Every maritime worker who has been injured in an offshore, job-related accident deserves the highest standard of legal care and personalized attention. Maritime personal injury law is a specific practice area that requires extensive, detailed knowledge and legal training.
We have that extensive knowledge and training at the Houston-based McNeal Law Firm. If you are a maritime worker who has been injured on-the-job, we provide reliable legal advice and aggressive, effective advocacy in the pursuit of your compensation.
Houston maritime injury lawyer David McNeal is a graduate of the United States Merchant Marine Academy. He has Offshore Supply Vessel (OSV) and Ultra-Deepwater drilling rig work experience in the Gulf, and he was a shipboard officer responsible for inspecting safety equipment and maintaining safety standards. Attorney David McNeal knows well the risks that maritime and offshore workers face.
What is the Jones Act?
When a maritime worker is a member of a vessel’s crew, that worker meets the legal definition of a “seaman,” and the worker is covered by the Merchant Marine Act of 1920, otherwise known as the Jones Act. The Jones Act gives a seaman who has sustained a work-related injury the right to bring a personal injury lawsuit that charges that the employer was negligent.
To prevail with a personal injury claim in a land-based personal injury case, the injury victim and his or her attorney must prove that another party’s negligence was the direct or main cause of the accident that injured the victim. But under the Jones Act, if the employer’s negligence played any role at all in the accident – even as a minuscule factor – that is enough for a Jones Act claim to prevail and for the injured employee to be compensated.
When Does the “Unseaworthiness Doctrine” Apply?
Employer negligence under the Jones Act is not an injured seaman’s only option for compensation. Seamen have additional protection under the maritime legal doctrine of unseaworthiness. A maritime employer has an absolute legal duty to provide a crew with a seaworthy vessel.
If the vessel a seaman works on is in any way unseaworthy, and the seaman is injured, that seaman may file a personal injury claim under the unseaworthiness doctrine and recover compensation – without even having to prove that the employer was negligent.
Unseaworthiness claims are brought against a vessel’s owner, while Jones Act claims are brought against the injured seamen’s employer. In some cases, of course, these will be the same business or individual.
What If an Injured Maritime Worker Isn’t a Seaman?
As mentioned previously, a “seaman” is legally defined as a member of a particular vessel’s crew. But what about other maritime workers who become injured? Longshoremen, harbor workers, and virtually everyone else who works at a dock, shipping terminal, or shipyard has workers’ compensation coverage through the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act (LHWCA).
The LHWCA pays for an injured maritime worker’s partial wage replacement, reasonable medical care and treatment, and when necessary, for vocational rehabilitation services.
What Else Should Injured Maritime Workers Know?
You should report your work-related injury within a reasonable time after the injury, which can vary based on severity and other factors. Employer accident report forms almost always ask the injured worker to explain how the incident happened and sometimes even go so far as to request that you identify the responsible party. This can be tricky. Sometimes your employer will ask you to sign an accident report that has already been completed. You should know that the law does not require you to sign any accident report.
If you decide to complete a written report about how the incident happened, you should refrain from taking responsibility for how or why it occurred until you have the opportunity to discuss it with an attorney. In either case, if there was a known or unknown hazard in your work environment that contributed to your injury or if you were instructed to do something that your company prohibits for safety reasons, you should state that in the report. Your current lifestyle and future could be impacted based on what is placed in the report. A report hastily written could make it difficult for you to bring a claim under the Jones Act or the LHWCA and affect your ability to maintain your standard of living.
How Does the McNeal Law Firm Help Injured Maritime Workers?
If you are not comfortable indicating that your employer was at fault, simply write on the accident report that you are not sure who was at fault. Then, as quickly as possible, contact the McNeal Law Firm in Houston to discuss your injury and options with Houston maritime injury lawyer David McNeal.
He represents injured maritime workers and non-workers injured on the water who are entitled to compensation under the Jones Act, the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act, the unseaworthiness doctrine, and the general maritime law.
The McNeal Law Firm will review your maritime injury case at no cost and with no obligation. You’ll get the personalized legal advice you need, and if you move forward with an injury claim, we will represent you and advocate on your behalf. Call the McNeal Law Firm at (832) 819-3281 to learn more or to schedule a case review with attorney David McNeal.