Maritime Injury Lawyer in Houston
While every job has its own hazards, the personal risk involved in working on a ship is significantly greater than it is for most careers. For Houston, TX area residents employed in this unique environment, their legal rights with regard to work-related accidents aren’t covered by the usual workers’ compensation laws. Instead, their rights fall under a section of law known as the Jones Act.
What Is the Jones Act?
The Jones Act is a section of the Merchant Marine Act of 1920 that governs the transportation of goods by water as well as the rights of those employed on U.S. ships (referred to as “seamen”). Under Jones Act law, seamen who are injured on the job have the right to bring Jones Act lawsuits against their employer to seek damages as necessary.
How the Jones Act Differs from Maritime Law
The terms “Jones Act” and “maritime law” are often used together, sometimes even interchangeably. However, maritime law and the Jones Act are two distinct legal terms. Put simply, maritime law—also called admiralty law—is an entire area of law that deals with a variety of incident types and failures to observe industry regulations. The Jones Act is only one part of maritime law.
The Jones Act is an aspect of maritime law that deals specifically with the rights of seamen who suffer personal injury or harm while working on ships traveling navigable waters. Maritime law, as a whole, governs all kinds of seafaring industry issues, such as environmental harm, financial fraud, and contractual disputes.
Who and What the Jones Act Covers
In order to be considered a “Jones Act seaman,” you don’t have to work in any particular position on a ship—you simply need to be involved in working with a vessel operating on navigable waters. Everyone who works on such a vessel is legally covered by the Jones Act, from deckhands to kitchen staff.
In 1995, the Supreme Court case of Chandris, Inc., v. Latsis defined a Jones Act seaman as any employee who spends more than 30% of his or her time working on a vessel operating on navigable waters.¹ If you are still uncertain whether you are considered a seaman under the Jones Act, Johnson Garcia LLP can help you make that determination.
Jones Act accidents include any personal harm that an employee suffers as a result of employer negligence. The following are just a few examples of situations that warrant Jones Act claims:
- An employer fails to enforce proper safety guidelines, leading to lax attitudes and employee injuries.
- A crew member slips on a slick floor that was not marked with appropriate warning signage.
- A third-party inspection fails to identify an equipment failure, resulting in an explosion that injures employees.
Unique Challenges and Obstacles
Offshore careers can be extremely lucrative, but they can also present unique personal and legal challenges. As a Jones Act seaman, you work in an environment that is inherently more dangerous than your standard office building on dry land. If you’re injured on the job, a potential obstacle is that your employer may argue that your accident was an unforeseeable act of nature rather than the result of negligence.
It can also be difficult for seamen to go up against their employers, whose legal teams are undoubtedly more experienced in Jones Act cases than they are. Because it can be difficult to know your rights as a worker under the Jones Act, it’s important that you enlist the help of an experienced Jones Act attorney as soon as possible. With the right legal counsel, you can get the help you’re entitled to under U.S. law.
Do You Need Representation as a Jones Act Seaman?
If you’re a Jones Act seaman who has been harmed while working on a vessel on navigable waters, you should absolutely have legal representation from a Houston Jones Act attorney. Regardless of whether the negligence on your employer’s part is obvious or indirect, your Jones Act lawyer will fight for the damages you need to cover things like medical bills, lost income, medication costs, etc.
At Johnson Garcia LLP, we leverage 25 years of combined legal experience to represent Houston area seamen in a variety of Jones Act cases. We know that when you’re recovering from an injury, the last thing you need is another expense. That’s why we operate on a “no recovery, no pay” basis; if we can’t recover damages for you, you don’t pay us a dime. To learn more or schedule your free case evaluation, call us today at 832-844-6700.
Frequently Asked Questions
*Our FAQs are intended solely for informational purposes and should not be relied or construed upon as legal advice. Each case presents different facts that must be evaluated independently under law.
I've been injured but have been working hurt because I don't want to lose my job. If I hire a lawyer to help me, will I be fired?
We cannot predict how employers will react once they learn that an employee has been injured or working in pain due to a work-related injury or accident, but we can make sure we do everything possible to protect your rights. We know what you’re entitled to under the law and we know how to make sure the employer complies with its legal obligations. And importantly, it is absolutely critical that you not work in pain if you’ve been injured or hurt on the job or at work. Working through pain can often lead to more serious injuries and/or accidents but often employers will pressure workers to keep at their jobs instead of taking the appropriate time to recover. Your health must come first!
My employer says it does not owe maintenance and cure because it did not cause my injury or illness. Is this accurate?
Almost certainly not. Maintenance and cure is an important obligation that arises automatically when a crew member gets injured or sick on board a vessel or offshore drilling rig. It does not matter who and what is at fault – the money is owed under most circumstances because the Courts are protective of people who work offshore and at sea. In fact, there can be serious consequences if the maintenance and cure obligations are ignored by your employer.
I got hurt at work on an offshore rig, my employer is paying me $10 per day for maintenance. Is that enough?
Probably not. The exact amount of maintenance owed to you may be dependent on several factors but courts have routinely required more than $20 per day to satisfy the obligation. If you believe you are being underpaid maintenance, call us at Johnson Garcia LLP and let us give you a free evaluation. We used to analyze these same issues for large corporations to help them understand the law. Now you can level the playing field by hiring attorneys who know what you are up against.