If you work on a ship, fishing boat, offshore oil rig or submarine and you get hurt in the course of your work, you may have a cause of action against your employer.
The law of the sea is one of the legal profession’s oldest specialities, and its practice requires wide-ranging knowledge. Depending on the facts of the particular case and where it took place, the case might be governed by federal or state law, international law or the law of a foreign country.
If you work abroad a seafaring vessel and have sustained an injury, or if you believe you may have another cause of action against your employer, you need to consult with a maritime attorney to make sure your rights are protected.
Here are three things to keep in mind if you are thinking of hiring a maritime attorney.
Maritime law (otherwise known as admiralty law) is especially complex when it comes to determining which laws will govern the case in question.
Most maritime cases fall under federal jurisdiction. Under certain circumstances, if a maritime worker is injured on the high seas, on a boat or oil rig, or in work on land but related to maritime tasks, certain federal statutes may apply:
- The Jones Act. covering injuries to seamen engaged in offshore work when the injury is due to employer negligence
- The Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act , covering workers like those who build, load or unload ships
- The Death on High Seas Act, providing legal recourse and compensation for the families of employees injured 3 miles or more offshore
However, federal courts do not have exclusive jurisdiction in cases involving people who work at sea. Some claims can also be brought in state court, such as personal injury, damage to cargo, boat accidents or product liability.
If you are seeking a maritime attorney, make sure they have a command of all of the various state and federal laws that may be applicable to your particular situation.
2. Statute of Limitations
Under maritime law, you may be required to file a lawsuit within a short time period. Under certain circumstances, if you do not file within three years of the accident, you may lose your chance to sue.
If you are employed by a branch or department of the United States Government, the statute of limitations may be even shorter. You may have to file suit before 8 months pass.
If you are considering initiating a claim against a cruise ship, you may have only six months to start the proceedings.
It’s important to contact an experienced maritime lawyer right away so the time period for your claim does not elapse.
3. You Deserve a Safe Workplace
It is common knowledge that working on an oil rig or fishing boat can be dangerous business. However, assuming the risk of a job in a hazardous environment like the open sea does not mean your employer does not also have a duty to maintain a safe workplace.
Whether the boat is run by the United States government or a private entity, the owner is still obliged to make sure the workplace is reasonably well maintained. They need to give their staff all necessary training to keep workers safe. All equipment including electrical and power sources and safety gear must be inspected regularly and certified as up to date.
If you have been injured because you believe your employer did not obey maritime laws governing a safe workplace, you may be entitled to compensation for your injury.
Injured at Sea? Retain a Maritime Attorney and Know Your Rights
Seamen, fishermen, longshoremen and their families are recognized by the law as entitled to certain protections regarding their work at sea. If you or someone you love has been hurt while working offshore or in a business related to shipping or the open water, make sure you know your rights.
For more information on maritime law, contact us.