Maritime Law is Different
Maritime injury law is different than land-based injury law. There may be advantages to you if you have been injured on or in the service of a vessel or in a maritime shoreside situation.
If you qualify as a Jones Act or general maritime law seaman, meaning you have the requisite connection to a vessel (not necessarily actually living or working aboard a vessel) or a connection to a maritime shoreside employment situation (longshore, in appropriate circumstances), you may be entitled to the benefits of the "Jones Act" and "general maritime law." If so, unlike many State Workers Comp programs, you may be entitled to make a claim for your pain and suffering, your emotional injury and loss, loss of earnings, both present and future, loss of your earnings capacity if you are no longer able to do what you were doing previously, loss of enjoyment of life, as well as other elements of recovery not listed here. Further, there may be no dollar limit to the amount of loss you may recover.
Most maritime injured workers immediately think of "Workers Comp" at the time of injury. Maritime employers sometimes encourage their workers to think "Workers Comp" and not maritime law because they either are unaware of the additional entitlements available under maritime law, or fear a much larger claim by an injured mariner taking advantage of maritime injury law entitlements. We have seen many circumstances where injured workers have been presented, right after injury, with Workers Comp forms to sign, for example, Alaska Workers Comp paperwork, where the injured worker clearly was entitled to benefits available under maritime law through the Jones Act and/or general maritime law. The false sense of security provided to workers by being channeled into a Workers Comp program often leads an injured worker to not question whether additional benefits are available, even though they may be available simply for the asking.
We have been involved in class action proceedings where the United States District Court, Western District of Washington certified a class of persons clearly Jones Act / general maritime law seamen, but who had been processed by their employers as Alaska Workers Comp claimants. Many of these workers are unaware of their entitlements under maritime law. Upon our motion, the Court certified a class, with requisite notice to each member of the class, of the potential additional benefits available under maritime law. Eventually, many maritime workers received additional benefits under maritime law as a direct result of this class action.
The easiest, most efficient way to determine whether you may be entitled to benefits under maritime law is a no-charge, initial consultation with competent maritime legal counsel. In a quick telephone call it is often possible to preliminarily determine whether an individual may be entitled to maritime injury benefits.
Each injury at sea case is unique. There may be situations where benefits available under a Workers Comp program meet or exceed those benefits available under maritime law as a Jones Act or general maritime law seaman. Sometimes, to obtain additional benefits under the maritime law, it is necessary to prove unseaworthiness of the vessel or "Jones Act" negligence, meaning negligence of a "featherweight" amount. Unseaworthiness may include inadequacies in manning and staffing of the vessel, failure of equipment or inadequate equipment, or failure in some respect to adequately outfit and equip a vessel for navigation. Jones Act negligence requires only a "featherweight" amount of negligence on the part of the employer. The negligent act of a fellow employee, mistakes by fellow crewmembers, officers or staff, or errors of persons working for and on behalf of the employer and their agents may all constitute featherweight negligence.
Please see our Disclaimer page, this Website. There may be circumstances where maritime law, although different, does not present any advantage to you as a claimant. There may be circumstances where pursuing a maritime law claim is not appropriate, and can be disadvantageous. Only after a written fee agreement has been signed do we advise clients with respect to the specific advantages or disadvantages of maritime law in a particular case. This Web page and Website are not a substitute for advice obtained by consultation with competent legal counsel.
If you are wonder whether maritime law has any application to your particular circumstances, the best advice is to consult with competent legal counsel, without delay. There are circumstances where a statute of limitations or claim filing period can be extremely limited, six months or less, and failure to take action can result in the loss of all rights. Call us for a free initial consultation with competent attorneys experienced in injury at sea cases.