Win Your Case with an Experienced Admiralty and Maritime Lawyer
Being on the seas and working offshore can present a whole new set of risks and dangers that can lead to injuries and even death. From fires on cruise ships to dangerous weather during shipping, offshore workers and seafarers often end up being in hazardous situations. Because the nature of the maritime industry is so inherently dangerous, a specific system was created, known as maritime law, to regulate the industry and settle legal issues.
Whether you’re a ship passenger or a seaman, you should know what rights you have so that should something happen to you, you know you’re protected under maritime law. Furthermore, you should know that you can contact a lawyer that specializes in this type of law, called a maritime lawyer, and they will be able to fight for your rights. Maritime lawyers have the experience and knowledge necessary to make sure that offshore workers, seafarers, passengers, and leisure sailors receive the compensation and settlement they deserve.
Maritime law and the associated legal acts that protect your rights as a maritime passenger or offshore worker can be complex and difficult to understand. This is why contacting someone who specializes in this law is beneficial for you.
What is Maritime Law?
Maritime law is a body of law that governs any nautical business or activity on open water. It follows a separate code than national laws or common law. This body of laws in the United States is enforced by the United States Coast Guard, who is responsible for all waters that fall under the jurisdiction of the United States. In the United States, maritime law falls under federal jurisdiction, which means legal claims will be settled in a federal court.
However, while the United States has its own maritime law, there are international rules that govern the open oceans and seas that do not fall under any specific country’s jurisdiction. This maritime international law is known as the Law of the Sea.
Maritime businesses and activities include shipping, cruise liners and boating activities, as well as deep sea oil drilling. In essence, the law governs any activity or operation that’s conducted in the water of rivers, lakes, and seas.
Maritime laws include the rules that govern insurance claims relating to shipping operations, and a ship’s cargo and workers. Any legal and civil matters between shipowners, seamen, and passengers fall under maritime law, which is also known as admiralty law. Piracy also falls under maritime law.
Maritime regulations include:
- Registration, license, and inspection procedures for ships
- Shipping contracts
- Maritime insurance and marine insurance
- Shipping procedures of goods and passengers
- Marine commerce and navigation
- Maritime pollution
- Seafarers’ rights
- Legal job duties of those that do maritime work (shipowners, seamen, etc.)
- Maritime injury claims, including personal injury claims that occur on the open water.
Types of Maritime Laws
While maritime law governs all nautical activities, it’s broken down into different types of laws based upon type of damage, injury, and who was involved. Depending on the specifics of your claim, your case will fall under one of these laws.
1. Maintenance and Cure
This law stipulates that any seaman who is injured while working will receive the medical attention (also referred to as maintenance care) they need. All daily living expenses are covered and reimbursed during this recovery period, including:
- Rent or mortgage
- Homeowner’s or renter’s insurance
- Property taxes for homeowners
- Medical expenses until you are cleared by a doctor, including clinic visits, medications, exams, medical equipment, and rehab.
Travel expenses are not reimbursable or covered expenses, even if it’s travel to and from the clinic, hospital, or place of care.
2. The Jones Act
The Jones Act gives you the right to sue any negligent party for your injury or a family member’s death. It addresses the liability of the employer when an offshore worker is injured or killed. However, you must be able to prove that your injury or your family member’s death was the result of unsafe working conditions and that it definitely occurred while working.
The Jones Act provides more compensation for injured workers. When a Jones Act case is settled in favor of the injured worker, the employer is proven to be held liable for any injury caused to the worker. This means, they are liable to pay the worker any damages incurred as a result of the injury including past and future medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering.
3. The Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act (LHWCA)
The LHWCA is a federal statute provides workers’ compensation to maritime employees other than seamen. Employees include:
- Harbor workers
- Dock workers
- Shipping terminal workers
- Shipyard employees
Injuries that are covered by the Longshore Act include those that occur on wharfs, piers, docks, marine ways, shipping terminals, or any place near the water and vessel. Under the LHWCA, you can receive up to 66.7% of your weekly wages while you recover, along with compensation for any disability.
4. Death On the High Seas Act (DOHSA)
Under this act, a family member (spouse, children, dependents, parents) can file legal damages against the owner of a vessel (boat, cargo ship, cruise ship) if a worker was killed while out at sea. They can file to compensated for:
- Financial support
- Funder expenses
- Incurred expenses due to death
Similar to the Jones Act, however, you must prove that the death of your loved one was caused by negligence or poor judgement on the part of the vessel owner.
Types of Maritime and Admiralty Law Cases
There are many types of maritime cases, but some of the most common involve property damage or injury while at sea. Maritime property cases may include vessel and property arrests, salvage cases, liability issues. For offshore workers and seafarers, maritime law also governs the actions related to accidents and injuries. Such accidents include:
- Wrongful death claims
- Injuries resulting from negligence or poor judgement
- Weather-related accidents
- Products liability
- Boating accidents and other water-related accidents
- Any incident or accident that occurs on a cruise ship.
Your Rights and Benefits Under Maritime Law
Under maritime law, you have the right to a fair compensation for your injury. Your compensation will depend on the type of injury, the cause and circumstances surrounding the injury, and the extent of the injury. Depending on your case and claim, you may be able entitled to the following compensations and/or reimbursements:
- Medical costs and bills, both past and future related to your injury
- Any out-of-pocket costs related to your medical care
- Any costs that can be proved to be the result of your injury, such as housekeeping chores if you’re unable to perform the activities due to your injury
- Pain and suffering
- Retraining costs
- Any future loss of income resulting from your injury, including any loss related to your earning capacity
- Loss of benefits
There is no guarantee that will receive compensation for all of the above listed damages. However, an experienced maritime lawyer will be able to evaluate your case and inform you as to what you’re entitled to and what you can expect to receive.
When and How To Pursue Compensation
The first thing to do when you get injured is to immediately receive the medical attention you need. Once you are able to, you then need to begin the filing process to pursue compensation.
- Report your injury immediately or as soon as you physically are able to do so. This includes both work-related injuries and personal injuries. Maritime law requires you to report your injury within 7 days of it occurring. Report it to your immediate supervisors, sea captain, or the appropriate crewmembers. You’ll also want to make sure you report it to your company and insurer. This report should include your statement as to what happened.
- Maintain all of your records and documentation. Any reports you file, keep a copy for yourself. Also keep any documentation associated with your injury such as medical records, discharge papers, visit summaries, doctor’s orders, etc.
- Don’t give any recorded statements or sign anything you don’t understand. Under pressure, you may end up signing away your rights. Don’t agree that the injury was your fault or that you don’t need compensation.
- Contact a maritime lawyer. While you may be tempted to think that you have an open and shut case, you need to contact an attorney that will help you through the process.
Benefits of Hiring a Maritime Lawyer
When you’re physically able to, you should contact a maritime lawyer as soon as possible. While you may think you work for a good company or you trust people to do the right thing, they will often try to find a way to not be held financially responsible for your injury. A maritime lawyer is going to make sure that you’re compensated fairly and that you receive the settlement you deserve. They will:
- Walk you through the entire process;
- Make sure all documents are submitted;
- Evaluate your case to see what rights are available to you;
- Assert your rights during stressful hearing and meetings;
- Ensure you’re not being taken advantage of by your employer or company.
In particular, lawyers that specialize in maritime law are going to have the in-depth knowledge necessary to make sure costly mistakes are avoided. They will know how these laws should be applied to your case and what options are available to you within the context of these laws.
Hiring a Maritime Attorney: Finding the Best Attorney and The Process
When you start searching for a maritime attorney, you’ll want to consider the following before hiring them:
- They have won a significant amount of maritime law cases.
- They have years of experience handling maritime cases.
- They actually specialize in this type of law
Once you find a good maritime attorney, you’ll need to turn over any documentation you might have relating to your case. They will then be able to evaluate your case and determine what options are available to you and what compensation you’re entitled to. They’ll then walk you through the process and be with you every step of the way.
Moschetta Law Firm: Experienced Maritime Lawyers
The lawyers at The Moschetta Law Firm, P.C. have provided admiralty and maritime legal advice to people who have been injured in Pennsylvania, Ohio, West Virginia and Kentucky even as far south as Texas and Florida. One thing our maritime cases have in common is that they involve accidents which have taken place along the Ohio, Kanawha, Allegheny, Mississippi and Monongahela Rivers.
- Seamen / Deckhands
- Barge workers
- Longshore and harbor workers
- Tow boat and tugboat pilots/captains
- Jet ski passengers
- Cruise Ship passengers
With over 50 years of combined experience, the Moschetta Law Firm, has a comprehensive understanding of admiralty and maritime law. We have vast experience representing clients and families in cases involving crush injuries, slip and fall accidents, toxic chemical exposure and drownings. Contact our office today for a free consultation if you have an injury resulting from a maritime accident.