Maritime Attorney in Gainesville

104 N. Main Street, Suite 500
Gainesville, FL 32601
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Gainesville, FL Maritime Lawyers - Maritime Marina

Maritime Lawyers

Gainesville, Florida, is close to many lakes, rivers, and springs that encourage various outdoor activities, including boating, kayaking, swimming, and canoeing. Florida is known for glorious year-round warm weather, which is idyllic for water recreation. Although Gainesville is inland, some residents also make their living on the waterways working on tour boats, commercial diving, as able-bodied seamen, masters, and mates. 

When an accident causes injuries, illness, or death in recreational or commercial maritime activities, you need a maritime lawyer to navigate the complexity of maritime law. The Gainesville, FL maritime lawyers at Morgan and Morgan can fulfill this role as we have an in-depth understanding of international, federal, and state laws. Additionally, we understand the specifics of marine insurance and employee compensation regarding maritime activities, which is the Jones Act. 

What Is Maritime Law?

Maritime law, also known as admiralty law, is a mixture of international and U.S. laws that govern all contracts, torts (wrongful acts or infringements of rights that lead to civil liabilities), and offenses that happen on navigable waters. Maritime law originally targeted oceanic issues but has since expanded to govern incidents that take place on any public body of water, such as lakes and rivers. 

These laws cover legal issues such as interactions between two ships, a captain’s obligation to crew members and passengers, and other legal issues that might arise on the waters. Typically, any maritime law hearings will occur in the federal district courts. However, states may also hear cases. Maritime law is set apart from regular law as special rules, and legal regulations apply.

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Get answers to commonly asked questions about our legal services and learn how we may assist you with your case.

Morgan & Morgan

  • What Is the Jones Act?

    The Jones Act is a section of the Merchant Marine Act of 1920 that defines specific seaman’s rights. In regards to injury, illness, or death, it allows seamen to make legal claims to gain compensation for negligent acts by the ship’s owner, the captain, and other crew members. These rights are not available under common international maritime law. 

    To be a “seaman” under the Jones Act, individuals need to spend more than 30 percent of their time in the service of a vessel on navigable waterways. If an individual spends less than 30 percent of their time, they do not qualify to bring a lawsuit for damages using this avenue. When an incident occurs, the seaman has three years in which to file a lawsuit or be barred by the statute of limitations. 

    The Jones Act is important because seamen are not entitled to get paid for injuries under workers’ compensation under state or federal law as land workers can. 

  • What Is Considered Negligence Under the Jones Act?

    Employers of seamen are required to provide their workers a reasonably safe place to work and use ordinary care to ensure the vessel is maintained so that workers aren’t injured. The Jones Act is very favorable to seamen as the burden to maintain a safe working environment is wholly on the shoulders of the employer. An employer can be held liable for injuries caused by:

    • Improperly maintained equipment
    • Improper training of other seamen and crew
    • Grease or oil on the deck
    • Unsafe work routines
    • Failing to provide crew members with the adequate equipment to do their work assignments
    • Equipment failure
    • Assault by crew members
    • Negligence of other crew members

    It’s important to note that the burden of proof under the Jones Act is far more lenient than a typical personal injury case which requires the plaintiff to prove the defendant was substantially at fault for the accident. The Jones Act only requires a plaintiff to prove an employer was just slightly responsible. 

  • What Are the Most Common Maritime Industry Injuries?

    Maritime jobs can be a great way to make a living, but the industry is inherently dangerous. However, many accidents are avoidable with the right safety training and maintaining the vessel well. Here are the most common maritime injuries:

    Falling overboard - While we may think falling overboard just happens out at sea, it can also happen between vessels while at the dock. Frequently, seamen are required to load heavy cargo and equipment, which can cause an individual to lose their balance and fall overboard. Rescue efforts can be complicated, and in the meantime, the seamen might suffer from hypothermia or drown. 

    Slip and fall accidents - Since vessels are on the water, the deck is often wet, making workers susceptible to slipping and falling. If the deck is uneven or cluttered, an accident is more likely to occur. A slip and fall accident can cause head injuries, broken bones, sprains, and spinal cord injuries. 

    Burns - There are many reasons why seamen might suffer from burns on a vessel, such as fuel leaks, faulty equipment, hot liquids, and steam from a turbine, engine, or boiler. Burns can be very severe and may require operations and skin grafting. Serious burns leave the victim susceptible to infection and other complications that can lead to death. 

    Repetitive motion injuries -  As with any physically demanding job, repetitive motion injuries can happen over time. However, these injuries can be mitigated with the proper training, rest periods, and adequate safety equipment. A seamen’s back, neck, legs, feet, hips, and ankles are most likely to be affected by repetitive motions. 

    Injuries from enclosed spaces - A vessel has many small and large enclosed areas where a worker can become injured from shifting cargo or toxic fume buildup. Cargo should be properly stowed and secured, and workers should have access to protective gear to avoid poisoning from toxic fumes. 

    Fishing injuries - The fishing industry is the most dangerous industry to work in the U.S. Common accidents include falling overboard, getting crushed by falling loads, getting caught in netting, and amputations from lines and cables. If safety precautions are taken, like wearing lifejackets, and workers are adequately trained, many of these accidents are avoidable. 

    Docks and piers - Not all injuries occur aboard a vessel. At docks and piers, seamen are at peril of becoming injured while loading and unloading cargo. Most of the time, heavy machinery will be used, which carries its own risks. Seamen can get hit by moving vehicles if they aren’t properly trained to be aware of surrounding hazards. 

    Injuries to extremities - Working on a vessel requires the use of heavy equipment, which can lead to injuries to a seaman’s extremities. Defective or malfunctioning equipment can even lead to an amputation, likely ending the seamen’s career.

  • What Are Maintenance and Cure Benefits in a Maritime Injury Case?

    Seamen injured on the job are entitled to maintenance and cure benefits while recovering from their injuries. That means while you’re recovering, your employer must pay for maintenance such as paying your mortgage or rent and other necessary expenses of running a household. It does not cover things like internet, cable, or phone since these are not required to run a home.

    Cure benefits cover the reasonable and necessary medical expenses along with transportation to and from medical appointments for a work-related injury. Both maintenance and cure benefits should be paid until the seaman reaches a status of maximum medical improvement (MMI.) A doctor decides when seamen have reached this stage, essentially saying they’ve recovered as well as can be.

  • What Kind of Compensation Can a Seaman Get Under the Jones Act?  

    The Jones Act compensation rules are similar to workers’ compensation, except seamen are eligible for noneconomic damages such as pain and suffering, which is not available under workers’ compensation. If seamen are injured on the job, they can sue for the following types of compensation:

    Medical bills - While cure benefits should cover most medical bills, it’s possible to get other uncovered medical bills paid through the Jones Act. This could include things like future medical bills, therapy, specialized medical devices, and home care. 

    Lost wages - When injured on the job, seamen may be unable to continue working or become permanently disabled. While recovering, you should be able to receive compensation for the wages you’ve lost in the interim.

    Loss of earning capacity - If a seaman is unable to return to work because of their injury, they should be eligible to receive compensation for the loss of earning capacity. How compensation is figured depends on a variety of factors such as the seaman’s age, the estimated value of health insurance and other job benefits, and estimated life expectancy. 

    Loss of enjoyment of life - Severe injuries can upend someone’s entire life. They may be in constant pain, have mobility issues, and are generally not able to spend time on activities they once enjoyed or enjoy their family and friends as they once did. 

    Pain and suffering - The Jones Act allows for compensation for pain and suffering, just like many other personal injury claims. An individual who has been injured may get compensated for the literal pain they’ve endured because of the accident. Still, pain and suffering can also compensate for emotional issues such as depression and anxiety. It also pays for things like disfigurement or scarring.   

  • How Does Maritime Law Impact Recreational Boating Accidents?

    Sometimes people are surprised that their boating accident doesn’t fall under regular Florida personal injury law but rather maritime law, which is far more complex. Maritime claims can be filed in either state or federal courts. Our Gainesville, FL maritime lawyers will be able to tell you which court will be the best fit for your unique case. 

  • How Is Liability Determined in a Recreational Boating Accident?

    To determine liability, Morgan and Morgan maritime lawyers will investigate to see if the other boat operator was guilty of any of the following:

    • The captain failed to provide the proper safety equipment
    • The boat operator was under the influence of drugs or alcohol
    • The vessel was improperly maintained
    • The operator took the vessel out in bad weather
    • The boat operator was heedless of the speed limit or failed to slow down in dangerous conditions

    Any of the above could establish liability for negligent behavior. Even if you were injured after signing a waiver, you could still be able to file a claim if the release isn’t easily understandable by an average person or it is poorly defined. 

  • Have You Been Injured in a Gainesville, Florida, Boating Accident?

    When it comes to your health and future well-being, there’s no sense in navigating the complexity of maritime law on your own. Our lawyers will work with you to ensure you get the compensation you need to recover and make sure you’re set for success. Contact us today for a free case evaluation. You don’t pay if we don’t win. 

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