HOUSTON MARITIME INJURY LAWYER SERVING SURROUNDING AREAS OF TEXAS
At Patrick Daniel Law, our Houston maritime lawyers are well-equipped to handle difficult maritime injury cases that other Houston maritime law firms find too complex. Houston Maritime Injury Law, also known as Admiralty Law, has many inconsistencies and inconsistencies. It takes an experienced maritime injury attorney to be able to spot these inconsistencies, and we find them in every case that makes up our Houston law office.
Houston marine workers are at a disadvantage in some marine areas. As for other marine injuries, they have some advantages. But only a skilled Houston maritime attorney can figure it all out. So, whether you live in Houston, Harris County, Pasadena, Baytown, or the surrounding suburbs, if you have been injured at sea and need a Houston maritime injury attorney, Patrick Daniel Law is here to help. Contact our Houston maritime lawyers for a free consultation.
Patrick Daniel is an icon among Houston maritime attorneys, gaining prominence through 20 years of practicing maritime law in Houston, Texas, and around the Gulf Coast.
Patrick Daniel has argued both sides of marine injury cases and has extensive experience, not only in the way Houston maritime law cases proceed but also in the work done at sea by the employees of hundreds of Houston marine companies.
Here is a brief list of the Houston marine injury cases he has handled both in Texas and elsewhere:
Jack-up rig accidents
Oil platform accidents
Commercial fishing accidents
Cargo ship accidents
If you sustained a maritime injury in Houston similar to the above, and would like a free consultation with our Houston maritime lawyers, or to find out more
Houston Maritime Law
Houston is much more than oil and space. A recent study found that Houston, TX is the No. 2 city in the nation for maritime jobs by cargo movement between US ports. Only nearby New Orleans has more workers in the maritime industry. When you add up the workers from all Texas ports, it puts Texas as the No. 3 state in the U.S. in cargo transportation among American ports.
The Port of Houston has more than 200 private and public terminals, handling more than 8,200 ocean-going vessels and 215,000 barges each year. Thousands of maritime employees call the Houston area home.
It’s no surprise that Houston has had a large number of marine injuries. Maritime workers who are injured at sea do not have many of the same options as land-based workers, and often need to hire a marine injury lawyer in Houston to protect their rights and help them recover from their maritime injuries.
Houston Maritime Attorney
Houston maritime lawyers are plentiful, and they know admiralty law (maritime law) inside out, but the experience is key. As an elite maritime injury lawyer, founder Patrick Daniel has litigated hundreds of maritime injury cases and obtained substantial recoveries for his clients.
But this process requires more than a successful courtroom attorney. Maritime work is brutal, unforgiving, and raw, and any Houston, Texas lawyer who wants to represent maritime workers knows the job well and he knows the law. This is what sets Patrick Daniel Law ahead of other law firms in Houston, Texas. He knows his job. He grew up in Louisiana and has 20 years of experience in maritime litigation – some of it from the other side of the courtroom.
WORKING AT SEA – IT’S A DIFFERENT WORLD OUT THERE
There are literally hundreds of maritime companies in Houston, and although they claim to appreciate their employees and the sacrifices they make, you’re just lying on a slippery deck or suffering a rollover of a cargo ship in heavy seas from discovering how much or how much. Little did they really care.
If you are injured at sea, don’t assume your employer will compensate you fairly and make sure your medical bills are covered. Anyone from a host of Houston maritime lawyers will be quick to point out that the ball game changes drastically when it comes to injuries. Not only this, the rules are different for maritime employees and land-based employees. Defendants in maritime law cases try to hide behind the nuances of maritime law, hoping that the injured party will not speed up on them.
For example, Workman’s Comp does not apply to injuries sustained while at sea. But thanks to the federal Jones Act, maritime workers have the power to sue their employers for compensation, and employers are responsible for providing a reasonably safe working environment and keeping their vessels safe and seaworthy.
MARITIME LAW & ADMIRALTY LAW ARE THE SAME THING
So, what does marine mean, anyway? Literally, marine refers to anything connected to the ocean. It can be applied in commercial shipping and transportation or military activities. The set of laws governing maritime activities is known as admiralty law, a term used interchangeably with maritime law.
Maritime law is distinct from the law of the sea, which governs international trade, mineral rights, jurisdiction over coastal waters, treaties, and relations between nations. Admiralty cases are more local in concept, involving civil cases, individuals, companies, and representatives of those companies.
When to Call a Maritime Lawyer
The quick answer to the question of when should you call a lawyer after an accident at sea is as soon as your ship docks in Houston. If you have a cell phone/Wi-Fi access and are able to make personal phone calls onboard, call or contact an attorney as soon as possible. If your ship allows personnel to make personal calls, management cannot take action against you if you use your time to call an attorney!
A common mistake some workers make is trying to appear as a “team” player who doesn’t want to stir things up by threatening a lawsuit. It can be expensive to protect an image that will not benefit you in the long run. Many Houston marine workers – or former workers who can no longer work – call an attorney immediately after their accident.
Despite all the blogs and websites that try to advise you on DIY courtroom techniques, don’t try to determine whether you have a case to file on your own. Make the smart move and call an attorney. Patrick Daniel has won so many admiralty cases that he can usually recognize a winning case within the first few minutes of a free consultation. If Patrick Daniel Law accepts your case, legal fees will come out of the final settlement and you will have no out-of-pocket costs.
The Merchant Marine Act / Jones Act of 1920
Once you sail from Houston and leave US national borders, even if you are a US citizen employed by a US-based company on a US-registered vessel, certain laws designed to protect you no longer apply. Fortunately, other laws came into play that restored some of those protections, but in a different manner.
One such law is the Merchant Marine Act. It is a comprehensive law that includes regulations governing maritime commerce in US waters between US ports. Section 27 of the Merchant Marine Act, known as the Jones Act, requires that trade between US ports be carried only by American-built vessels. The Merchant Marine Act and the Jones Act are often used interchangeably, but in reality, the Jones Act is a part of the Merchant Marine Act.
The Jones Act also includes provisions that essentially have rights for seafaring workers These provisions include (among many others):
The shipowner must use reasonable care to maintain it for safety and seaworthiness. The owner can be held liable if it is found to be negligent and the negligence caused the injury.
Qualified seamen (officially classified as seamen) who suffer injuries or illnesses while at sea can recover appropriate compensation from their employers through litigation if necessary. The concept of a vessel’s seaworthiness is crucial, as it can move a case from a point where the best outcome would be the recovery of basic costs (called maintenance and cure) to where all victim losses are recoverable.
What is a seaman?
The main provisions of the Jones Act apply to a special class of workers called seaman. This is crucial to legal recognition and process when an injury claim is filed. But there is no mandatory definition of seaman anywhere in the Jones Act or the Merchant Marine Act.
There is precedent, however, and maritime lawyers for both parties must sift through past cases to determine whether the plaintiff qualifies as a seaman. Simply being employed by one of Houston’s many shipping companies and spending time at sea is not enough to qualify for that job as a seaman.
Rather than a legal definition, most maritime lawyers and judges generally agree on the following definition, but this definition has changed terminology over the years and is still subject to revision.
It’s nice and tidy, and a refinement of the more complicated definitions that preceded it, but the Jones Act lags progress somewhat, insisting that to qualify as a seaman, a worker must spend at least 30 percent of his or her time aboard a ship, that is, out at sea. A point on which opposing parties in an admiralty case can argue for hours. Without an overarching definition, however, it’s often a stumbling block to the process.
If you do not qualify as a seaman
Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act
Workers who do not meet the definition of seaman can still recover damages from the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act (LWHCA). This federal law allows the injured party to recover damages for medical expenses, lost wages, rehabilitation, etc. due to the injury, as well as survivor benefits if the injury causes the worker’s death.
This includes dock workers, shipbuilders, and harbor construction workers who were injured in the wharf area of the harbor. The provisions of the LWHCA differ from standard workers’ comp laws and generally provide somewhat better compensation.
Sue for negligence
Without the safety net of Workman’s Comp, maritime workers often have to rely on the provisions of the Jones Act for compensation. In some ways, maritime workers actually have a better system at their disposal, which is why it is so important to contact a maritime injury lawyer in the event of an injury.
With provisions of the Jones Act to rely on, maritime workers can file negligence lawsuits that go beyond standard maintenance and seek remedies for certain types of injuries. They can receive a more substantial settlement when they file a negligence lawsuit and only have to prove that the employer’s negligence merely contributed to the injury in some way. In other words, negligence does not have to be the entire cause of the injury. It may play too small a role to actually be relevant.
Employers may claim that seafarers must accept the substantial inherent risks of working on a seagoing vessel, but this does not absolve the employer or the shipowner from liability if something goes wrong. Employers are expected to build and maintain the vessel to code, make necessary repairs and provide a safe working environment. “Reasonable care” must be used, and they must foresee the possibility of accidents and take steps to eliminate them.
Negligence is not limited to ship maintenance. Sometimes, decisions that put employees at unreasonable risk must be held accountable. Requiring workers to perform tasks in unsafe sea conditions, abandoning safety procedures, performing tasks for which they have not been trained, or deviating from accepted practices regarding seagoing cargo are just a few examples of behavior that may be considered negligent.
TYPES OF MARITIME INJURY CASES
Marine workers face and endure conditions that would send most landlubbers into fear and despair. Although for the most part, they understand the dangers they are facing and there are ways to deal with them and reduce the risks, accidents happen.
The most common injury-producing accidents suffered by maritime workers include:
Slips and falls – firmly No. 1 in injury claims. In wet conditions, slips are common and can occur on stairs, decks, and even crew areas.
Bumps and Collisions – Hanging booms, cranes, dollies, carts, machines, and unsecured cargo can cause injury to workers.
Lifting and Carrying Accidents – A tilted deck in rough seas can make lifting heavy objects treacherous. Even under ideal conditions, heavy lifting is a risky endeavor.
Illness – Not every claim is due to an injury. Sometimes, crew members fall ill due to unsanitary conditions and improper food preparation.
When the ship heads to sea, the only medical option for an injured worker is the onboard medical staff, also known as the infirmary or sick bay. This can be a real asset or pose a real risk if the staff is inadequately trained. In extreme cases, a transport helicopter may be required, but weather and sea conditions may play a role in whether a helicopter can be dispatched.
Filing your maritime claim – what not to do
Collisions at sea are almost always breaking news around ships. It is impossible to keep something like this a secret. But regardless of the severity of the injury or how it happened, it’s important to keep a grasp on the events, because ultimately, it’s up to you to set the record straight on what happened.
When word of your injury reaches management, they will naturally want to talk to you. Be very careful about what you say, if anything. While you don’t want to be rude or uncooperative, you must protect your interests. And by all means, do not submit a recorded statement. You cannot be forced to provide a recorded statement at any point in the process.
Your compensation, if you decide to contact a maritime lawyer and file a claim, will be tied directly to the employer’s or shipowner’s negligence. Insurance company adjusters and their attorneys are masters of manipulation, and anything you say before going to court can be twisted and used against you. Don’t think you can outsmart a seasoned pro!
Do not sign any document, approve any settlement offer or sign any statement without the advice of a maritime attorney.
Filing Your Maritime Claim – The Do’s and Don’ts
However, fill out an accident report as part of the claims process. The difference here is that when you fill out the accident report, you are in control. You have time to think about your answers and to clearly establish the facts without going on the spot trying to answer strategic questions.
Get the names of any co-workers or witnesses who saw the accident or possibly noticed any hazards that may have contributed to your injury.
Contact Daniel Patrick Law in Houston immediately. They will look into your case and help you with the accident report and help you establish a brief summary of the accident. Based on the confidential information you provide them, they can advise if your case is likely to succeed, and if so, how much compensation you may be entitled to.
Things change when you hire a maritime attorney
The concentration of businesses in Houston – especially businesses in the marine industry – creates a community where information spreads very quickly. When one company is taken to court in a marine injury lawsuit, other companies in the Houston area take notice.
Frankly, neither party to a maritime injury case wants to go to court. Many do not. In fact, most don’t. Often, when a maritime lawyer enters a lawsuit on behalf of a victim, the opposing party suddenly decides that it is in their best interest to settle out of court.
The initial sign here and we’ll be done with it offer is often retracted and replaced with something more substantial and fair. Intimidation tactics usually fall short and in most cases, they will leave you alone and deal directly with your attorney.
Do not try to start a marine injury claim yourself. Maritime law is vastly different from the types of law you may be familiar with. It is also in a constant state of flux. The Merchant Marine Act and the Jones Act have been amended multiple times since their inception, and there are now calls for new amendments, even calls for their repeal.