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What Is General Maritime Law?

  • What Is General Maritime Law?
  • Jones Act Lawyer
  • Oil Rig Explosion Lawyers
  • DOHSA (Death On The High Seas Act) Lawyer
  • Public Vessels Act Lawyer
  • OCSLA Lawyers (Outer Contenental Shelf Lands Act)
  • LHWCA Lawyers (Longshore and Harbor Worker’s Compensation Act)
  • Military Sealift Command Lawyers
  • Admiralty Extension Act Lawyers
What Is General Maritime Law?

While the Jones Act provides the remedies for the injured crew of a vessel, the general maritime law is the body of law that interprets how the Jones Act gets applied to each case. The importance of this area of the law cannot be overstated and a mastery of it is required to adequately and successfully represent an injured offshore worker. This law is court-made common law as it applies to the maritime context and in maritime cases.

General maritime law also provides additional rights and damages to seamen outside the Jones Act, and provides a basis for claims by family members of deceased maritime workers. General maritime law further provides compensation for non-seamen injured in a maritime setting or while involved in maritime activities. Basically general maritime law encompasses the common law remedies available for maritime related incidents.

General maritime law interprets how damages can be assessed, what constitutes contributory negligence.

Generally, speaking, the statute of limitations controlling general maritime claims is three years; but, certain circumstances (such as the location of the accident) can shorten your statute of limitations. This is one of the many reasons why it is so important to contact a knowledgeable admiralty and maritime lawyer about your injuries.

Some noteworthy general maritime law aspects involve claims for maintenance and cure, unearned wages, and unseaworthiness of a vessel. General maritime law permits strict liability for product liability claims. It also provides causes of action for wrongful death and negligence for non-seamen injured on navigable waterways. General maritime claims include claims of Jones Act seamen and longshoremen against any responsible third party for negligence causing or contributing to injury or death.

Filed CasesDeckhand Shatters AnkleDeckhand working for tug assist company shatters left ankle after jumping from the boat to the deck with no ladderRead MoreRoustabout Injures BackRoustabout working for offshore drilling service injures back maneuvering a very heavy coiled cable and thenRead MoreDeckhand Injures Back and NeckDeckhand working for a commercial diving company injures lower back and neck after falling over a hatch doorRead MoreRoustabout Injures Back and FootRoustabout working for a big maritime company injuries his lower back and right foot on an unseaworthy vesselRead More

Jones Act Lawyer

Jones Act Lawyers is a federal law, formerly known as the Merchant Mariners Act, which governs the liability of vessel operators and marine employers for their employee’s work-related injuries. The Jones Act provides remedies to seamen injured while working on a vessel. This law helps courts decide the compensation for seamen’s injuries throughout the United States. An injured seaman can recover damages from their maritime employer when the employer or a co-worker’s negligence causes an injury.
An injured offshore worker must prove some negligence or fault on the part of the vessel’s owners, operators, officers, and/or fellow employees or show defect in the vessel, its gear, tackle, or equipment.
Some examples of sustainable bases for Jones Act cases are:

  1. Failing to provide a safe place to work, if the unsafe place is the vessel or if it is another place under the employer’s control.
  2. An unseaworthiness claim may be pursued if the employer is the owner of the vessel, and the injury is caused by an unsafe condition on the vessel.
  3. A violation of a safety statute causes the injury.
  4. Failing to provide adequate medical care.
  5. Negligence of other employees or individuals for which the employer is responsible, including co-workers.
  6. Failure to rescue or search for a seaman if he jumps or falls overboard
  7. The vessel was not reasonably fit for its intended use, not a safe place to work and live.
  8. The vessel was not equipped with appropriate safety gear and equipment.
  9. The vessel had unsafe recreation facilities
  10. Failure to maintain a competent crew
  11. Dangerous conditions arising during the voyage or created by co-workers

A maritime employer owes a seaman a higher negligence duty than in the usual employer-employee relationship, and the employer if its breach of that duty contributed to the seaman’s injury. Even if the seaman assumed a risk of injury, compensation under the Jones Act is not reduced.

One of the central questions in any maritime injury case is whether the injured party is a seaman, since only a seaman can recover under the Jones Act. These offshore workers have an employment-related connection to a vessel in navigation and contribute to the vessel’s function or mission.

A seaman under the Jones Act must be a member of the crew of a vessel such as a tanker, freighter, jack-up rig, semi-submersible, towboat, tug, supply boat, crew boat, barge, lay barge, or fishing vessel, or someone assigned to a fleet of vessels by his employer. The vessel must also be in navigation, there must be more or less permanent connection with ship, and worker must be aboard naturally and primarily as aid to navigation. Sometimes, even a person whose work is covered under the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Actmay be treated as a Jones Act seaman. A lawyer can help figure out whether someone is a seaman for purposes of the act. The facts of each particular case must be examined closely by an experienced maritime attorney who will understand the ins and outs of the offshore activity the seaman was engaged at time of injury. View common offshore injuries accidents to see if you have been involved in a Jone Act lawsuit.

Filed CasesDeckhand Shatters AnkleDeckhand working for tug assist company shatters left ankle after jumping from the boat to the deck with no ladderRead MoreRoustabout Injures BackRoustabout working for offshore drilling service injures back maneuvering a very heavy coiled cable and thenRead MoreDeckhand Injures Back and NeckDeckhand working for a commercial diving company injures lower back and neck after falling over a hatch doorRead MoreRoustabout Injures Back and FootRoustabout working for a big maritime company injuries his lower back and right foot on an unseaworthy vesselRead More

Oil Rig Explosion Lawyers

Maritime lawyers of Schechter, McElwee, Shaffer & Harris, LLP have been handling oil rig explosion cases in the Gulf of Mexico and vessel explosion and fire cases around the world for over 45 years.  We have obtained multi-million dollar settlements for our clients and their families where an offshore worker was injured or killed due to a maritime blast.

Currently, at least 11 people are missing and seven were critically injured after an explosion on an oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico, according to the U.S. Coast Guard.   The explosion happened around 10:00 p.m. yesterday evening on an offshore oil rig named the Deepwater Horizon located about 52 miles southeast of Venice, Louisiana.  The Coast Guard believes that at the time the rig exploded, 126 crewmembers were on board the rig.  Several people were hospitalized and many crewmembers remain unaccounted for at this time.

The names and hometowns of injured persons are being withheld until family members can be notified.

SMSH has handled similar cases in the last few years.  We represented a young man who fell into the water off of a vessel and nearly drowned in March 2008.  He was not timely discovered in the water and this led to him going into a persistent vegetative state. We settled his case confidentially for close to $18 million less than one year after he was hurt.  This recovery is believed to be one of the largest, if not THE largest single-event Jones Act recoveries in history.  We have the marine experts for medical conditions like his at the ready for workers who were hurt in the same way.  We also have marine liability experts who have testified in thousands of trials who can help make your case against the employer more sound.

We have also handled cases where the explosions were so loud that it caused local authorities to assume it was a terrorist attack.  We represented the family of Ford Ebanks in their death case against Bouchard Transportation Company.  He was killed while working as a tankerman on their barge when it exploded.  The explosion was so severe that it caused hot metal to rain down miles and miles away from the accident scene.  We obtained $4 million for his wife, children and family.

Our maritime attorneys served on the Plaintiff’s Steering Committee for a recent Louisiana case in which leaking gas caused the vessel JILLIAN MORRISON to explode in March of 2008 in the Gulf of Mexico.  We alleged that the dangerous and unseaworthy conditions of the vessel and the companies involved failing to take reasonable steps to insure the crew’s safety led to this tragic blast where many died and even more were severely injured.  We obtained confidential seven-figure settlements for our clients in this case against multiple defendants.

An experienced maritime lawyer can tell you whether or not your oil rig explosion case will deal with a law called the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Actwhich will significantly limit your Statute of Limitation or the time within which you have to file your lawsuit.  The type of maritime lawyer you want to hire will assist you with finding the best medical care, help you with living expenses when legally allowed, fly out to visit you in the hospital or at your home if you are injured, and speak to you outside of regular business hours to discuss the immediate and important needs you may have related to the traumatic injuries you sustained in the blast.

The maritime lawyers of SMSH are no strangers to rig explosion cases.  We have represented numerous clients in cases against Transocean and in cases where the vessel, rig or platform they were working on caught fire and/or exploded.  We suspect that many of the crewmembers assosciated with this incident will suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, exposure injuries, burn injuries, orthopedic injuries from the force of the blast and impact with the water, and even death. We have the marine liability experts you need to establish your case, we have access to the mental health professionals you will need to help you deal with the stress of this incident, we have the staff and financial resources to work up your case in the best way possible.  Do not delay in getting help or advice.  We take pride in our over 45 years of representation of the hard working men and women who work offshore in sometimes dangerous settings. Contact your Transocean attorney today.

DOHSA (Death On The High Seas Act) Lawyer

When a seaman dies as a result of an employer’s negligence or because of an unseaworthy vessel, the worker’s family may file for benefits under the Death on the High Seas Act (DOHSA). The incident must occur on the high seas, more than three nautical miles from shore. The personal representative of the deceased brings the DOHSA action on behalf of the decedent’s spouse, child or children, parent, or other financially dependent relative. DOHSA recovery does not preclude a remedy under general maritime law.

A DOHSA suit must be filed within three years from the date of the seaman’s death. A plaintiff usually receives damages for pecuniary loss.

Some of the more common causes of wrongful death at sea are boat capsizing, fire or explosion, improper cargo handling, crane, winch and tow line accidents, faulty equipment, improperly-trained personnel, lack of functioning emergency equipment and/or unqualified medical personnel.

Filed CasesDeckhand Shatters AnkleDeckhand working for tug assist company shatters left ankle after jumping from the boat to the deck with no ladderRead MoreRoustabout Injures BackRoustabout working for offshore drilling service injures back maneuvering a very heavy coiled cable and thenRead MoreDeckhand Injures Back and NeckDeckhand working for a commercial diving company injures lower back and neck after falling over a hatch doorRead MoreRoustabout Injures Back and FootRoustabout working for a big maritime company injuries his lower back and right foot on an unseaworthy vesselRead More

Public Vessels Act Lawyer

Originally, the United States government enjoyed complete sovereign immunity from suits in admiralty for damages caused by public vessels. Current admiralty law waives government immunity through the Suits in Admiralty Act (SAA) and the Public Vessels Act (PVA). Currently, conflict exists regarding which statute governs which maritime claims. The SAA provides an in personam cause of action for private parties to recover damages (including those caused by public vessels) where a claim would have arisen had the vessel been privately-owned. The PVA, on the other hand, is aimed specifically at providing a right of action for damages caused by public vessels.

If you are injured aboard a United States-owned or operated vessel, your case will fall under the Suits in Admiralty Act (SAA) or the Public Vessel Act (PVA). All injury lawsuits under the Suits in Admiralty Act or the Public Vessel Act must be filed in the United States Federal District Courts. Our firm has filed thousands of cases within this section of the court system. Most Suits in Admiralty Act lawsuits can be filed in the Federal District where the injured Seaman resides.

The Public Vessels Act is a federal maritime law which allows legal action against the United States for damages caused by a public vessel of the United States. A public vessel is any vessel owned by or operating on behalf of the United States. PVA allows civilian seamen serving in government jobs to bring suit against the United States in cases of injuries suffered while at sea during the performance of work.

The PVA only applies in cases of injury occurring while employed by the government or on board a government-owned or government-operated vessel. Seamen injured while in civilian employ or while serving aboard commercial vessels are covered by other provisions of the law such as the Jones Act. Both PVA claims and Suits in Admiralty by or against vessels or cargoes of the United States have time constraints, so if you think you may qualify to file a lawsuit, contact our experienced maritime legal team as soon as possible with your questions.

OCSLA Lawyers (Outer Contenental Shelf Lands Act)

The Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act (OCSLA) defines the outer continental shelf as any and all submerged lands lying beyond state coastal waters, greater than three miles offshore, which are under United States jurisdiction. This law helps to codify the injured seaman’s right to bring cases for incidents that occur on the Outer Continental Shelf.

osc-map

OCSLA applies to:

  1. The subsoil and seabed of the Outer Continental Shelf
  2. Any artificial island, installation, or other device if
    1. permanently or temporarily attached to the Outer Continental Shelf seabed, and
    2. erected on the seabed of the Outer Continental Shelf, and
    3. its presence on the Outer Continental Shelf is to explore for,develop or produce resources from the Outer Continental Shelf
  3. Any artificial island, installation, or other device if
    1. permanently or temporarily attached to the seabed of theOuter Continental Shelf, and
    2. not a ship or vessel, and
    3. its presence on the Outer Continental Shelf is to transport resources from the Outer Continental Shelf.

If these requirements of the “situs test” are met, the next question we ask is which law, federal or state, governs the cause of action. Applicable state law substitutes in the place of federal law for claims arising out of activity on the Outer Continental Shelf.

For state law to govern, the following three tests must be met:

  1. The controversy must arise on a situs covered by OCSLA.
  2. Federal maritime law must not apply of its own force.
  3. The state law must not be inconsistent with the federal law.


The Longshore and Harbor Workers Compensation Act (LHWCA) may be extended to non-seamen employed on the Outer Continental Shelf. LHWCA will apply to injuries occurring as a result of operations conducted on the Outer Continental Shelf with the purpose of exploring for, developing, removing or transporting by pipeline the natural resources of the Outer Continental Shelf.

LHWCA Lawyers (Longshore and Harbor Worker’s Compensation Act)

The Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act (LHWCA) provides workers’ compensation benefits for maritime workers who are not seamen. It fills the gap between the Jones Act and state workers’ compensation. The compensation system is administered by the Department of Labor (DOL), and injured workers who qualify for coverage are entitled to disability benefits. The right to receive benefits does not depend on a finding that the employer was at fault for the worker’s injuries.

LHWCA covers injuries that occur during maritime employment on the navigable waters of the United States. Maritime employment includes the loading/unloading of vessels, repairing vessels and building a vessel. Navigable waters consist of places beyond where a boat could float and/or places on land that adjoin water. A worker, who is injured on a pier, wharf, dry dock, or terminal, can be eligible for compensation.

LHWCA provides medical and disability benefits, as well as rehabilitation services. The medical services must relate to the injury or illness sustained on the job. Occupational diseases that arise from marine employment are also included (such as chronic illnesses like asbestosis). The Act also provides wrongful death benefits to survivors of a worker who is killed on the job.

Rules for claiming benefits:

  1. You have only 30 days to give your employer notice of the injury.
  2. A formal LHWCA claim for benefits must be filed with the DOL within one year from the date of injury.
  3. An employer can dispute the claim or begin voluntary payment within 14 days of the accident.

The Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act also allows an injured worker to sue persons or entities, other than the employer or a co-worker, whom the worker believes to be at fault for his or her injuries. When a worker is injured on a vessel, there may be a claim of negligence against the vessel and its owner, resulting in a Third Party Longshore case.

Military Sealift Command Lawyers

If you are employed by Military Sealift Command and you have been injured on the job, please contact us to discuss your rights to compensation. Military Sealift Command’s Sealift Program provides ocean transportation for the Department of Defense and other federal agencies during war and peacetime. The Military Sealift Command workforce is made up of civilian mariners serving as government employees onboard government ships in civil service positions. This fleet of government vessels is over 40 ships and growing.

More than 90 percent of U.S. war equipment and supplies travel by sea. The Sealift Program has government-owned and long-term-chartered dry cargo ships and tankers, as well as additional short-term or voyage-chartered ships.

Admiralty Extension Act Lawyers

The Admiralty Extension Act (AEA) extends admiralty jurisdiction inland and provides coverage for injuries which occur on land, but are caused by a vessel on navigable water. This provision allows admiralty and maritime jurisdiction to cover those injured on land by some appurtenance of the ship. Thus, those maritime employees injured on land while working near their vessel are covered under maritime law via the AEA.

In addition, this Act also extends the benefit of maritime jurisdiction to those injured while involved in the loading, unloading or storage of vessel cargo. In order to determine whether or not you may be eligible to recover under the Act, it is imperative that you speak with an experienced, knowledgeable maritime attorney.

Jones Act Lawyers, Oil Rig Explosion Lawyers, DOHSA (Death On The High Seas Act) Lawyer, Public Vessels Act Lawyer, OCSLA Lawyers (Outer Contenental Shelf Lands Act), LHWCA Lawyers (Longshore and Harbor Worker’s Compensation Act), Military Sealift Command Lawyers, Admiralty Extension Act Lawyers

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