maritime attorneys are critical to bringing a successful claim. A maritime lawyer must understand federal law, state law, the complexities of marine insurance, and many other shipping and offshore drilling industry specifics. This is a highly complicated field of law, making it crucial to involve an experienced maritime lawyer.

When has Maritime Law Been Applied?

The most infamous application of maritime law may be the Deepwater Horizon disaster, where 11 crew members were killed and many more injured. A federal district court held, among other things, that admiralty jurisdiction was present because the alleged torts occurred upon the navigable waters of the Gulf of Mexico, and the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act jurisdiction was present because the casualties occurred in the context of exploration or production of minerals in the Outer Continental Shelf. When Arnold & Itkin handled many of the crew’s claims, it was critical they were well versed in maritime law.

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. 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.

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