Accidents and injuries in the maritime industry can have devastating consequences, affecting the lives of workers and passengers alike. Understanding maritime law is crucial for individuals injured in boating and ship accidents to protect their rights and seek compensation.

The Significance of Maritime Law

Maritime law, also known as admiralty law, is a specialized field that governs legal issues and activities related to navigation and maritime commerce. It encompasses a wide range of regulations and rules, covering areas such as shipping cargo, passenger transportation, accidents, and personal injuries.

Jurisdictional Waters and Maritime Law

Understanding the jurisdictional waters where accidents occur is important when determining which laws apply. Accidents can occur in various bodies of water, such as rivers, lakes, and oceans, both domestically and internationally. State laws typically govern non-navigable waters, such as lakes or ponds. Navigable waters, such as oceans, seas, and major rivers, fall under federal maritime law, granting federal courts jurisdiction over maritime claims.

Types of Boating and Shipping Accidents

Boating accidents encompass a wide range of incidents that occur on boats or ships.

Small Boat Accidents

Small boat accidents typically involve recreational boats, such as motorboats, tour boats, and jet skis. Negligence is a common factor in these accidents, which can include alcohol or drug use, failure to follow boating rules, excessive speed, and reckless maneuvering. Depending on where they occur, small boat accidents may fall under either U.S. maritime law or state liability laws.

Cruise Ship Accidents

While relatively rare, cruise ship accidents can turn dream vacations into nightmares. These accidents may involve capsizing or running aground due to rough weather, mechanical problems, or negligence. Passengers may also face dangers resulting from onboard hazards, such as ill-trained or negligent crew members. Cruise ship accidents can occur during shore excursions or at various onboard locations, such as pools, restaurants, or spas.

Commercial Fishing Boats

Commercial fishing boats play a crucial role in the maritime industry, but they can also be a source of accidents and injuries. Because of the nature of their work, fishermen face various risks and hazards while at sea. These may include dangerous weather, equipment malfunctions, collisions with other vessels, and even falls overboard.

Cargo Ship Accidents

Cargo ships, including container ships and tankers, transport goods and materials between ports. Accidents involving cargo ships can have severe consequences, such as explosions that result in the loss of life, cargo, and environmental damage. These accidents can also pose hazards to crew members and workers involved in loading and unloading operations.

Dockyard Accidents

Dockyard accidents refer to incidents that occur in and around the docks, ports, or shipyards. These accidents can involve workers, visitors, or passengers who are embarking or disembarking from vessels. Various factors, such as negligence, unsafe working conditions, equipment failures, or human error can cause dockyard accidents.

Oil and Gas Platform Accidents

Oil and gas platform accidents are unfortunately common in the maritime industry and can cause severe injuries, fatalities, and significant financial losses. These accidents can occur because of various factors such as transportation incidents, slips and falls, equipment malfunctions, fires, explosions, and exposure to hazardous substances.

Compensation for Boat and Ship Accident Injuries

Victims of boat and ship accidents may be entitled to various types of compensation, depending on the circumstances of the accident and the applicable maritime laws.

Compensation for Workers

  1. Maintenance and Cure: Maintenance and cure benefits form a fundamental aspect of maritime law, ensuring that injured seamen receive necessary care and support during their recovery. Maintenance covers daily living expenses, such as rent, utilities, and food, while cure covers medical expenses associated with the injury. Regardless of fault or cause, injured seamen are entitled to maintenance and cure benefits until a qualified physician declares them fit to return to work.
  2. Jones Act: The Jones Act allows seamen to seek compensation for injuries caused by negligence, with a lower burden of proof compared with traditional personal injury claims. Under the Jones Act, injured seamen are entitled to damages such as lost wages, medical expenses, and pain and suffering.
  3. Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act (LHWCA): The LHWCA provides compensation for maritime workers who are not seamen, such as dockworkers and patient longshoremen. This act also covers medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering.
  4. The Doctrine of Unseaworthiness: The Doctrine of Unseaworthiness says vessel owners have a legal obligation to ensure that their vessels are in a safe and seaworthy condition. This means that the vessel and all its equipment must be properly maintained, free from defects, and suitable for the intended purpose. If a worker becomes injured because of an unseaworthy condition, they could receive compensation for their injuries, medical expenses, lost wages, and other damages.
  5. Death on the High Seas Act (DOHSA): DOHSA allows the families of individuals who lost their lives because of wrongful acts or negligence on the high seas to seek compensation for damages. These damages typically include funeral expenses, loss of financial support, and loss of companionship.

Compensation for Passengers

Duty of Care: Protecting Passenger Safety

Passenger safety is of paramount importance in maritime law. Vessel owners and operators have a legal duty of care to ensure the safety and well-being of their passengers. This duty encompasses providing seaworthy vessels, maintaining proper safety standards, and employing qualified crew members. Negligence by cruise ship staff, unseaworthy vessels, accidents, diseases, food poisoning, and assaults are some potential dangers that passengers may face.

Under maritime law, injured passengers can seek compensation for their injuries through statutory liability and general maritime law. These legal avenues enable passengers to hold the responsible parties liable for their injuries. Compensation for passengers may include medical expenses, pain and suffering, lost wages, and other damages resulting from the accident.

Getting Help with Maritime Injury Compensation

If you have been injured in a boating or shipping accident, whether as a worker or passenger, you may wish to seek legal representation from a personal injury lawyer experienced in maritime law. They will guide you through the complex legal process, including filing a lawsuit within the designated time frame, gathering evidence, assessing damages, negotiating with insurance companies, and representing your best interests in court.

Brock and Stout’s personal injury lawyers have over 28 years of experience helping clients seek compensation through maritime laws. Contact us for a free evaluation of your claim to see if we can help you get the compensation you deserve.