What Is a Maritime Injury Lawyer
Maritime law refers to the collection of
statutory (written) and
common (derived from custom and previous court decisions) law that a country
accepts as its definition of what is legally binding on all its citizens.
Maritime laws is sometimes seen as a part of the broader body of law known as
admiralty law, the "law of the sea." For the purposes of this page, maritime
law will refer to that portion of the law that governs the conduct of
businesses and their employees on waters that are recognized as being
under the control of the United States.
In this article, the maritime injury lawyer at the
Doan Law Firm explains how the services of a maritime lawyer can be invaluable in assisting
an injured maritime worker, and the worker's family, in securing the
full amount of compensation they are entitled to receive following an injury.
Who Is a Maritime Worker?
For our purposes, we may define a "maritime worker" to be 1)
a member of a ship's crew (a "seaman"); 2) someone who loads,
unloads, or transfers a ship's cargo; 3) someone employed as a ship
builder, a ship-breaker, or a ship repairer, or 4) anyone who is employed
on a stationary offshore platform dedicated to the exploration and/or
production of crude oil or natural gas.
Despite the often hazardous nature of their work and working conditions,
under federal law injured maritime workers are
not eligible for a state's Workmen's Compensation benefits. Instead,
injured maritime workers are eligible for benefits that are similar to
Workmen's Compensation but are administered by the federal government
rather than the individual states. Most injured seamen, harbor, and offshore
workers will fall under the jurisdiction of one of three acts of Congress:
- Jones Act
- Longshore and Harbor Workers Compensation Act
- Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act
The Jones Act applies to those ship's crew members (seamen) who are
injured while preforming duties that contribute to the success of their
vessel's mission. You are considered a "seaman" if at least
30% of your total work time is spent on a qualified vessel or a fleet
To qualify for compensation under the Jones Act, you must have been a seaman
on a vessel that was considered to have been "in navigation"
at the time your injury occurred. A vessel is "in navigation" if it is:
afloat, meaning that it is actually in the water and
not in drydock or ashore undergoing repair
- in operation, by transporting cargo and/or passengers
- capable of moving under its own power
- on "navigable" waters that are used in interstate or international commerce
If you were injured aboard a qualified vessel, you are entitled to receive
"maintenance and cure" while you are unable to work. "Maintenance"
is intended to provide an injured seaman with living expenses until he
or she is able to return to work. "Cure" is the payment of all
medical expenses related to the injury until 1) the seaman is able to
return to work or 2) the maximum level of recovery has been reached.
Maintenance payments are typically much less than a seaman's regular
wages. The Jones Act allows a seaman to file a personal injury lawsuit
against the owner of the vessel where the injury occurred. Such lawsuits
can demand lost wages, anticipated future medical expenses, and compensation
for "pain and suffering" as well as punitive damages.
Longshore and Harbor Workers Compensation Act (LHWCA)
The LHWCA is an extension of the Jones Act to those employed at a harbor.
It applies to longshoremen, stevedores, shipbuilders, shipbreakers, and
other maritime-related workers. In general, the LHWCA provides an injured worker:
- 2/3 of the workers average weekly wages
- payment of all medical expenses related to the injury
- vocational rehabilitation, if necessary
- payments for partial or permanent disability
Unlike seamen covered under the Jones Act, workers covered under the LHWCA
do not have the right to sue their employers alleging negligence. In this respect,
the LHWCA resembles a state-administered Workmen's Compensation program.
However, the injured worker is free to file a lawsuit against a "third
party" if that party contributed in any way to the worker's injury."
Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act (OCSLA)
The OSCLA basically extends the LHWCA to those who work on offshore facilities
such as oil and gas drilling platforms. It also applies to workers who
are traveling to or from their offshore work locations.
Compensation of Injured Maritime Workers
At first glance, the benefits available to injured seamen and maritime
workers appear to be almost identical to those provided by traditional
Workmen's Compensation programs. The key differences between these
programs can be summarized as:
under the Jones Act, an injured seaman is allowed to sue his or her employer
or for an unseaworthy vessel
- wage compensation payments are usually higher under LHWAC and OCSLA
- all three programs allow payment for permanent partial disability, which
is not allowed under Workmen's Compensation
Given the complexity of compensation programs that may apply to an injured
maritime worker, it is essential that an injured worker consult a maritime
injury lawyer as soon as possible after their injury.
How a Maritime Injury Lawyer May Help an Injured Worker
As we have seen, there are several compensation programs that are available
to injured maritime workers. Since many maritime workers are unaware of
the type, and amount, of compensation they are entitled to receive, it
is strongly advised that an injured maritime worker seek advice from an
experienced maritime accident injury lawyer. One such lawyer is the maritime
injury lawyer at the Doan Law Firm, a nationwide personal injury law practice
with offices in major cities throughout the county
When you contact the maritime injury lawyer at the
Doan Law Firm to arrange a
free review of your maritime injury case, your first consultation with our firm is
always free of any charges and does not require that you hire our firm
as your legal counsel. If you decide that we should manage you maritime
personal injury case, we are usually willing to assume full responsibility
for all aspects of preparing your case for trial in exchange for an agreed-to
percentage of the final settlement that we will win for you.