“Can I file a maritime lawsuit” is one of the most common questions our attorneys receive here at Kherkher Garcia, LLP. Our maritime injury attorneys routinely help potential clients understand their situation, their rights, and their options.
In the article below, we aim to shed light on that very question. We will discuss the circumstances under which individuals can file maritime lawsuits, the applicable laws, and the legal recourse available.
Understanding Maritime Law
Maritime law, also known as admiralty law, governs legal matters related to navigable waters, including oceans, seas, rivers, and lakes. It encompasses a wide range of issues, such as maritime commerce, shipping, navigation, and personal injuries occurring at sea. Maritime law is a unique area of law that incorporates both domestic and international regulations and treaties.
Jurisdiction and Applicable Laws
Determining the jurisdiction for filing a maritime lawsuit can be complex. Depending on the circumstances, you may have options to file the lawsuit in state or federal court, or even an international tribunal. The choice of jurisdiction is influenced by factors such as the location of the incident, the nationality of the parties involved, and the type of legal claims being pursued.
The applicable laws in maritime cases vary depending on the jurisdiction and the nature of the incident. In the United States, the Jones Act and the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act (LHWCA) are crucial statutes governing personal injuries and maritime employment. Additionally, international conventions like the International Maritime Organization (IMO) conventions and the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) may also apply in certain situations.
Common Grounds for Maritime Lawsuits
There are many situations that may cause maritime workers or their families to question if they can file a maritime lawsuit. Some of the most common reasons for filing such lawsuits include:
- Personal Injuries: If you have suffered injuries while working on a vessel or as a passenger, you may be eligible to file a maritime lawsuit. This can include accidents caused by negligence, unseaworthiness of the vessel, or failure to provide a safe working environment.
- Wrongful Death: In the unfortunate event of a loved one’s death, surviving family members may have the right to file a wrongful death lawsuit. This allows them to seek compensation for their loss, including funeral expenses, loss of income, and emotional distress.
- Property Damage: If your property, such as a boat or cargo, suffers damage or is lost in a maritime accident, you may be entitled to compensation. This can involve collisions, fires, or other incidents caused by negligence or improper handling.
- Pollution and Environmental Damage: Maritime accidents can result in oil spills, pollution, or ecological damage. Those affected by such incidents, including coastal communities, fishermen, and environmental organizations, may have grounds to file a lawsuit to recover damages and hold responsible parties accountable.
Who Can File a Maritime Lawsuit?
Who can file a maritime lawsuit depends on factors like the occupation of the person who was injured, were they injured, did they die, and where the accident occurred. Some parties who generally qualify to file a maritime lawsuit include:
- Seamen: Seamen are employees who work on a vessel in interstate or foreign commerce. They are covered by the Jones Act, which allows them to sue their employers for negligence that causes an injury.
- Deckhands: Deckhands are employees who load and unload cargo from vessels, perform maintenance, and other tasks. They have coverage under the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act (LHWCA). The LHWCA provides them with workers’ compensation benefits if they are injured on the job.
- Passengers: Passengers who are injured on a vessel in interstate or foreign commerce may be able to sue the vessel owner for negligence.
- Family Members: If a maritime worker was killed due to the negligence of someone else, then surviving family members may qualify to file a wrongful death lawsuit against whomever is liable.
To file a maritime lawsuit, you must also follow the specific rules that apply to maritime law. These rules can be complex, so it is important to speak with an attorney who specializes in maritime claims.
Compensation for Maritime Lawsuits
Compensation for maritime lawsuits can vary depending on various factors. Such factors include the nature and extent of injuries, the impact on the individual’s life, and applicable laws. Here are some common types of compensation that may be pursued in maritime lawsuits:
Maritime injury victims are typically entitled to compensation for their past and future medical expenses related to the accident. This includes costs such as:
- Physical Therapy
- Ongoing Medical Treatments
- Mental Healthcare
Lost Wages and Income
If the maritime accident results in the victim’s inability to work, they may be eligible to seek compensation for lost wages and income. This can include both the wages lost during the recovery period and potential future earnings if the injuries have long-term effects on their ability to work.
Pain and Suffering
Maritime injury victims may qualify for compensation for the physical pain and emotional distress that results from an accident. This includes not only the immediate pain and suffering but also any:
- Ongoing Discomfort
- Physical Limitations
- Psychological Effects
Disability and Impairment
In cases where the maritime accident leads to a permanent disability or impairment, the victim may be eligible for compensation to account for the long-term impact on their quality of life, earning potential, and overall well-being.
Loss of Consortium
If the injuries significantly affect the victim’s relationship with their spouse or partner, a claim for loss of consortium may be pursued. Loss of consortium may also apply if a worker dies from a maritime injury. This compensation is meant to address the negative impact on the victim’s personal and familial relationships.
In cases where the responsible party’s conduct is found to be particularly reckless, willful, or grossly negligent, punitive damages may be awarded. Punitive damages are intended to punish the wrongdoer and deter similar behavior in the future, rather than compensating the victim directly.
We must note that compensation amounts can vary widely depending on the specific circumstances of each case. To understand the potential compensation in your specific maritime lawsuit, it is essential to consult with an experienced maritime attorney who can evaluate the details of your case, assess the damages you have suffered, and help you pursue the maximum compensation available under the applicable laws.
Things to Consider Before Filing a Maritime Claim
When considering filing a maritime lawsuit, it is essential to be aware of certain things you should do, limitations, and legal requirements. These can include:
Seek Immediate Medical Attention
Your health and well-being should be the top priority. Seek prompt medical attention for your injuries, even if they seem minor initially. Documenting your injuries and receiving proper medical treatment will not only aid in your recovery but also strengthen your claim by establishing a direct link between the incident and your injuries.
Report the Incident
Notify the appropriate authorities and parties about the accident as soon as possible. This may involve reporting the incident to the vessel owner, the captain or crew, the Coast Guard, or any other relevant regulatory agency. Timely reporting ensures that the incident is documented, and an official record is created.
Gathering and preserving evidence is crucial for supporting your maritime lawsuit. Take photographs or videos of the accident scene, your injuries, and any visible damages. Collect contact information from witnesses who can provide statements supporting your version of events. Preserve any relevant documents, such as incident reports, medical records, and communications with the responsible parties.
Statute of Limitations
Maritime lawsuits are subject to specific time limits within which legal action must be initiated. The statute of limitations varies depending on the jurisdiction and the type of claim, so it is crucial to consult with an attorney promptly to ensure compliance with the applicable deadlines.
Establish Negligence or Unseaworthiness
To succeed in a maritime lawsuit, you generally need to establish negligence or unseaworthiness. Negligence refers to the failure to exercise reasonable care, while unseaworthiness relates to unsafe vessel conditions. Your attorney will gather evidence to prove these elements and demonstrate that the negligence or unseaworthiness directly caused your injuries.
Damages and Compensation
Determine the full extent of your damages to seek appropriate compensation. This may include medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering, rehabilitation costs, and future medical needs. Work closely with your attorney to accurately evaluate your damages and calculate the compensation you should pursue.
Settlement Negotiations vs. Litigation
Consider whether to engage in settlement negotiations or proceed with litigation. Your attorney can provide guidance on the best course of action based on the specifics of your case. Settlement negotiations may lead to a faster resolution, but litigation may be necessary if a fair settlement seems unattainable.
Documentation and Timelines
Throughout the legal process, maintain records of all communications, appointments, and deadlines. Stay organized and provide any requested information to your attorney promptly. Adhering to timelines and fulfilling documentation requirements is crucial to ensure your claim progresses smoothly.
Benefits of Hiring a Maritime Injury Attorney when Filing a Claim
If you or a family member is injured in a maritime accident, it is wise to consult with an attorney before attempting to file a lawsuit on your own. Maritime law is complex, and, as noted above, has certain requirements and limitations. Working with an attorney can help ensure your legal rights are protected and that you have the best chances possible of obtaining compensation.
Here are some of the benefits you can expect when you hire the maritime injury attorneys at Kherkher Garcia:
- Experience: Maritime law is a complex area of law, and it is important to have an attorney who has experience handling maritime cases. Our experienced attorneys are familiar with the specific laws that apply to maritime accidents and are able to build a strong case on your behalf.
- Knowledge: Our maritime attorneys have a deep understanding of the maritime industry and the factors that can lead to accidents. They are able to investigate your accident and identify all of the potential causes.
- Skill: Our attorneys have the skills and resources necessary to build a strong case and get you the compensation you deserve. We are meticulous as we gather evidence, negotiate with insurance companies, and, if necessary, take your case to trial.
- Representation: When you hire us, you will have someone who will fight for your rights every step of the way. Your attorney will be there to answer your questions, explain the legal process, and advocate for you in negotiations and, if necessary, in court.
Here are some of the things our maritime injury attorneys can do to help you get the justice and compensation you deserve:
- Investigate the Accident: Your attorney will investigate the accident to determine the cause and who is liable. The investigation process is also when we determine if you have a case.
- Gather Evidence: Your attorney will gather evidence to support your claim, such as medical records, witness statements, and photographs.
- Negotiate with Insurance Companies: Your attorney will negotiate with the insurance companies to get you the maximum settlement possible.
- File a Lawsuit: If the insurance companies do not offer a fair settlement, your attorney can file a lawsuit on your behalf.
- Represent You in Court: If your case goes to trial, your attorney will represent you in court and fight for your rights.
Hiring a maritime injury attorney is the best way to ensure that you get the compensation you deserve for your injuries.
Get a Free Maritime Injury Consultation
If you have questions about maritime lawsuits, Kherkher Garcia can provide answers. We offer a free consultation to every potential client. That means you have nothing to lose by learning more about your rights and potential options for compensation.
Get your free consultation by calling us at 713-333-1030, or contact us online.