HOUSTON MARITIME ATTORNEY

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Guys Houston maritime injury law, also known as admiralty law, has a lot of quirks and inconsistencies. It takes an experienced maritime injury attorney to see these inconsistencies, and we find them in every case that makes it to our Houston law office.

Houston maritime workers are at a disadvantage in some maritime cases. In other naval injury cases, they have some advantages in their favor. 

But only a skilled Houston maritime attorney will be able to figure it all out. So, whether you’re in Houston, Harris County, Pasadena, Baytown, or the outlying suburbs, if you’ve been injured at sea and are in need of a Houston maritime injury attorney, Patrick Daniel Law is here to help.

Patrick Daniel is an icon among Houston maritime attorneys, gaining distinction through 20 years of maritime law in Houston, Texas, and around the Gulf Coast.

Patrick Daniel has argued maritime injury cases from both sides and has extensive experience, not only in the way Houston maritime law cases proceed but also in the work that goes on at sea by employees of hundreds of Houston maritime companies.

Here is a short list of the types of Houston maritime injury cases he has handled in both Texas and elsewhere:

  • Jack-up rig accidents
  • Deck accidents
  • Tugboat accidents
  • Oil platform accidents
  • Barge accidents
  • Commercial fishing accidents
  • Cargo ship accidents
  • Shipyard accidents

If you sustained a maritime injury in Houston similar to the above, and would like a free consultation with our Houston maritime lawyers, or to find out more about our Houston maritime law services, please call (713) 999-6666 or contact us online.

HOUSTON MARITIME ATTORNEYS

HOUSTON MARITIME ATTORNEY

Friends 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.

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.

WORKING AT SEA – IT’S A DIFFERENT WORLD OUT THERE

There are literally hundreds of maritime companies in Houston, and even though they claim to appreciate their employees and the sacrifices they make, you’re only one fall on a slippery deck or one tumbling pallet of cargo in heavy seas from discovering how much or how little they truly do care.

If you are injured at sea, don’t assume your employer will compensate you fairly and make sure your medical bills are covered. Any one of a host of Houston maritime lawyers will quickly point out that the ball game changes drastically when an injury occurs.

Not only that, but the rules are different for maritime employees and land-based employees. Defendants in maritime law cases try to hide behind the nuances of maritime law, hoping the injured party is not up to speed on them.

For instance, Workman’s Comp does not apply to injuries suffered while at sea. But thanks to the federal Jones Act, maritime workers have the ability to sue their employers for compensation, and employers are held accountable to provide reasonably safe working conditions and to maintain their vessels so that they are safe and seaworthy.

MARITIME LAW & ADMIRALTY LAW ARE THE SAME THING

So, what does maritime mean, anyway? Literally, maritime regards anything connected with the sea.

This can be applied to commercial shipping and transporting or military activity. The set of laws governing maritime activity is known as admiralty law, a term used interchangeably with maritime law.

Maritime law does differ from the Law of the Sea, which governs international trade, mineral rights, jurisdiction over coastal waters, treaties, and relations between countries.

Admiralty cases are more local in concept, involving civil suits, individuals, companies, and representatives of those companies.

TYPES OF MARITIME INJURY CASES

Maritime workers face situations and endure conditions that would send most landlubbers into a state of fear and despair. While for the most part, they understand the hazards they’re exposed to and have various ways of coping with them and minimizing the risks, accidents do happen.

Among the most common injury-producing accidents suffered by maritime workers are:

  • Slip and falls – Solidly No. 1 in injury claims. In wet conditions, slips are common and occur on stairwells, on decks, and even in crew areas.
  • Bumps and collisions – Swinging booms, cranes, dollies, carts, machines, and unsecured cargo can bash into workers.
  • Lifting and carrying mishaps – A tilting deck in rolling seas can make lifting heavy objects treacherous. Even under ideal conditions, heavy lifting is a risky endeavor.
  • Illness – Not every claim is due to an injury. Sometimes, crew members become ill due to unsanitary conditions and improper food preparation.

When the ship is out to sea, an injured worker’s only medical option is the onboard medical staff, also known as the infirmary or sick bay. This can be a real asset or pose a real risk if the personnel is inadequately trained. In extreme cases, a transport helicopter might be needed, but weather and sea conditions can play a role in whether a helicopter can be dispatched.

EXAMPLE CASES – HOW DOES YOUR MARITIME CASE COMPARE?

Despite the thousands of maritime injury cases involving Houston-based maritime firms and their employees, there’s always something new that comes along. The following cases from around the U.S. set precedents for similar cases that may follow.

HOFFAS V. AMERICAN SEAFOODS (2018)

American Seafoods, the owner of the ship, American Dynasty, was found negligent for not providing a safe work environment for a crane operator who fell trying to reach a control that should have been more accessible.

The worker was required by his supervisors to operate a mid-ship crane on the trawl deck. Normally, the crane could be operated by wireless remote control, which allows workers to use the crane during inclement weather.

However, on the day of the accident, the remote control was not available, having been taken out of service by the chief engineer so that the crew wouldn’t misplace it.

In order to use the crane, the worker had to climb a ladder to reach the control tower. The ladder was sub-standard, even by written company policy that asserted that the ladder must have evenly-spaced rungs. This ladder did not have evenly-spaced rungs or a handrail, and the worker fell, suffering a serious knee injury.

The case was won on the basis of the ladder that didn’t meet even the company’s written safety policy. The judgment was for $900,000.

MITCHELL V. TRAWLER RACER INC. (1960)

This case went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court and established a modern precedent for what constitutes seaworthiness and reasonable care.

Frank C. Mitchell slipped on a stairway aboard the fishing trawler Racer when he encountered slime on the handrail. He sued on the basis of negligence and the ship’s unseaworthiness.

The ship’s owner said the condition of the handrail was unknown to its crew, was temporary, and that reasonable care had been applied in the maintenance of the vessel.

A jury sided with both parties, allowing Mitchell to collect on standard maintenance and cure for negligence, as provided by the Jones Act, but ruling for the defendant on the charge of unseaworthiness.

Mitchell appealed the ruling, charging that the presiding judge was in error when he instructed the jury that in order to rule for the plaintiff’s petition for unseaworthiness, the defendant had to have known about the slime on the handrail and chose not to address it.

The appellate court sided with the lower court, based on the presumption that the plaintiff had failed to prove the ship’s crew knew about the slime beforehand. But when the case eventually reached the U.S. Supreme Court, the case was overturned.

In writing the opinion of the court, Associate Justice Potter Stewart said that a ship owner’s responsibility to provide a seaworthy vessel goes beyond simply applying reasonable care and that a temporary condition that renders a vessel unseaworthy does not relieve the owner from liability.

GAUTREAUX V. SCURLOCK MARINE INC. (1995)

Gautreaux (first name not available) was severely injured when a manual crank handle that he had laid on top of an electric winch flew off the winch when the winch suddenly activated.

He had been using the manual crank to free the winch, which had become stuck. The crank handle struck Gautreaux in the eye and face.

Gautreaux sued Scurlock Marine for negligence and failure to provide a seaworthy vessel, saying he had not been properly trained in the use of the manual crank.

Scurlock countered, saying Gautreaux had been thoroughly trained on the towboat Brooke Lynn, where the accident occurred, and had been trained specifically on the use of the manual winch crank. They said he should have exercised better care for his own safety.

According to the Jones Act, a seaman need to exercise only “slight care” for his own safety, while his employer is held to a much higher standard to assure a safe work environment. Scurlock’s attorneys argued that the court had blindly followed an incorrect statement of the law.

The court said that regardless of the correctness or fairness of the “slight care” provision of the Jones Act, it could not alter it, adding that it would be up to higher courts to change the interpretation of the law and to lawmakers to change the law itself.

The jury apportioned 95% of the fault to Scurlock and 5% to Gautreaux and awarded him $854,000. That figure was later reduced by an appellate judge to $736,925.

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