Maritime accidents are a special type of case. A person’s right to a maritime claim for an injury that occurred at sea can vary by the status of the person, whether the injured person is a passenger or a crewmember of the vessel on which the injury occurred.
The legal issues involving accidents covered by maritime law can be totally different from accidents that occur on land, and the time you have to file a claim can greatly depend on your circumstances. For anyone injured at sea, the advice of a Jones Act attorney is a must.
Injuries to Seamen
The Jones Act is a federal law that gives injured seamen the right to bring a lawsuit if they are injured onboard a vessel. Because a maritime claim can be complex, injured seamen often seek out the advice of a Jones Act attorney, a maritime law specialist.
To be successful in a Jones Act lawsuit, the injured seaman must prove that the employer was negligent or that the owner allowed the vessel to be “unseaworthy.” An experienced Jones Act attorney has encountered countless examples of maritime accidents and can quickly determine if the injured seaman has a maritime claim, whether based on negligence, unseaworthiness or both.
How Long do You Have to File a Jones Act Claim?
Every type of legal claim has a limit on the amount of time for you to bring a lawsuit. This is known as a Statute of Limitations. Jones Act cases have a three-year statute of limitations. This means that you have three years to file a lawsuit; otherwise you are completely banned from seeking a remedy. Statutes of limitations are very specific, and there are few exceptions. Some cases are simple. If, for example, a seaman falls and fractures a leg, the statute of limitations is exactly three years from the date of the fall.
Injuries Caused by Toxic Substances – Special Considerations on Time Limits
Injuries caused by toxic substances are common in Jones Act cases. What if a seaman suffers an injury from inhaling a toxic substance and shows no symptoms for over three years? The statute of limitations in these cases starts from the time when the seaman knew or reasonably should have known of his injury, not the actual inhalation itself, which may never be known. The law is not completely clear on the subject of future problems that may result from an injury. For example, a seaman falls into a drum of benzene, a highly toxic substance. He suffers immediate injuries including skin burns, headaches and stomach problems. But the long term impact may be much greater: cancer. This is why an experienced Jones Act attorney should be consulted. If a case settles, the experienced Jones Act attorney will know that the release form must take account of future complications.
At the first sign of symptoms the seaman, after seeking medical advice, should consult a Jones Act attorney who will explain the legal options available. A maritime injury can be sad, even tragic. But even sadder is a situation where a seaman lost his or her rights to bring a claim simply because the case is barred by the statute of limitations.
The Jones Act attorneys at Schechter, Shaffer & Harris, L.L.P., Accident & Injury Lawyers have extensive experience handling these types of cases. If you think you may have a maritime law claim, call now.