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Maritime/Admiralty Law

Maritime Law or Admiralty Law governs navigation and shipping on most bodies of water. Maritime Law specifically protects the rights of seamen, longshoremen, oil rig workers, cruise ship employees and other people who make their living on the seas.

Maritime jobs such as those related to oil rigs can be dangerous; potential maritime claims include marine law versions of Workers’ Compensation claims (LHWCA) and Unseaworthiness claims. As well as maritime laws and acts such as the Jones Act, the Longshore and Harbor Workers' Compensation Act and the Death on the High Seas Act, maritime workers are also protected by the concept of "Maintenance and Cure". Maritime employees are advised to contact a Jones Act law firm to determine whether they have a claim.

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Maritime and Admiralty law attorneys are experienced with the following Maritime Acts and Laws:
  • Jones Act
  • Death on the High Seas Act (DOHSA)
  • Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act (LHWCA)
  • Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act
  • Carriage of Goods by Sea Act and the Harter Act

The LHWCA Act is the statutory Workers’ Compensation scheme that covers certain maritime workers, most dock workers and maritime workers not otherwise covered by the Jones Act.

Admiralty and Maritime Litigation include the following:
  • Fire and explosion claims
  • Toxic exposure
  • Personal injury and wrongful death
  • Property damage
  • Terminal operations
  • Drilling platform construction and operations
  • Oil and hazardous materials spills
  • Cargo loss and damage
  • Collision
  • Salvage
  • Insurance coverage and indemnity
  • Maritime contracts and Maritime liens
  • Charter parties

State and Federal Maritime Jurisdiction

The US Constitution grants original jurisdiction to US federal courts regarding maritime and admiralty issues. That jurisdiction is not exclusive, however: Under the "saving to suitors" clause, most maritime cases can be heard in either state or federal courts.

The following five types of cases can only be brought in federal court:
  • Limitation of ship owner's Liability,
  • Vessel Arrests in Rem,
  • Property arrests Quasi in Rem,
  • Salvage cases
  • Petitory and Possession Actions.

Boat Accidents and Cruise Ship Accidents

All other maritime cases, including personal injury claims, recreational boating accidents and cruise ship accidents, may be brought in either federal or state court. In practice, federal courts tend to be more efficient and faster than state courts.

If a death has occurred more than three nautical miles offshore, the federal Death on the High Seas Act or DOHSA, preempts any state causes of action that a family member of the deceased may attempt to pursue.

Most Maritime personal injury cases, including boating accidents and cruise ship accidents are settled, but many are first litigated in state or federal court. An experienced Maritime Lawyer can advise you regarding where to pursue your claim. In the US federal courts, there is generally no right to a jury trial in Admiralty cases.

Cruise Ship Employees

If you work as a cruise ship employee, your legal rights can depend upon the flag of registry of that vessel. For instance, if you are employed by a cruise ship that is a US flag vessel and you are injured on the job, you are protected under US maritime law. And the Jones Act would apply as a means of providing a legal remedy. However, if the ship operates under the flag of a different nation, such as the Bahamas or Panama, you are not protected under US maritime law, regardless of your US citizenship.

Maritime Statute of Limitations

There is a three-year Statute of Limitations for personal injury and wrongful death cases. Cargo cases must be brought within two years. Most major cruise ship passenger tickets have a one year statute of limitations.

Offshore Oil Rig Accidents

Oil rig injured workers and families with fatal offshore accident claims can typically recover compensation through the federal Jones Act, which protects the rights of injured seamen and their families. A maritime law attorney would need to prove fault against the injured party’s rig owners, contractors and crew member(s). An attorney would determine fault by examining the cause of a work-related accident, including:
  • Failure to follow or implement safety requirements
  • Failure to properly train new oil rig operators
  • Failure to hire qualified workers
  • Failure to properly maintain equipment
  • Inadequate safety measures

The Jones Act

The Jones Act is a federal law that applies to vessel operators and marine employers whose employees suffer work-related injury or death. Seamen and other maritime workers who are injured while working, and whose injury was caused by the negligence of their employer or coworker, are able to seek compensation for past and future economic and non-economic losses under the Jones Act.

(To be considered a seaman, a worker must typically spend 30 percent or more of his working hours onboard either a specific vessel or a fleet of vessels under common ownership or control.)

Unlike Workers’ Compensation laws, under the Jones Act an employer is only liable if the injured party can prove that the injury was the result of negligence by the vessel's owners, operators or officers or by the employee's coworkers. The Jones Act also covers people who were injured by a defect in the vessel or the vessel's equipment. Further, if an employer provides inadequate medical care, an employee can file a claim under the Jones Act.

An injured person may file a claim under the Jones Act if the injury occurred while working on an offshore rig, workboat, tugboat, barge, tanker or cargo ship, ferry or water taxi, fishing trawler or other vessel.

Maintenance and Cure

"Maintenance and Cure” covers seamen who are injured while on a vessel, regardless of fault or negligence. A seaman has the right to maintenance and cure separate from any claim under the Jones Act and is guaranteed, regardless of who is at fault in an injury.

Maintenance means that the employee has a right to a daily allowance to cover food and shelter that the seaman would have received on the vessel if he had not been injured.

Cure means that the employer is obligated to provide the seaman with appropriate medical care, hospitalization and rehabilitation services, until the injured person reaches maximum medical improvement, even if the seaman is unable to return to work.

Unseaworthiness Claims

Unseaworthiness claims fall under the Jones Act. A seaworthy vessel must be reasonably fit for its intended use, a safe place to work and live, complete with appropriate safety gear and equipment, and safe recreation facilities and a competent crew. If not, an Unseaworthiness Claim can be brought against the vessel’s owner. Such claims can include a co-worker’s negligence, defective equipment, a slippery surface, and worsening of illness because of insufficient medical supplies. 

MARITIME LAW EMERGING ISSUES

Jones Act alleging injury or death from dangerous maritime work conditions.

Sars and Vacation Refunds. Join a possible class action against several different cruise ship lines and vacation packages that are allegedly refusing refunds to people from possible Sars infected areas even though the people have a clean bill of health.

MARITIME LAW LAWSUITS FILED

Boat Accidents maritime law and shipping accidents.

Holland America Line Inc. allegedly making employees pay the cost of flying to meet vessels.

FEATURED LAW FIRM

Sutliff & Stout, PLLC
Sutliff & Stout, PLLC
Sutliff & Stout is an injury and accident law firm helping injured victims throughout the state of Texas.
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Updated on Aug-21-13

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