Work on the high seas and on navigable waterways is difficult and heroic. The legal system has long recognized that the people who engage in this work are entitled to special legal protection. That is why many offshore and maritime workers are entitled to unique and substantial compensation when a seaman sustains injury or dies while working.
Maritime injury cases often involve complex legal and jurisdictional issues. To maximize profit, the companies that owe seamen special legal obligations and compensation sometimes do everything they can to complicate these issues, and avoid paying the full amount due.
The Houston maritime attorneys at Morrow & Sheppard know how to fight back against these tactics. They work diligently to secure their clients maximum recovery allowed under the law.
Because we worked as partners in prestigious defense firms for many years, we know the playbooks employed by these large companies. Perhaps more importantly, we often know the executives and insurance adjusters who make decisions about whether to settle your case, and how much to pay. These companies know us and they do not want to face us in court. This gives us a leg up in resolving your case.
Workers injured aboard the following vessels are often entitled to maritime compensation:
Maritime law dates back centuries. One of the earliest references is Rhodian Sea Law written between 600 and 800 A.D. In England, there were separate admiralty courts that had different laws and procedures than traditional common law courts. One important difference was that English admiralty trials were conducted without juries.
Admiralty law in the United States developed initially through admiralty cases that followed the adoption of the U.S. Constitution in 1789. Famous American revolutionaries who were also maritime attorneys include Alexander Hamilton and John Adams.
Article III of the Constitution provides that the “judicial power shall extend . . . to all Cases of admiralty and maritime Jurisdiction.” Congress granted federal district courts exclusive original jurisdiction in civil cases in admiralty and maritime matters through the Judiciary Act of 1789. However, the Act also includes a clause “saving to suitors the right of a common law remedy, where the common law is competent to give it.” This often gives personal injury plaintiffs the right to bring maritime and admiralty claims in state court.
Supreme Court decisions in the 1800s granted federal admiralty jurisdiction over injury and tort suits including ship collisions, passenger injuries, and cargo damage. In 1851, the Supreme Court held that the Constitution granted admiralty jurisdiction not just to cases arising on the high seas, but to all cases arising on all “navigable waters,” including waters wholly within the borders of a state.
In the 1920s, Congress passed laws that granted seamen, maritime workers, and surviving family members the special right to recover federal court compensation from their negligent employers for personal injuries or death. In 1953, the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act granted federal admiralty jurisdiction to offshore workers.
The Maritime Law Association of the United States was founded in 1899. It is one of the largest and most prominent maritime legal organizations in the world.
The MLA’s purpose is “to advance reforms in the Maritime Law of the United States, to facilitate justice in its administration, to promote uniformity in its enactment and interpretation, to furnish a forum for the discussion and consideration of problems affecting the Maritime Law and its administration, to participate as a constituent member of the Comité Maritime International and as an affiliated organization of the American Bar Association, and to act with other associations in efforts to bring about a greater harmony in the shipping laws, regulations and practices of different nations.”
Membership in the MLA is exclusive and provides unique access to maritime legal resources and practitioners. One question you should ask when assessing which law firm to handle your maritime law claim is whether the firm has any attorneys who are members of the MLA. Morrow & Sheppard do.
Offshore and maritime cases are often covered by the Jones Act or general maritime law. Please click here for answers to common questions regarding these cases.
Don’t let your rights be jeopardized.