How Do You Know When You Have a Maritime Claim?
by Dennis M. McElwee on May 15, 2012
A person may have a maritime law claim if they have been injured while working aboard a ship, but there are many other factors that must be considered.
The ship’s nation of origin, where the ship was, and who owns the ship or who employs the worker are all things to be taken into consideration when deciding whether a maritime lawsuit is a viable option.
Consult A Maritime Attorney
It is extremely important for any seaman who is injured, or their relatives if he or she is killed, to contact a maritime lawyer as soon as possible after the injury or death. Maritime law can be quite complex. A maritime lawsuit requires the expertise and knowledge of an attorney who knows which laws apply to the situation in which a seaman was injured or killed.
For example, a seaman injured while working aboard a vessel carrying cargo from one United States port to another may be entitled to compensation under the Jones Act of 1920. This act provides for trial by jury, and usually results in higher awards than general maritime claims or state workers compensation claims. The Jones Act, which regulates maritime shipping between United States ports, was re-codified in 2006. A maritime lawyer needs to be well versed in the act to be able to pursue a successful claim under the Jones Act.
Maritime Claims Jurisdiction
An experienced and professional maritime lawyer will be able to advise as to the best course of action for anyone injured in international waters aboard a ship carrying a U.S. flag, a ship operating within the three mile limit of the coast of the United States, or aboard a vessel operating on the Great Lakes or navigable rivers.
Whom to sue and in which courts to file maritime lawsuits is not always clear cut. It may depend on the nationality of the owners of the vessel, whether the injured party was acting as a seaman or longshoreman and many other factors. These factors may influence whether jurisdiction is held by a federal court under the Jones Act, admiralty court for a general maritime claim, or state workers compensation administrations. Since these jurisdictions may sometimes overlap depending on the position the injured party held on a vessel, a skilled maritime lawyer may be able to argue that the court that generally pays the highest awards should have jurisdiction.
What Maritime Laws Apply?
Where to file maritime lawsuits can sometimes be made even less clear by a seaman’s employers, as they will wish to keep their costs as low as possible. An employer may be more likely to encourage an injured seaman to file a claim with a state workers compensation office. State workers compensation systems have historically paid less compensation than claims filed under the Jones Act.
Remedies under state workers compensation systems are also considered to be an exclusive remedy, meaning that claimants may not be able to receive further compensation through maritime lawsuits. That is why it is important to consult with a qualified and professional maritime lawyer before accepting any recommendations from company doctors or signing any waivers.
The attorneys at Schechter, McElwee, Shaffer & Harris have extensive experience in many areas of maritime law. Contact them today to find out if you have a maritime claim.