If you get injured or sick while aboard a cruise ship or working at sea, you may have reason to seek compensation. But the standard laws for personal injury and workers’ compensation claims most likely won’t apply.
Most personal injury and workers’ compensation laws are state laws, and they normally don’t apply at sea or to commercial ships on federal waterways. Instead, you may need to file a maritime claim. The same may hold for longshore and harbor workers injured on the job. But what is a maritime claim?
There’s more than one maritime law
A maritime claim is any claim you file under maritime law, but there’s more than one maritime law. In fact, part of the reason that many people find maritime claims so confusing is that maritime law is a whole area of law governed by numerous laws.
Some of the most important laws include:
- The Jones Act. This law covers seamen and crew who spend at least 30% of their work time aboard vessels “in navigation,” even while docked. It allows them to seek recovery for their injuries anytime their employer’s negligence or their vessel’s unseaworthiness is at least partly responsible.
- The Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act (LHWCA). The LHWCA is a counterpart to the Jones Act that covers many of the maritime workers that the Jones Act doesn’t. These include longshore workers, shipbuilders and other employees who work on or next to federal or international waters.
- The Death on the High Seas Act. This law helps people who lose their loved ones due to negligence or wrongful actions in international waters, or due to a party’s failure to meet legal responsibilities. It can apply to both workers and passengers, as well as ships and oil rigs.
- General Maritime Law. In addition to the preceding laws, maritime claims often adhere to a wide body of case law. These cases set important precedents for a range of topics from the seaworthiness of vessels to the rights of injured sailors to receive “maintenance and cure” while they recover from the injuries or illnesses they suffer at work.
Your injury or illness may fall under any one or combination of these categories. Or it may not meet any of these standards. It can often be difficult to figure out which laws might apply, and many personal injury attorneys lack the depth of knowledge they need to successfully handle maritime cases.
Maritime work can be dangerous. And the laws that govern the seas and federal waterways can be confusing. If you or your loved one suffer a maritime injury or illness, you don’t want just any attorney. You want an experienced, proven maritime attorney.