MARITIME LAW ATTORNEY
Maida Law Firm – Houston Maritime Law Attorneys
Maritime occupations are particularly hazardous. While your employer has the obligation to protect you and to minimize the risk of injury, working on vessels and rigs is inherently physical work, and foreseeable injuries happen – especially when employers are lax in their procedures, maintenance, and oversight. Employers often fail to protect their dedicated workers. We handle Jones Act, Longshore Act, and rig workers’ claims. We try cases to the state, federal and administrative courts across the nation.
Accidents and Injuries can end your career as a seaman, longshoreman or oil rig worker. The physical demands of working at sea, make injuries to hands, arms, legs or back very possible and possibly catastrophic. Your livelihood and the support of your family are at stake.
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If you have been injured, as a seaman, longshoreman, or oil field worker, you need to fight for the compensation you deserve. Your employer or its insurer is unlikely to compensate you fully. You expect and deserve representation to fight for your rights and get you what you need for a full recovery. We have maritime attorneys who can help fight for your rights.
Admiralty and Maritime Law Definition
The admiralty and maritime practice involve all aspects of legal work relating to marine activities. This includes litigation, commercial transactions, and non-litigation counseling, as well as regulatory work before federal and state agencies. Firms with litigation caseloads generally represent clients in matters involving collision, personal injury, cargo loss, workers’ compensation, maritime commercial disputes, and insurance coverage relating to inland marine vessels, oceangoing vessels, passenger vessels, drill rigs, and other offshore equipment. Frequently, these firms also handle marine-related issues involving mass disasters, major pollution incidents, toxic torts, and class actions. Due to the nature of when and where clients’ needs arise, attorneys in this practice frequently are on call 24 hours and travel to distant and sometimes remote locations. In the areas of commercial and counseling, maritime attorneys handle issues relating to vessel sales, shipyard contracts, maritime insurance counseling and evaluation, contract and charter drafting and negotiations, and maritime finance advice. In the context of the regulatory arena, attorneys typically appear before the United States Coast Guard, Federal Maritime Commission, United States Department of Labor, and the National Transportation Safety Board.
Features of Admiralty Law
Maritime law set forth many of the basic legal tenants associated with the sea and seamen, including: The right of a rescuer to claim a Marine Salvage award for recovering property lost at sea. The right for creditors and seamen who are owed wages to have a Maritime Lien against a vessel as a security interest to ensure they are paid. The duty for ship owners to provide reasonable care to passengers. If negligence results in a passenger injury, a suit may be brought against the shipowner just as if the injury had occurred on land. The benefit of maintenance and cure, which requires ship owners to care for injured crew. Maintenance obligates ship owners to provide seamen with basic living expenses until they can return to work. Cure obligates ship owners to provide free medical care—even if that care is long-term or permanent until an injured seaman reaches the state of maximum medical cure (i.e., returned as close as medically possible to the condition the seaman was in before the injury). 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 number of unearned wages a seaman can receive. 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 shipowners are loathed 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.
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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 many years to come. 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.
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 within regard 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 do not 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?
The Maida Law Firm Maritime Attorneys
- 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 a lot of quirks and inconsistencies.
- It takes an experienced maritime injury attorney to be able to see these inconsistencies, and we find them in every case that makes it to our Houston law office. Houston maritime workers are at a disadvantage in some maritime cases.
- In other maritime injury cases, they have some advantages in their favor. But only a skilled Houston maritime attorney will be able to figure it all out.
So, whether you’re in Houston, Harris County, Pasadena, Baytown or the outlying suburbs, if you’ve been injured at sea and are in need of a Houston maritime injury attorney, The Maida Law Firm is here to help. Contact our Houston maritime lawyers for a free consultation.
Jerry von Sternberg is an icon among Houston maritime attorneys, gaining the distinction through 20 years of maritime law in Houston, Texas and around the Gulf Coast. Jerry von Sternberg has argued maritime injury cases from both sides and has extensive experience, not only in the way Houston maritime law cases proceed but also in the work that goes on at sea by employees of hundreds of Houston maritime companies.
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 about our Houston maritime law services, please call 713-785-9484 or contact us online. Houston is much more than oil and aerospace.