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Vessel & Barge Injury Lawyer in Houston, TX


f you are injured while working aboard a vessel, a barge or other floating structure you are covered by the Federal Jones Act or General Maritime Law, and may be entitled to serious injury damages including pain, suffering and lost wages. A vessel & barge injury lawyer can help you with your claim. You are not a State Workers’ Compensation worker entitled to only limited benefits. Dennis L. Brown has represented maritime workers as a vessel & barge injury lawyer for over 30 years and successfully pursued cases to trial and through the U.S. Courts of Appeals. Vessel owners are vigorous in defending these cases and frequently hire attorneys and experts to investigate and photograph the scene and secure witness statements immediately. Our immediate involvement and investigation is critical to your case. Our firm had the experience and dedication to fight these vessel owners and insurance companies to secure you a fair and reasonable settlement or take your case to trial to pursue your rights.

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“We will protect your rights to the fullest extent of the law; investigate your claim vigorously; our consultations are free, and representation of your Longshore/Offshore Act case will usually be at no cost to you.”

Vessel & Barge Injury

The Jones Act is a law enacted by Congress that provides protection to persons who are members of the crew of a vessel.  This law applies to inland river workers as well as offshore workers who work on jackups, semi-submersibles, lay barges, drill ships or other floating, movable structures, tugs/towboats, crew boats, tankers, cargo ships, fishing vessels, chemical ships, research vessels, diving vessels and cruise and recreational ships.


If injured, there are a few very important steps that you must take in order to protect your legal rights to recovery under the Jones Act in the future.  These are as follows:

    1. If injured, immediately report the injury to the appropriate person.  Make sure the accident report is COMPLETE.  If there was a dangerous condition or problem that caused or contributed to your injury, then state it on the accident report and photograph if at all possible.  Get a copy of what you signed.
    2. Get co-workers to write a statement as to what the conditions were at the time of the accident.
    3. Take photographs of the scene and conditions that caused your injury.
    4. Get the names, addresses and phone numbers of all of the co-workers that may become witnesses for you. Trying to obtain these months later can sometimes be a headache.
    5. Get medical attention immediately from the doctor of your OWN choosing.  Many times the company will try to get you to go to their doctor or clinic and get you immediately back to work.  In many instances, the company doctor will state that you are able to return to work and need only minimal medical care, if so, the employer will deny compensation and future medical care. Therefore, it is very important that you choose your own physician to treat your injury. If you do not have a family physician, consult your family, friends, neighbors, fellow workers, or call my office at (713) 623-8999; (800) 471-8999. Lastly, many employer/carriers will assign a nurse/case manager to your case who will attend your medical appointments. You are not obligated to agree to their attendance or discuss your case with them. You can request that they make their own appointments to discuss your treatment with the doctor.
    6. It is important that you hire a vessel & barge injury lawyer with Jones Act expertise to fully protect your rights and benefits. The Law Office of Dennis L. Brown are experts in Offshore and Jones Act / Maritime injuries. Call us for “free” advice and representation on your Federal Longshore Act claim. Contact us at (800)471-8999 or by e-mail lawoffice@dennislbrown.com. Mr. Brown is a Board Certified Personal Injury Trial Lawyer, certified by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization and practices only personal injury trial law.

An injured worker under the Jones Act can recovery the following legal damages:

    1. Wages lost from the time of the injury to the time of trial;
    2. Lost wages and earning capacity;
    3. Medical expenses in the past and in the future; and pain, suffering, and mental anguish in the past and in the future.
    4. Loss of enjoyment of life, pain, suffering and mental anguish; and
    5. Physical Impairment and disfigurement.

The Jones Act is an Act of Congress, which governs the liability of vessel operators and marine employers for the work-related injury or death of an employee.  It is a federal cause of action, meaning that the United States Congress intended for all seamen’s injuries throughout the nation to be guided by the same liability standards.  Although the Jones Act protects seamen, it is not the same as workers’ compensation.  It does not require payment regardless of fault.  In order for a worker to recover under Jones Act, a worker must prove some negligence or fault on the part of the vessel’s owners, operators, officers, and/or fellow employees, or by reason of any defect in the vessel, its gear, tackle, or equipment.  The Jones Act provides an injured seaman a remedy against his or her employers for injuries arising from negligent acts of the employer or co-workers during the course of employment on a vessel.  This means that the employer must do something unreasonable or fail to perform a reasonable act that would have prevented injury in order for the seaman to win his claim.  Claims brought under the Jones Act can also raise claims against a vessel’s owner that a vessel was unseaworthy.


The Statute of Limitations in a Jones Act case is generally three (3) years from the date of the injury.  There are exceptions to this general rule, however such as a seaman assigned to a vessel owned, operated, or contracted by the United States government.  Actions against the vessel owner for unseaworthiness, must also be brought within three (3) years from the date of the seaman’s injury.


One of the central questions in any maritime injury case is whether the injured party is a seaman, since only a seaman can recover under the Jones Act.  A seaman is a member of the crew of a vessel or someone who is assigned to a vessel or a fleet of vessels.  For example, those who work on tankers, freighters, jack-up rigs, semi-submersibles, towboats/tugs, supply boats, crew boats, barges, lay barges, and fishing vessels are members of the crew and are considered seamen.  Those who are crew members on movable or jack-up drilling rigs are seamen.  Longshoremen, pilots, and those who work on fixed platforms are not seamen, but have other maritime remedies available for injuries.  Often there is a dispute as to seaman status and whether the seaman was working on a vessel when he was injured.  It is very important to allow the maritime attorney to study the facts surrounding the accident and the “vessel” to help make the determination of seaman status. The essential requirements for seaman status are:


    1. An employee’s duties must contribute to the function of the vessel or to the accomplishment of its mission;
    2. A seaman must have a connection with a vessel in navigation (or to an identifiable group of such vessels), that is substantial in terms of both its duration and its nature;
    3. The duration of a worker’s connection to a vessel and the nature of the worker’s activities, taken together, determine whether a maritime worker is a seaman because the ultimate inquiry is whether the worker in question is a member of the vessel’s crew or simply a land-based employee who happens to be working on a vessel at a given time;
    4. A distinction must be made between sea-based workers and land-based workers who have only a transitory or sporadic connection to a vessel in navigation.  Land-based maritime workers do not become seamen because they happen to be working aboard a vessel when they are injured, and seaman do not lose Jones Act protection where the course of their service to a vessel takes them ashore.  In evaluating the employment related connection of a maritime worker to a vessel in navigation, courts should not employ a “snapshot” test for seaman status, inspecting only the situation as it exists at the instant of injury; but rather, the total circumstances of an individual’s employment must be weighed to determine whether he has a sufficient relation to the vessel;
    5. Jones Act coverage (seaman status) depends not only the place where the injury is inflicted, but on the nature of the seaman’s service, his status as a member of the vessel, and his relationship as such to the vessel and its operation in navigable waters.

Accident Causing Factors

  • Conditions that make the vessel unseaworthy
  • Ruptured hydraulic hoses causing slippery decks
  • Broken barge access ladders
  • Slippery bull rails
  • Poorly maintained cranes on barges and vessels
  • Shorthanded crew
  • A cluttered deck
  • A poorly maintained deck ladder

Barge repair workers who are injured may receive compensation and medical benefits under the Longshore Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act. Contact a vessel & barge injury lawyer for a consultation.

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