Texas enjoys one of the largest and most successful maritime industries in the United States. Unfortunately, the maritime industry results in thousands of accidents each year as a result of the negligence and/or fault of other persons or entities.Injuries caused in these capacities may entitle the injured party and their family to recovery under the various bodies of law which govern both Texas territorial waters and the international waterways in the Gulf of Mexico.
Offshore or maritime litigation involves some of the most complicated laws that any attorney can handle.
Merchant Marine Act of 1920:
In the maritime industry, people are employed to work on and aboard vessels of various types. These workers are entitled to take advantage of an unique body of law called the Merchant Marine Act of 1920, or the Jones Act.
Unlike nearly every other body of law, the Jones Acts allows an injured worker to sue his employer for the employer's or the co-employees negligence occurring during work. An employer has a duty to exercise care by providing a reasonably safe work environment, training about safety in the workplace, and by providing adequate equipment.
Unlike the workers' compensation scheme which only allows for workers' compensation benefits, the Jones Act offers an injured employee a far greater scope for recovery. The Jones Act applies to employees who are injured in the service of a vessel or fleet of vessels, when they contribute to the mission of this vessel. Under current law, a vessel includes, jack-up rigs, semi-submersible rigs, ships, drill barges, river casino's, tug boats, shrimp boats, fishing boats, trollers, tankers, crew boats, utility boats, offshore support vessels, and water taxies. If the injured worker is working aboard one of these vessels, and their work contributes, in any way, to the overall mission of that vessel, then they are entitled to sue their employers and/or co-employees for injuries resulting from their negligence.
In addition to workers injured aboard vessels, people who spend more then 30% of their time aboard an identifiable vessel or fleet of vessels, may qualify as a Jones Act seaman, even if they were hurt while on land or while traveling to work aboard these vessels.A Jones Act seaman does not lose his status as a seaman, simply because he was injured on land. A lawsuit for a Jones Act seaman against his or her employer means a greater recovery of damages that may otherwise be unavailable under most other bodies of law.
Long Shore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act
The Long Shore and Harbor Workers' Compensation Act is a federal workers' compensation scheme that provides far greater benefits then those available under Workers' Compensation statutes. Under this act a longshoremen or harbor worker can recover 66 2/3% of their average weekly wages up to $1,100.00 per/week. In addition, a longshore or harbor worker would be entitled to have their employer pay for all medical expenses that are related to the injury sustained during work.
Aside from the obvious advantages the Longshore & Harbor Workers' Compensation Act provides in terms of weekly benefits under a special section of the Act, a person injured as a result of the negligence of the vessel upon which they are working may be entitled to sue that vessel and the vessel's owner for any negligence causing injury.
The injured longshoremen would be able to recover these additional damages on top of the weekly benefits and medical benefits owed under the act. This provides the injured worker substantial recovery that would otherwise not be available under many bodies of law.