What is General Maritime Law?

Before the Jones Act, general maritime law was created from court decisions that determined the rights of seamen. This is also commonly referred to as "admiralty law" and is used to govern all offshore questions, injuries, and offenses. Cases that fall under maritime law can range from passenger ship accidents to fisherman injuries, covering nearly any type of maritime accident.

Admiralty law, or general maritime law, is different from the law of the sea. The law of the sea is international law dealing with coastal waters and international relations. While the Jones Act is a more specified law governing offshore workers and seamen, general maritime law deals with maintenance and cure, personal injury cases, and even piracy.

Maintenance and Cure states that the employer of a vessel or offshore company is responsible for the well-being of their employees, and if an employee is injured while working for them, the company is responsible for paying their medical and rehabilitation bills, and to pay maintenance living expenses to seamen while they are injured. Ship owners also have the responsibility of caring for their passengers, including doing everything possible to prevent accidents from occurring.

Under general maritime law, seaman are owed transportation, wages, room and board, and medical services for the duration of their voyage. Additionally, if a vessel is deemed to be unseaworthy, an injured maritime worker could pursue a claim against the ship’s owner. A ship owner has a strict duty to provide a seaworthy vessel to the seaman aboard their vessel according to general maritime law. As federal common law, general maritime law allows for much more broad reasons for bringing claims. For example, it can cover non-seaman such as cruise ship passengers.

What is the Longshore & Harbor Workers' Compensation Act?

If your duties primarily were carried out on land, and you were on a ship only briefly during the course of your work, the Jones Act likely will not provide relief. However, dockworkers, ship repairers, shipbuilders, and harbor construction workers may have other legal options available to them, such as the remedies offered by the Longshore and Harbor Workers' Compensation Act or "LHWCA."

This act provides protection for employment-related injuries of sea workers or workers of "adjoining areas." Those covered under LHWCA are employees who work on navigable waters of the United States and in adjoining areas. These adjoining areas include loading, unloading, repairing, and building of said vessels. There is also provision for families under this act if an adjoining worker is killed on the job. Those employees covered under the act receive a compensation rate of 66 2/3% of their average weekly wages.

An extension of the Longshore Act, called the Nonappropriated Fund Instrumentalities Act, provides relief to injured civilian workers of military bases. Injured workers are entitled to medical care and rehabilitation, as well as wage-loss replacement. 

Why Hire The Law Offices of Douglas Thomas Moore, LLC?

Unlike state workers' compensation claims or even claims pursued under the Longshore and Harbor Workers' Compensation Act, there is no administrative body that oversees your Jones Act claim. Instead, claims covered by the Jones Act must be filed in state or federal court. Although some claims may be settled in pre-litigation negotiations, the only way to preserve your right to pursue a claim is to file a lawsuit.

Perhaps the most important reason that you need an attorney is the fact that your employer and its insurance company have teams of lawyers representing and consulting them throughout this process. The goal of their attorneys is to dispose of your claim as cheaply as possible. The only way to level the playing field with your employer or the insurance company is to have an experienced attorney representing your interests. As an injured employee, you are new to the process, whereas your employer, its insurer and their attorneys deal with these cases on a regular basis. It is critical to the successful outcome of your claims that you have an experienced team who regularly handles Jones Act proceedings and stands up to employers and insurance companies. We fight for you!


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