Maritime Law

Maritime Law, a large idle boat in the sea

Maritime jobs are among the most dangerous jobs in the world. Individuals who work on offshore oil rigs, fishing ships, barges, tugboats and other vessels are at risk for serious injuries every time they step on the job. Workers risk suffering a serious burn injury, inhaling toxic fumes or even losing a limb in their day-to-day work activities.

If you are a seaman or offshore worker who has been injured in the course of your employment, you have important legal rights. Depending upon the circumstances of your accident, you may be able to obtain financial compensation under several avenues of legal recovery, as outlined below.

The Jones Act

The Jones Act is a federal law that protects offshore workers and seamen who are injured in the course of their employment. When a seaman is injured due to the negligence of his or her employer or another employee, the seaman has the right to file a cause of action against the employer under the Jones Act. In these types of cases, the employee has a much lower burden of proof – the employee only needs to show the slightest degree of negligence on the part of the employer to prevail in the case. This means that an employer can be held liable for almost any unsafe condition, no matter how small, on the ship or vessel. For instance, if you slip on a grease spill on deck, are injured by a piece of equipment that was not properly maintained, or if your employer fails to adequately train or supervise your crew members, you will have the right to seek financial compensation for your injuries from your employer.

The Unseaworthiness Doctrine

The owners of ships and vessels have an absolute duty to provide a seaworthy vessel to their crew. Therefore, if the vessel or any equipment on the vessel you are working on is not fit for its intended use and you are injured, you have the right to recover damages from the vessel owner. Unseaworthy conditions include:

  • Spills and other slipping hazards
  • Broken or missing steps or ladders
  • Equipment that is improperly designed, inadequately maintained or worn out
  • Lack of warning signs for dangerous conditions
  • Improperly trained and/or unsupervised crew
  • Insufficient safety devices and life-saving equipment

Maintenance and Cure

Seamen and other maritime workers who are injured on the job are entitled to receive maintenance and cure payments from their employers. Maintenance payments are designed to cover your daily costs for living on land while you are recovering from your condition. Cure payments are compensation for the medical care you need to properly treat your illness or injuries. You have the right to receive maintenance and cure payments regardless of who was at fault for your injuries. You do not have to prove that your employer was negligent in order to collect your maintenance and cure benefits.

Lawsuits Against Third Parties

Employers and vessel owners are not the only parties who can be held liable for injuries. Under general maritime law, you may also have the right to recover compensation from third parties who are at fault for your injuries. For instance, depending upon the specific circumstances surrounding your accident, you may be able to file a negligence claim against certain third party defendants, such as:

  • Product or Equipment Manufacturers
  • Equipment Suppliers and Distributors
  • Other Contractors On board a Ship or Offshore Platform
  • Maintenance and Repair Companies

Helping You Understand Your Legal Rights

It is important to understand that even if you are not a seaman or offshore worker, you may have the right to receive compensation under other maritime laws and legal theories. For example, if you work on a port, dock or terminal, you may be entitled to benefits under the Longshore and Harbor Worker’s Compensation Act (LHWCA).

The Willis Law Firm has over three decades of experience advising workers and other individuals who have been injured in activities on or near the water. We understand the myriad of laws and rules that govern maritime accidents and injuries. An experienced attorney at our firm will guide your through the process, carefully explaining your rights every step of the way.

If you are a maritime worker who has been injured on the job, you can learn more about the legal rights and the laws that protect you by visiting the following pages on our site:

You can also contact our firm 24/7 to discuss your situation with a knowledgeable maritime lawyer. The Willis Law Firm offers free, completely confidential consultations to individuals and family members who are dealing with the aftermath of a maritime accident. You can reach us today by completing our online contact form or by calling 1-800-468-4878.

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