Seamen and offshore workers are prone to all sorts of accidents and injuries due to the nature and environment of their work. Unfortunately, many accidents lead to severe injuries sustained and health complications that land one is hospital. Devastating accidents easily overwhelm their victims. The initial shock, huge medical bills and stress over their employment status can inundate most seamen. It is therefore important to immediately find a good Houston offshore injury lawyer for professional and actionable advice that puts the interests of the victim first. Another reason to look for a lawyer is because, most seamen do not know the Houston Offshore maritime laws that govern their profession.
Importance of Hiring an Offshore Injury Lawyer
When a seaman is hurt while at sea, they have to file a detailed accident report to their company. These reports are used to formally inform the employer of the accident and are essential when seeking compensation or payment for damages. Unfortunately, they are also used to intimidate accident victims. They require victims to state whom they think is at fault. This puts the worker at cross roads because if they blame the employer, they are out of a job; but if they do not, they cannot receive compensation. This is the main reason why it is recommended to immediately seek a lawyer’s services before dealing with an employer.
Offshore lawyers focus on cases that involve maritime law. This branch of law has a unique set of rules and regulations that are only used in the maritime industry. They essentially protect workers’ interests upon the occurrence of injuries, illnesses, accidents and deaths. The intricacies involved in maritime law require an attorney who has specialized in it. This allows them to help victims receive all the benefits that they are entitled to in the event of an accident.
All seamen injured in a ship, at sea or an offshore facility are legally entitled to benefits and compensation to cover their medical bills and living expenses until they recover. This type of compensation is called maintenance and cure but is often quite costly to employers. Therefore, many try to go around it by coming up with loopholes to avoid making payments or paying a fraction of the total costs. The presence of a lawyer ensures that the worker receives all that they are entitled to even if they are not aware of how the law works.
Injuries and huge compensation payments dent an employer’s profit margin and stains their reputation. In some extreme cases, employers will go to great lengths to intimidate employees seeking compensation by blacklisting them in the industry. This makes it hard to find employment in Houston. In addition, many accidents occur far into the sea making it difficult to carry out a thorough investigation. In such cases, the victim needs the services of an experienced maritime lawyer to protect their interests.
Offshore workers hurt in an accident are entitled to receive compensation for any additional medical expenses that may occur in future to treat a condition proven to be as a result of their accident at sea. They may also get compensation for pain and suffering as well as lost wages as per the Jones Act. Maritime workers like longshoremen and those who work on harbors do not actually qualify as seamen. However, they are still protected by law and a lawyer will be able to fully explain their legal options.
Maritime Laws and Doctrines
1. The Jones Act
This act is also called Merchant Marine Act of 1920. It provides legal rights to all seamen and is essentially in place to protect their livelihood and health. Under this act, a worker injured while at sea can pursue a case or seek compensation against the ship captain, owner or another crew member. However, the law is quite strict about who actually qualifies to be covered under this act. It is thus crucial to talk to a lawyer before pursuing any course of action.
2. Longshore & Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act
This act is simply known as LHWCA or the Longshore Act. It is was enacted in 1927 to serve as a statutory compensation scheme for workers that are not covered under the Jones Act. It also benefits the workers’ beneficiaries and eligible survivors if they die.
3. General Maritime Law
Technically, Maritime Law is categorized under two types. The first consists of a compilation of federal statutes that have that have been passed down over the years. The other is vague since it is made up of common law that has been developed naturally by court decisions. The ‘maintenance and cure’ doctrine is one example that falls under general maritime law. It provides lost wages, medical care and living expenses to workers injured offshore.
4. Death on the High Seas Act (DOHSA)
DOHSA was enacted in 1920 by congress. It essentially protects the families and beneficiaries of a seaman injured offshore. Spouses and dependents are empowered to seek compensation if they believe that the death of a loved was due to negligence of another party.
Accidents and Injuries Covered by a Houston Offshore Injury Lawyer
Offshore injury lawyers cover all maritime accidents that result in the injury of a seaman and are caused by negligence of a third party. This may include failure of the employer to provide a safe working environment, assault by co-workers or negligence of a co-worker.
Employers should provide adequate protection to all employees to minimize and prevent unnecessary accidents from occurring. Compensation is sought if accidents occur as a result of an employer’s failure to:
• Provide safety training
• Provide and ensure that all equipment is working properly
• Perform regular check-ups of equipment
• Provide protective clothing and safety gear
• Provide breaks and rest periods
• Ensure that all work areas do not have dangerous debris, chemicals and other materials
• Provide clear warning signs in danger-prone areas
• Provide a vessel that is seaworthy
Contingency Fee Arrangement
This is an arrangement where the attorney agrees to take up the case of a seaman without any up-front payment made. Instead, they will receive a percentage of the amount paid out by an employer, when their client wins, or the settlement amount if a suitable offer is made. What this means is that the attorney only gets paid if their client wins the case.
However, this arrangement may require the client to foot the bill of all fees related to the case. These are essential for the case to continue. The client may come to an agreement with their attorney to have the latter cover all fees required and have them reflected in the percentage they will receive upon completion of the case (more motivation for them to win).
A great lawyer will make it their point to prove negligence on the side of the responsible party using all legal means available to their disposal. Effective and efficient lawyers often work closely with experts who are relevant to the case including medical professionals and accident reconstruction specialists to demonstrate the real cause of the accident and prove negligence. They will also present relevant evidence recovered and expert witnesses to make their client’s case strong. Fortunately for a Houston Offshore injury lawyer, the Jones Act has softened the total burden of proof that is required to prove negligence.