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West Tampa, FL, Maritime Lawyers
Have you experienced an accident while working on a boat? Did you slip and fall while on a cruise ship? Did a loved one pass away while laboring for a cargo ship?
All of these accidents have one thing in common: They occurred while on a vessel subject to maritime law. While you may think a personal injury attorney would oversee matters of bodily harm, that isn’t the case when the accident happens on a boat. Instead, maritime law prevails.
Maritime law is a specialty type of legislation that requires specialized knowledge of regulations that govern bodies of water, including lakes, rivers, streams, and oceans. When someone suffers an injury on a vessel, their compensation is usually subject to maritime laws.
If you’ve suffered an injury on a boat, you’ll need experienced West Tampa, FL, maritime lawyers to help you get the compensation you deserve. Don’t leave your case to chance — contact Morgan and Morgan to schedule a free case evaluation today.
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What Is Maritime Law?
Maritime law is a branch of law dedicated to incidents that occur at sea. It’s an entirely separate set of regulations that differ from those you’d find if an event happened on land.
Most countries have their own code of maritime law, including the U.S. Cases involving maritime law usually end up in federal court, but in some situations, state courts may govern if the case meets the guidelines of the Judiciary Act of 1789.
Our West Tampa, FL, maritime lawyers are knowledgeable in all areas of maritime law, including personal injury, property, wrongful death, and workers’ compensation.
If you’ve suffered an incident while on a vessel, you’ll need the proper assistance, and a typical personal injury lawyer likely won’t be able to help. Instead, you should seek help from a lawyer familiar with admiralty law.
What Types of Cases Are Common to Maritime Law?
Any lawsuit involving a flagged vessel belonging to the U.S. is subject to national maritime laws. Some of the most typical types of maritime law cases that we’ve seen include:
- Injuries sustained from cuts or head trauma while on a boat
- Slip and falls from debris, wiring, or liquid
- Falling or flying objects resulting in physical injury
- Dangerous weather incidents leading to bodily harm
- Crushing between heavy objects
- Slipping off ladders or plunging overboard
- Electrical shocks from malfunctioning equipment
Of course, it’s possible to sustain injuries in a myriad of ways while on a vessel. Ships frequently encounter dangerous circumstances, including poor weather and malfunctioning equipment. Since boats often travel far from shore, getting the medical help you need can be challenging.
Oftentimes, a medivac helicopter or the U.S. Coast Guard assists people injured while at sea, but it may take time for them to arrive. While waiting, you and your shipmates may need to attempt to care for your wound as best as possible, given the circumstances.
What Maritime Laws Govern Personal Injury Cases?
Several laws cover personal injury cases while at sea or when working on docked boats. They include Maintenance and Cure, the Jones Act, the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act (LHWCA), and the Death on High Seas Act (DOHSA).
Maintenance and Cure
“Maintenance and cure” refers to the obligation of an employer to pay for certain expenses while an injured seaman is recovering from injuries sustained on a vessel. Commercial fishermen and merchant seamen are typically entitled to maintenance and cure payments.
Employers of seamen are responsible for covering the cost of room and board for injured seamen until they have recovered from an accident. Maintenance payments to cover rent or mortgage, utilities, and food, are also given to seamen.
In addition, the employer must cover the cost of their medical care, including surgeries, physician visits, laboratory tests, and physical therapy.
Once a doctor certifies that the seaman has recovered to expectations, maintenance and cure payments stop. The seaman doesn’t have to make a full recovery. Instead, they must heal to the point where there are no further expectations that their health will improve. This point is known as maximum medical improvement or MMI.
If you’re entitled to maintenance and cure payments, it’s essential to seek help from West Tampa, FL, maritime lawyers. A maritime attorney can help you get reasonable maintenance payments for your circumstances.
The Jones Act
The Jones Act was established in 1920 and allows injured seamen to file a legal claim when their injuries occurred as a result of negligence or another tort action. Plaintiffs may choose to have their case filed in state or federal court. In addition, a jury trial is allowed, which is not usually the case for maritime law.
The Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act
The Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act (LHWCA) was enacted in 1927 to provide benefits to certain employees who work in the maritime industry. Longshoremen and harbor workers are covered under LHWCA, as are truck drivers and maritime employees responsible for cargo shipping and transportation.
Under LHWCA, workers injured on the job receive a part of their wages and reimbursement for medical treatments associated with their injury. Workers who sustain significant injuries that prevent them from working in their original positions are entitled to job retraining.
LHWCA extends to spouses whose partner dies while performing their maritime work duties.
Death on High Seas Act
The Death on High Seas Act (DOHSA) allows family members of a seaman to file a wrongful death personal injury case against an employer if employer negligence contributed to the seaman’s death.
Successful claims brought against employers entitle family members to receive specific monetary compensation. Family members can receive reimbursement for funeral and counseling expenses, as well as coverage for loss of financial support.
The accident must have occurred at least three miles from U.S. land to qualify for DOHSA. Family members of individuals killed by commercial airline crashes may also file a legal claim if the incident happened 12 miles from international waters.
Lawyers must prove negligence in a DOHSA case. For instance, the vessel must have been unseaworthy, or the employer must have disregarded maritime standard protocols for safety. Judges will consider personnel incompetence and defective equipment in a DOHSA case.
Which Maritime Law Governs My Case?
Multiple laws may govern your case. For example, a wrongful death case involving a seaman may fall under the jurisdiction of both LHWCA and DOHSA. Working with West Tampa, FL, maritime lawyers allows you to access competent legal experts familiar with complex admiralty laws.
You don’t want to leave your case up to chance. Agreeing too quickly to workers’ compensation or a settlement may leave you with unsatisfactory remuneration. You may find that you don’t have the money to pay your bills while trying to recover.
Instead, seek assistance from a qualified legal advisor who can tell you if your settlement is fair or if it’s worth pursuing a claim in court.
Why Is It Critical to Hire a Maritime Lawyer in a Personal Injury Case?
In many cases, merchant seamen must sign releases during the hiring process that indemnify their employers from future legal claims and limit the compensation they can receive from injuries.
If you sustain injuries in a maritime accident, having an attorney review any release documents is critical. Your attorney can determine whether there are loopholes in these agreements and whether you retain the right to file a legal claim.
Maritime law is complex, and personal injury attorneys who work on land-related cases may not have the expertise required to pursue a case involving admiralty regulations.
Your maritime lawyer can assess your case and begin the discovery process, which involves investigating the sea vessel and interviewing witnesses of the accident. A lawyer will work with medical practitioners to determine the extent of your injuries and the circumstances that led to your harm.
West Tampa, FL, maritime lawyers can work to obtain the evidence you’re unlikely to gain access to without legal assistance. For example, we’ll review documents and negotiate with your employer’s insurance agency to ensure that you aren’t accepting less money than you deserve for your claim.
How Long Do I Have to File a Claim in a Maritime Personal Injury Lawsuit?
The length of time to file a personal injury lawsuit in a maritime accident varies. In some cases, you may have up to three years, while in other situations, you may only have a few months. It’s essential to seek the advice of a maritime lawyer as quickly as possible to avoid losing your right to file a claim simply because too much time has passed.
What Type of Damages Can I Recover Through a Personal Injury Claim?
Most cases resolve with compensation for economic damages, such as medical costs and lost wages. In some situations, victims may receive compensation for mental anguish, emotional pain and suffering, and disability or disfigurement. The damages you may receive will vary depending on the circumstances of your case.
What If I Am Hurt on a Recreational Boating Trip?
Maritime law may apply to a physical injury on a friend’s boat or while taking a boat tour. Before seeing a personal injury attorney, visit West Tampa, FL, maritime lawyers to determine whether maritime law applies to your case. We can tell you if your claim is suited for action under admiralty regulations.
What Should I Do After Being Injured at Sea?
Your first action should be to seek medical assistance. A medical provider can examine you for injuries and determine what treatment you need. In some cases, victims don’t realize how serious their wounds are until they visit a doctor.
Once you have recovered from your immediate injuries, seek the assistance of a lawyer to determine whether filing a legal claim is necessary.
Get Help From West Tampa, FL, Maritime Lawyers at Morgan & Morgan
At Morgan and Morgan, we understand how a personal injury can impact a seaman or vessel worker. In minor injury cases, you may not be able to work for a few weeks, while significant injuries can affect your ability to work at your standard capacity forever.
It’s critical to seek legal advice from personal injury attorneys with considerable experience in maritime law. Contact our office to schedule a free consultation and plan your next steps.