Maritime law (admiralty law, or admiralty) refers to the body of laws, treaties, and conventions that regulate navigation and shipping matters. These laws help govern maritime disputes, questions, offenses, and any other private maritime business or nautical issues that may emerge. Because admiralty governs maritime and nautical disputes and injuries, these laws differ from those that apply to accidents occurring on land. This makes it essential to speak to a Houston Maritime Injury Lawyer so they can help you understand admiralty-related legal concepts. In addition, if you’re seeking damages for a maritime injury, our experienced maritime injury attorneys at Morrow & Sheppard LLP can help you navigate the process, win the compensation you deserve, and receive relevant benefits from an employer. By going through this guide, you will better understand:
- The history, origin, and coverage of maritime law
- The different types of maritime injuries
- Roles and responsibilities of maritime injury lawyers
- What you will get from hiring a Houston Maritime Injury Lawyer
Overview of Maritime Law
We can trace back Maritime law to Ancient Egypt when the need for standardized rules for governing fair trade and maritime safety arose. At the time, maritime trade was already in full swing, and ships could travel from port to port. However, there was no single court system that could manage maritime disputes. Hence, the mandate fell on local courts and tribunals, which often show bias. The solution was the introduction of a formal law that ensured the adequate compensation of shipowners, captains, and sailors if they became injured or lost at sea. Between 900 and 300 B.C., The Rhodian Sea Laws, some of the first written records of formal codes, were introduced. These codes enabled the overseeing of seafaring trade in the Mediterranean Sea and also influenced Roman Law. Over time, maritime laws would develop and eventually enter Europe and the United States in the 11th and 17th centuries, respectively.
Definition of a Seaman
Based on maritime law, a seaman refers to a ship’s captain or crew member. American maritime laws, such as the Jones Act, protect the rights of seamen and allow them to seek compensation for any injuries they sustain when traveling by sea between two ports within the country and onboard an American-owned vessel. You must meet the following criteria that will allow you to seek damages:
- The majority of the crew aboard the ship must be U.S. citizens
- The ship must be afloat, in operation, and capable of navigation
- The vessel must be operating within navigable waters
Coverage of Maritime Law
As we have already stated, maritime laws differ from those governing land-based activities. Therefore, determining whether an injured maritime worker should receive compensation for injuries obtained at sea or in a lake requires an initial determination of the nature of the ship, the crew members, and whether the vessel had been operating within navigable waters. The following are some instances when maritime law can apply:
- Recreational boating accidents
- Commercial accidents that lead to vessel/cargo damage or injury to a seaman or seamen
- Piracy and criminal activity
- Fishing boat or jet ski accidents
- Ship or cargo insurance claims
Circumstances will also determine whether a case goes to federal or state court. For instance, the case will be heard in federal or state court if it’s an injury issue. In contrast, property disputes must be heard in federal court.
Types of Maritime Injuries
Here are some claims and remedies you can receive for injuries sustained at sea or in navigable waters.
Jones Act Claims
The Jones Act allows seamen to sue employers for injuries sustained in the course of their employment. This Act is a vital recourse since seamen cannot file for workers’ compensation benefits, as with land-based workers.
Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act
The Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act (LHWCA) will help you get compensation, vocational rehabilitation services, and medical care if on-the-job injuries have rendered you disabled. However, you must have sustained these injuries in navigable U.S. waters or in an area customarily used for cargo loading/unloading and vessel building/repair.
Maintenance and Cure Benefits
These feature remedies for seamen injured while working in a ship/vessel. They have the following categories:
- Maintenance benefits: These are weekly checks paid to injured or sick workers.
- Cure benefits: These are reasonable medical expenses paid by an employer throughout a seaman’s recovery process.
Roles and Responsibilities of a Houston Maritime Injury Lawyer
A Houston maritime injury lawyer has the following tasks:
- Representing injured seamen. The attorney will typically gain insights into your case and help you gain legal compensation for any injuries you might have incurred.
- Assisting with claims. The attorney will understand the intricacies of your case and explain to you any legal measures that you can take to claim damages.
Ensuring fair compensation. The attorney will also help you claim what you deserve by ensuring that all the injuries/damages are accounted for and that the employer pays benefits as required.