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Maritime Injury Lawyer

Maritime Law and Admiralty Law Protect Injured Workers

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If you’re a longshoreman or other maritime worker in New Orleans or anywhere in Louisiana who suffered an injury or loss because of someone else’s negligence, you could obtain compensation from those responsible. If you were a passenger on a vessel and sustain injuries, you may also qualify to recover damages for your injuries.

But what is maritime law, and how do these laws apply to your maritime injury and accident?  What do the laws really say and how does they protect you? These are all legitimate questions and concerns many injured maritime workers have. Below, we explain maritime laws to our clients in simple language. Fortunately, these laws protect injured workers and can help you answer these questions and get your life back together.  

For specific advice about your case, contact an experienced maritime injury accident attorney near you for a free consultation about your rights and options to seek compensation.

Maritime Law: Modern maritime law typically concerns non-employers of a vessel or structure who sustain an injury on navigable waters. It can include people such as passengers on a cruise ship, third parties, offshore workers, etc.

Jones Act Law: This only applies to employees who are considered seamen. Note that in order to be referenced as a seaman, your time working on a vessel in navigation needs to be 30% or more.

What’s the Difference Between Admiralty Law and Maritime Law? 

Truthfully, there’s little difference between the two terms and generally, they cover many of the same things. Our article goes into more depth on the differences between admiralty and maritime law.

Maritime Law and Jones Act Law OverviewA jurist holds a book on maritime law, also known as admiralty law, which encompasses a collection of laws and conventions governing maritime activities.

Maritime Law: This typically concerns non-employers of a vessel or structure who become injured on navigable waters. It can include people such as passengers on a cruise ship, third parties, offshore workers, etc.

Jones Act Law: This only applies to employees who are considered seamen. Note that in order to be referenced as a seaman, your time working on a vessel in navigation needs to be 30% or more.

What’s the Difference Between Admiralty and Maritime Law? Truthfully, there’s little difference between the two terms and generally, they cover many of the same things. Our article goes into more depth on the differences between admiralty and maritime law.

Types of Law that Apply After a Maritime Injury

General maritime law governs a wide variety of activities related to the maritime industry, including protecting workers who get injured while on the job. The following are laws that fall under general maritime law:

General Maritime Law

General maritime law is a judge-made law, rather than a statute like the Jones Act. Judge-made laws (also known as case laws) are created when a judge makes a new ruling and sets a precedent for future cases, essentially creating a new law. For it to apply, your accident and work have to meet a ‘situs and status’ test.  It’s often called just ‘maritime law’ and has a few very important aspects that may help you after your accident.

In its most basic form, general maritime law gives you the right to file a claim against any party, other than your employer, for their fault in causing your accident.  (A claim against your employer is brought under the Jones Act).

Negligence Laws

A person is considered liable for all damages caused by their negligence.  In other words, they are responsible for not doing what a “reasonable” person would have done under the same conditions. This is called the “reasonable person test” and it is used in most state-based claims.  Proving negligence under maritime law involves convincing a judge and/or jury that the defendant failed to take action that should have been taken, or by proving that the defendant did not apply proper safety measures.  To recover damages in a maritime law case, you must prove this negligence. Under maritime law, there is also comparative negligence, which essentially means that both the employer and the injured worker could be proven negligent and partially responsible for the accident.

Unseaworthiness Laws

Under maritime law, employers are obligated to provide you with a ‘seaworthy’ vessel on which to work.  This means the vessel owner needs to make sure all the vessel equipment is operating properly and is ‘reasonably fit for its intended use’.

Maintenance and Cure Laws

Maintenance and cure law requires that your employer provide you with certain benefits after a maritime injury at work.

Cure benefits

First, according to maintenance and cure laws, your employer is required to cover your reasonable medical costs from a doctor you select. This is referred to as “cure.” Cure does not require that the company choose your doctor, but it does have some limits on the types of treatment your company has to pay for.

Maintenance benefits

Secondly, your employer must provide you a daily living stipend until you are released from doctor’s care. This is the “maintenance” portion of the law. Once you’ve reached maximum improvement,’ your employer no longer has to cover your living expenses or medical costs. Maintenance is usually paid at a very low rate, and you may also get what companies call ‘advances’ each month with your maintenance checks.  There are many dangers to these ‘advances’ so be careful if you are receiving them.  There are certain things you can do to raise your maintenance amounts, too. If your company refuses to provide you with maintenance and cure, then you’re allowed to file a maintenance and cure claim against your company. Before filing a claim though, there are a few things you can do to fight denied maintenance and cure benefits.

Admiralty Jurisdiction (Federal District Courts)

maritime worker at work

Admiralty jurisdiction, also known as maritime jurisdiction, refers to the legal authority that courts have over matters related to maritime activities, shipping, and navigation on the high seas and other navigable waters. This jurisdiction is distinct from the jurisdiction that courts have over land-based legal matters.

Key points about admiralty jurisdiction:

  • Scope: Admiralty law covers a wide range of issues, including shipping contracts, maritime liens, cargo damage, collisions at sea, salvage rights, and injuries to passengers and maritime workers.
  • Federal courts: In the United States, admiralty cases are primarily handled by federal courts. The U.S. Constitution (Article III, Section 2) grants the federal judiciary power over admiralty and maritime cases.
  • Exclusive jurisdiction: Some matters, such as prize cases (involving the capture of ships during wartime) and suits against the U.S. government under the Suits in Admiralty Act, fall under the exclusive jurisdiction of federal courts.
  • Concurrent jurisdiction: In many other maritime cases, such as those involving maritime contracts or torts, state courts have concurrent jurisdiction with federal courts.
  • Choice of law: Admiralty cases often involve parties from different countries, so courts must determine which nation’s laws apply. International treaties and conventions play a significant role in resolving these issues.
  • Distinctive procedures: Admiralty cases often involve unique procedures, such as the arrest of ships to secure claims and the use of maritime liens to prioritize creditors’ rights.

Understanding admiralty jurisdiction is crucial for individuals and businesses involved in maritime commerce, as it affects their legal rights and remedies in the event of disputes or accidents at sea.

Death on the High Seas Act (DOHSA)

The Death on the High Seas Act is a federal statute that covers many cases when maritime workers die at sea. It is a very restrictive law, greatly limiting what can be recovered after your death.  But for DOHSA to apply certain factors have to be met, and if they are not met, then you can avoid DOHSA.

The Jones Act

The Jones Act is a federal statute passed by Congress in 1921 that provides you with excellent rights if you were working as a ‘seaman’ at the time of your injury.  The word ‘seaman’ has a special meaning under the Jones Act.  You file a claim under the Jones Act against your employer.  The law itself says that your company has to give you a safe place to work, properly train you, properly supervise you, and, in general, watch out for your safety.  If one of your co-workers causes your accident, that claim also falls under the Jones Act since your company is legally responsible for their actions while at work.

One of the biggest advantages under the Jones Act is that you can seek recovery of any damages you suffered due to your company’s negligence.  If they caused your accident or could have prevented it and didn’t, they owe you compensation.  And your recovery under the Jones Act includes pain and suffering, any money or wage losses you suffered or will suffer, and all medical costs, past and future.

The Jones Act does allow your company to reduce what they pay you based on any role you played in causing your own accident.  This is known as comparative fault, but there are lots of ways to avoid having a large amount of blame wrongfully placed on you for your accident.

Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act (LHWCA)

The LHWCA is a federal law that provides workers disabled/injured on navigable waters the option for compensation. Jones Act seamen are not covered under LHWCA, however, the following are the kind of workers that the LHWCA applies to:

  • longshore workers
  • ship-repairers
  • shipbuilders
  • harbor construction workers
  • workers who unload or load vessels

The U.S. Department of Labor goes into greater detail on how you should report an injury in order to qualify for LHWCA benefits.

Contact a Maritime Law Attorney for Help

Maritime Attorney Tim Young

Remember that all of these maritime and admiralty laws can work together to protect your rights and livelihood after an injury. The more you understand how these laws affect you, the easier it will be for you to make smart decisions about your future. 

Contact the experienced New Orleans maritime law attorneys at The Young Firm today for a no-cost case evaluation if you have any questions about which laws apply to you.

The Young Firm

400 Poydras St, Ste 2090
New Orleans, LA 70130