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 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 LAW
Houston is much more than oil and aerospace. A recent study showed that Houston, TX is the No. 2 city in the country for jobs connected to maritime through the moving of cargo between U.S. 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 between American ports.
The Port of Houston includes over 200 private and public terminals, handling over 8200 seagoing vessels and 215,000 barges every year. Thousands of maritime employees call the Houston area home.
It should come as no surprise, then, that there is a multitude of maritime injury cases in Houston. Maritime workers who are injured at sea do not have many of the recourses that land-based workers do, and often have to hire a maritime injury lawyer in Houston to protect their rights and help them recover losses that stem from their maritime injury.
HOUSTON MARITIME ATTORNEYS
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 has substantial recoveries for his clients.
But this process requires more than a successful courtroom attorney. Maritime work is grueling, unforgiving, and raw, and any Houston, Texas lawyer who aspires to represent maritime workers had better know the work as well as he knows the law.
That’s what sets Patrick Daniel Law ahead of other law firms in Houston, Texas. He knows the work. He grew up in Louisiana and has 20 years of experience in litigating maritime cases – some of it from the other side of the courtroom.
History of Admiralty & Maritime Law
Maritime law—also referred to as admiralty law—is nearly as old as the shipping industry itself and governs most accidents that occur on navigable waters. The law’s roots can be traced back to the unwritten customs of nautical behavior of the Egyptians and Greeks. However, the earliest formal codes were established around 900 BC on the Greek island of Rhodes.
The original maritime laws and codes stemmed from the ancient customs and rules of shipping. For example, the Doctrine of General Average—the concept that all sea cargo stakeholders (owner, shipper, etc.) evenly share any damage or losses that may occur as a result of a voluntary sacrifice of part of the vessel or cargo to save the whole—can be traced back to the early shipping customs of the Rhodians.
The concept of a separate legal authority regulating maritime issues was brought to the west by Eleanor of Aquitaine, who learned of the concept when she accompanied her first husband King Louis VII of France to the Mediterranean on the Second Crusade.
The term admiralty law came from the British admiralty courts, which presided over maritime matters separately from England’s common-law courts. As the U.S. judicial system is based on the British system, amended admiralty laws were gradually incorporated into our legal system soon after the constitution was ratified.
When Does Maritime Law Apply?
Perhaps most obviously, maritime law applies to events that occur on high seas—in other words, accidents that happen beyond the territorial waters of any country. Furthermore, maritime law applies to the territorial sea, which are waters within 12 miles of the shore. However, the law’s applicability becomes less clear further inland.
Early in the United States’ history, maritime law did not apply to incidents that occurred within the “body of the country” and therefore excluded incidents involving the Great Lakes and nontidal inland waterways. However, throughout the 19th century, this exclusion eroded away.
Maritime law is now applied to “navigable waters.” A waterway is deemed navigable if by itself, or by uniting with other waters, it can serve as a “continued highway over which commerce is or may be carried on with other States or foreign countries.” Consequently, if a body of water is completely landlocked within a single state, then it is not navigable for purposes of admiralty jurisdiction. However, a body of water doesn’t need to flow between states to be deemed navigable.
A body of water may be deemed navigable if it is a link in a chain of bodies of water that can be used to service interstate commerce. Ultimately, the test is that the commerce of one state must be capable of being carried into another state or a foreign country. Once this test has been passed, it is likely that maritime law will be applicable, even if it is a recreational vessel.
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.
WHEN SHOULD I HIRE A HOUSTON MARITIME ATTORNEY?
Our maritime injury lawyers help injured dockworkers and seamen attain the compensation they require to recover at our personal injury law firm. Typically, serious injuries lead to expensive medical treatments.
Above all, these injuries can have a long-term impact on your life, mentally, emotionally, and financially.
WHAT’S A MARITIME ATTORNEY?
A maritime attorney is a legal professional who focuses on helping those who have experienced injuries, accidents, and wrongful deaths caused by recreational and commercial maritime accidents.
These incidents are governed by maritime law, which lays out specific roads to recovery for people who have been injured or lost loved ones on the water.
A competent Houston maritime attorney will have a thorough understanding of how maritime law affects incidents in national and international waters, plus the commitment to see each case through to a successful result.
Often, maritime injury cases require extensive investigations, a thorough knowledge of laws that are hundreds of years old, and the willingness to try cases in court. Maritime companies are some of the most powerful in the world, so having an experienced maritime attorney is crucial to countering their tactics.
DO I NEED TO HIRE A MARITIME INJURY LAWYER?
Yes, you likely need a maritime injury lawyer because laws governing offshore injuries can be complicated. Deciding whether to hire a maritime injury lawyer might seem like a hard decision. What you should know is this: if you were injured or lost a family member at sea, there is no one who can defend your rights and help you rebuild your life as a skilled maritime injury lawyer can.
Your employer won’t have your back. Your loved ones won’t know how to help. It takes a powerful lawyer who knows the ins and outs of maritime injury cases to protect you.
Importantly, hiring a maritime lawyer also means having help from someone who’ll seek the compensation you deserve rather than the compensation you’re offered.
A maritime attorney will investigate your case help make sure the other side is being fair. If they aren’t they’ll be prepared to fight for your recovery in court.
WHAT IS A MARITIME INJURY?
A maritime injury may include any type of physical or psychological trauma experienced at sea. Offshore workers, cruise ship passengers, crew members of fishing vessels, and all others who are injured or lost while in the U.S. or international waters may be considered to have suffered a maritime injury.
These injuries are often severe and life-changing, warranting the involvement of an attorney who knows how to hold at-fault parties accountable under maritime injury law.
Importantly, maritime injuries aren’t covered by typical onshore laws. For example, injured maritime workers can’t file a workers’ compensation as onshore workers can. Instead, they’ll need to use laws such as the LHWCA and Jones Act to seek compensation.
In other instances, workers can use old maritime laws such as maintenance and cure to secure needed compensation after an accident.
WHAT IS MARITIME LAW?
Maritime law, also known as admiralty law, governs navigation and shipping. Maritime law is one of the oldest sets of rules used to protect offshore workers before the Jones Act, Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act, and the Death on the High Seas act. It provides basic provisions that make sure workers are provided with maintenance and cure after an injury.
IS MARITIME LAW THE SAME EVERYWHERE?
No, maritime law is not the same everywhere. Although the admiralty laws of many nations have common roots, those nations have since modified them with unique stipulations. For example, the Jones Act is a law that only applies to vessels flying the American flag.
WHAT IS THE JONES ACT?
The Jones Act is a law that enables injured maritime workers to secure the compensation they need for the full extent of their injuries. Before the Jones Act was passed in 1920, maritime workers injured by preventable accidents weren’t able to collect the full amount of compensation that they needed for their injuries.
With the Jones Act, workers can recover losses such as medical bills, lost wages, the cost of future care, and more.
WHAT IS MAINTENANCE & CURE?
Maintenance and cure describe the cost of living (maintenance) and the medical expenses (cure) that an offshore worker needs after an accident. For decades, maritime law has required vessel owners to ensure that injured workers receive maintenance and cure after sustaining an injury.
WHAT TYPE OF COMPENSATION DO I QUALIFY FOR AFTER MY OFFSHORE INJURIES?
This depends on what type of job you were performing during your injury and what laws govern it. Some workers will be entitled to compensation under the Jones Act while others might qualify for recovery with the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act.
Defining what workers qualify for assistance from these laws is not always simple. Speaking with our offshore injury lawyers during a free consultation is the best way to discover your options.
WHAT IF I CAN’T AFFORD A MARITIME ATTORNEY?
The right maritime law firm will help you afford their services. Injured maritime workers are often facing difficult financial circumstances and need to have special financial arrangements made with their maritime lawyers. For example, Arnold & Itkin LLP works on a contingency fee basis—meaning we cover all costs of a case and don’t collect payment unless we win it.
Besides taking on the financial burden of a case’s fees and investigative costs, our firm has helped our clients get the medical care they need as their trial progresses.
WHAT ARE THE DIFFERENCES BETWEEN MARITIME LAW AND ORDINARY LAW?
In many ways, there is little difference between how maritime law is handled and how ordinary law is handled. However, some meaningful differences exist, but those differences exist more so in the court rather than the substantive law itself.
For example, there is no right to a jury trial when an admiralty action is brought in an admiralty court. Important to remember though, the only cases that must be brought in federal admiralty court are those enforcing a maritime lien, foreclosure on a preferred ship mortgage, limitation of the vessel owner’s liability, and any proceeding where the ship itself is being sued.
IS MARITIME LAW THE SAME AS THE LAW OF THE SEA?
Maritime law is not the same as the law of the sea. Maritime law is United States law that governs incidents on navigable waters. The law of the sea is primarily based on international treaties and agreements that govern how nations interact with one another on matters that involve the high seas.
For example, the law of the sea governs countries’ jurisdiction over coastal waters, ownership of natural resources, and navigational rights.
WHAT DOES A MARITIME LAWYER DO?
Maritime lawyers handle cases involving marine vessels, sea crafts, offshore oil rigs, and harbor workers. Because of the nuanced law involving injuries or contract disputes pertaining to shipping or activities on navigable waters, experienced maritime attorneys are critical to bringing a successful claim.
A maritime lawyer must understand federal law, state law, the complexities of marine insurance, and many other shipping and offshore drilling industry specifics. This is a highly complicated field of law, making it crucial to involve an experienced maritime lawyer.
WHEN HAS MARITIME LAW BEEN APPLIED?
The most infamous application of maritime law may be the Deepwater Horizon disaster, where 11 crew members were killed and many more injured. A federal district court held, among other things, that admiralty jurisdiction was present because the alleged torts occurred upon the navigable waters of the Gulf of Mexico, and the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act jurisdiction was present because the casualties occurred in the context of exploration or production of minerals in the Outer Continental Shelf. When Arnold & Itkin handled many of the crew’s claims, it was critical they were well versed in maritime law.