Maritime Law Glossary

The legal terms and phrases used in Jones Act claims and General Maritime Law cases can be confusing and difficult to sort through on your own. The Willis Law Firm has worked to develop a list of common maritime terms with straightforward definitions to help maritime workers and their families better understand the laws and regulations that are designed to protect them.

Admiralty Law. Admiralty law, more commonly known as “maritime law,” refers to the body of law that governs and regulates maritime activities taking place on navigable waters, including accidents involving maritime workers.

Death on the High Seas Act (DOHSA). DOHSA permits the spouse, parents, children, and dependent relatives of a deceased worker to recover certain damages when a death takes place in international waters – more than three miles from U.S. Shores.

Jones Act. The Jones Act is a federal statute that provides legal rights and protections to seamen who are injured while in the service of a ship or vessel. The Act governs the liability of maritime employers and vessels operators when a job-related injury, illness or death occurs.

Jones Act Negligence Suit. The Jones Act permits seamen to file a negligence lawsuit against their employers when they are injured in the course or scope of their employment due to negligence of their employer or a co-worker.

Limitation of Liability Act. The Limitation of Liability Act permits the owner of a vessel to petition the court to limit its liability for damages to the value of the vessel when a maritime accident occurs.

Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act (LHWCA). The LHWCA is a federal workers’ compensation program that provides financial compensation and medical benefits to longshoremen, dock workers, harbor workers and other persons who work on docks, shipping terminals, ports and shipyards.

Maintenance & Cure. Under the Jones Act seamen who are injured on the job are entitled to collect maintenance (the daily cost of living on land) and cure (medical care) benefits from their employers until they can return to work or have reached “maximum medical cure.”

Maritime Law. Maritime law, also known as “admiralty law,” is the body of law that regulates and governs maritime activities that occur on navigable waters. These activities include, but are not limited to, navigation, commerce, accidents and injuries, shipping and employment matters.

Maximum Medical Cure. Under the Jones Act, maximum medical cure is the point at which a seaman’s injuries or illness will no longer improve even if he receives additional medical treatment.

Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act (OCSLA). OCSLA extends legal rights and protections to longshoremen, harbor workers and other maritime employees working on the Outer Continental Shelf.

Public Vessels Act (PVA). The PVA provides persons who are injured while serving aboard a U.S. owned vessel or ship with the right to file a legal claim against the government to recover damages for their injuries.

Seaman. The Jones Act provides legal rights to workers who are classified as “seamen” under the Act. In order to fall within the definition, the worker must meet specific legal criteria, including spending a significant amount of his or her employment time (generally at least 30 percent) rendering maritime work that contributes to the mission of a vessel that is in navigation.

Statute of Limitations. A statute of limitation is the legal time limit for filing certain kinds of legal actions, including Jones Act and General Maritime Law claims.

Suits in Admiralty (SIAA). The SIAA permits persons who are injured in accidents that do not directly involve a public vessel or ship but are due to the negligent actions of U.S. personnel, to file a legal claim against the U.S. Government to recover compensation for their injuries.

Third Party Claims.  When a maritime accident or injury is caused by negligence of a third party, such as an equipment supplier, contractor, product manufacturer or a maintenance and repair company, the injured person may be able to file a legal action to recover damages against this third party defendant.

Unseaworthiness. Under General Maritime Laws, vessel owners have a legal duty to ensure that the vessel and its equipment and crew are “seaworthy” – meaning that they are in safe and proper working order. If a worker is injured on an unseaworthy vessel, the vessel owner can be held legally liable for damages.

Additional Questions – Contact a Maritime Attorney at the Willis Law Firm

If you have been injured in a maritime accident and have additional questions about the laws that may apply to your case, we encourage you to review the resources and materials in our Jones Act Information Center and contact our firm for a free and confidential initial consultation.

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