As home to the second largest port facility in America, the headquarters of several offshore oil and gas companies, along with fleets of commercial fishing vessels, the maritime industry is crucial to the continuing success of Houston’s economy. Of course, there wouldn’t be a maritime industry without maritime workers. Maritime work is often hard labor for long hours in less than ideal conditions. It’s a situation where accidents can happen at any moment, resulting in serious injury or even death.
Maritime law protects seamen, offshore workers, longshoremen and other maritime workers after they have been injured on the job. It gives them and their families the right to seek compensation for the damages caused by their injuries. This can include compensation for maintenance (living expenses), cure (medical expenses), economic losses (lost wages, job loss) and wrongful death.
What Is Maritime Law?
Maritime law, or admiralty law, is the body of law that governs maritime issues and disputes, including commerce, navigation, salvage, maritime pollution, maritime workers’ rights, maritime insurance and the transport by sea of both passengers and goods. Maritime law also extends to America’s inland waterways.
Article III, Section 2 of the U.S. Constitution gives the U.S. federal courts jurisdiction over most maritime law disputes. Most maritime law is decided in U.S. federal court, but some cases are tried in state courts. Cases that involve property disputes (such as salvage rights and maritime liens) are always handled by a federal court, while other cases (such as personal injury and damaged goods) can be handled in federal or state court.
Maritime Laws That Protect Injured Workers
In the U.S., there are several different laws that protect the rights of injured maritime workers. These include:
- General Maritime Law – gives the crew of a vessel the right to recover for injuries caused by the unseaworthiness of a vessel, and the right to maintenance and cure payments from their employers.
- The Jones Act – gives the crew of a vessel the right to seek compensation for injuries caused by the negligent actions of a ship’s owner, her captain or crew.
- The Longshore and Harbor Workers Compensation Act (LHWCA) – provides worker’s compensation benefits for maritime workers who don’t work on a floating vessel. This includes longshoremen, dockhands and ship builders.
- The Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act (OCSLA) – similar to the LHWCA, these maritime laws protect offshore workers who were injured or died while working on a fixed structure (such as an offshore oil drilling rig) located in U.S. waters on the Outer Continental Shelf.
- The Death on the High Seas Act (DOSHA) – provides funeral expenses and other compensation to the families of maritime (and aviation) workers who were are killed by a negligent or wrongful act aboard a vessel (or aircraft) that was located at least 12 nautical miles away off U.S. shores.
In addition to the rights of injured maritime workers, maritime law also addresses:
- Maritime liens and mortgages
- A ship crew’s duties to their passengers
- Salvage and treasure rights
- The obligations of a ship’s commander and crew to render assistance to those in need
- Contractual disputes between companies that do business in U.S. and international waters
Sadly, many injured maritime and offshore workers aren’t familiar with the complexities of maritime law and aren’t sure of their rights after a maritime accident. This situation can prevent them from obtaining the maximum benefits and compensation they are due for their damages.
Get Help From a Houston Maritime Law Attorney
If you are a maritime worker who is unable to work due to a job-related injury and are unsure of your rights, the smart thing to do is contact a Houston maritime law attorney. The law offices of Ricardo N Gonzalez & Associates help all types of injured maritime workers.
Contact us to schedule a free, no obligation consultation with one of our Houston maritime lawyers. Ricardo N Gonzalez & Associates is headquartered in Houston and serves injured maritime workers in Texas and all over the Gulf Coast.