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Maritime Lawyers

Legal assistance with maritime/admiralty law for clients in Texas and nationwide

The extraordinary dangers faced by those deep water seaman, coastal and river way crewmen, and offshore workers we know as maritime and admiralty employees has been recognized for centuries and laws to provide for their medical care and living expenses while recovering from injury are also longstanding. If you are injured offshore, at sea, in inland waterways, or through your work at a pier, wharf or dry dock, different statutes of limitations, laws and recoverable damages apply to your injury than for injuries in land work environments. Under maritime law or admiralty law, you may often seek damages beyond what is covered by workers compensation. Maritime lawyers at Bush Lewis have years of experience handling cases under many different situations. In the past, Ken Lewis and Don Bush were actually known as proctors in admiralty because of their federal court work on maritime cases when that term was still used to describe trial lawyers qualified to represent seamen.

Maritime law

One of the oldest laws that help seamen to recover damages is called “maintenance and cure.” Maintenance refers to covering the cost of basic daily living, including rent, food, utilities and transportation while the injured worker is recovering from injury. Cure refers to covering medical costs until the injured worker reaches the point of maximum medical improvement, which means the condition has stabilized and is no longer improving. Most offshore workers today already know that if they work on a “jack-up” or moveable drilling platform, they are considered seamen under maritime law. Likewise, crews on tugs, barges and other vessels plying the coast, inland waterways or the Intracoastal Canal are also seamen.

The Jones Act

Regardless of the employer’s negligence, injured seamen are owed maintenance and cure. However, under the Jones Act, seamen may obtain a maritime lawyer to sue employers based on negligence. Negligence is a factor in the following circumstances:
  • When a vessel is unseaworthy
  • When workers are insufficiently trained or overloaded with work
  • When working conditions subject mariners to unnecessary danger
The Jones Act marked a significant change in how seamen were treated and substantially did away with much of the hazardous, abusive, and squalid working conditions that existed before this law came into effect. It provided more extensive recourse for occupational illness and injury.

Safety and industry standards apply under the Jones act, such as OSHA regulations, Coast Guard rules and American Petroleum Institute (API) requirements for oil rig operation of cranes and equipment. Employer violations of such rules and standards generally make them subject to Jones Act litigation when related injury occurs. Bush Lewis attorneys know the “rules of the road” that apply to maritime employers and how to enforce them for our maritime clients.

Under the Jones Act an experienced maritime lawyer can help you receive compensation for injury-related damages, including:
  • Medical expenses
  • Past and future lost wages
  • Lost fringe benefits
  • Past and future pain and suffering
A representative of the family’s estate can also bring a claim under the Jones Act for surviving family members if a seaman dies from a workplace injury. In cases of death, damages may include:
  • Loss of past and future income earning capacity
  • Loss of nurture and guidance to children
  • Loss of service
  • Loss of support
  • Decedent’s pain and suffering prior to death.

Longshore and Harbor Worker’s Compensation Act (LHWCA)

The LHWCA applies to workers who are not seamen, but are directly involved with maritime work, such as longshoremen or workers who load or unload cargo, repair shipping vessels, build vessels or otherwise do physical work at a dock, wharf or pier. LHWCA is similar to workers compensation in that the claimant does not have to prove employer negligence and is entitled to benefits simply based on occupational injury or illness. The Department of Labor (DOL) oversees LHWCA claims and benefits sought under LHWCA include:
  • Medical bills
  • Disability
  • Rehabilitation
  • Wrongful death expenses
However, injured workers may sue parties other than their employers who are responsible for their injury, such as defective equipment manufacturers, third party ship owners, etc. Workers have 30 days to report an injury to their employer under the LHWCA, and claims must be filed with the DOL within one year of the date of injury. Employers have up to 14 days after the accident to either dispute the claim or start making payments. Compensation under the LHWCA is significant and not based on the employer’s fault. The LHWCA also applies to many other workers through the Outer Continental Shelf Act and the Defense Base Act. The Outer Continental Shelf Act extends the LHWCA coverage to many workers on fixed offshore platforms who do not qualify as Jones Act seamen.

The Defense Base Act applies the LHWCA to civilian workers doing work for or related to the American military at and around defense bases. Currently, there are thousands of American civilians in or near combat zones working for companies like KBR, Halliburton, Blackwater, DynCorp, General Electric and other defense contractors in Iraq, Afghanistan and other places engaged in very dangerous work and actually subject to the same combat injuries as our American military personnel. Ken Lewis at Bush Lewis is experienced at handling serious injury claims for such workers under the LHWCA.

Death on the High Seas Act (DOSHA)

Under DOSHA, surviving family of a seaman who dies because of a vessel’s lack of seaworthiness or an employer’s negligence may pursue damages if the death occurred more than three miles offshore from the United States. DOSHA applies to non-permanent drilling platforms, which are classified as vessels if they are jack-up, floating, or moveable rigs. Recent DOSHA changes also allow families to recover for aviation accidents occurring more than 12 nautical miles from shore. There is a three year statute of limitations for filing a DOSHA suit, which runs from the date of the seaman’s death. When the government is a defendant to the action, the statute of limitations is two years.

Economic damages which may be sought include:
  • Loss of household services
  • Loss of child guidance and training
  • Family support and contribution
  • Funeral expenses
  • Seaman’s pain and suffering prior to death (in some cases)
DOSHA requires that suits to be filed by the personal representative of the family.

The Difference Experienced Maritime Lawyers Can Make

Because maritime law is a very unique legal area, the probability of a successful case outcome often depends on the skills of an experienced maritime lawyer. Our lawyers have in-depth knowledge of maritime laws along with experience handling maritime cases, which puts us in an excellent position to protect your rights and obtain the maximum compensation available under law. At Bush Lewis we have the experience, integrity and commitment to make a difference.

Contact a maritime lawyer at Bush Lewis today for a free initial consultation.

Know This Before An Accident

No one plans to have an accident and no one expects to sustain a serious injury or lose a loved one to death from someone else's actions or mistake. It helps to at least have heard what experienced lawyers say you can do to ease the situation. At Bush Lewis, we think there are some helpful guidelines that we recommend to you. Our lawyers suggest: Learn more.