What Is Maritime Law In General?

What Is Maritime Law?what is maritime law

Maritime law is jurisprudence made law which is derived from the cases which have been decided by courts over a long period of time. Whereas many laws can be found as a federal or state statute which is actually passed into law by congress, maritime law has developed based upon century old fundamental principles governing the laws of the city. There is no “statute” which fully explains all of the details of maritime law. Instead, an individual must simply study these cases and holdings in order to obtain an understanding of maritime law.

Maritime law applies to any injury which occurs on navigable waterways. This includes all of the traditional large bodies of water such as the Gulf of Mexico as well as the rivers of the United States. It also includes lakes as well as even smaller recreational lakes as long as vessels are capable of navigating on such bodies of water.

What is Maritime Law’s Application to Seamen

What is Maritime Law’s Application to Seamen?

There is a special class of maritime workers known as Jones Act Seamen.  In order to qualify as a Jones Act Seamen, a worker must be more or less permanently assigned to a vessel in navigation.  This has been translated to mean that the individual spends at least 30 percent or more of his time aboard a vessel during his employment. 

What is Maritime Law’s Application to Seamen             Maritime law has special application to Jones Act Seamen.  Maritime law allows seamen to file two additional claims outside of the Jones Act statute.  First, seamen can file a claim for maintenance and cure under general maritime law.  When a seaman gets injured at work, he is entitled to receive maintenance and cure benefits until he reaches maximum improvement in regard to his injury. This essentially means that he can receive daily living expenses as well as payment for his medical treatment following his injury. These maintenance and cure rights are actually derived from maritime law, not the Jones Act. 

             Additionally, an injured seaman can file a claim for the un‑seaworthiness of the vessel under maritime law.  If any part of the vessel played a role in causing his injury, the seaman can seek damages under an un-seaworthiness claim.  This claim essentially focuses on the condition of the vessel and any dangerous condition aboard the vessel which may have caused his injury.  This un‑seaworthiness claim is a part of maritime law, not the Jones Act statute. 

What Type of a Trial do I Have Under Maritime Law

What is Maritime Law’s Most Common Trial Type?

Maritime law does not provide for a trial by jury.  If an individual files only a maritime law claim, then the individual will not have the right to a trial by jury in federal court. 

             However, there are very many exceptions to this general rule.  If, for example, the maritime law claim is filed in state court, the individual may have a right to a trial by jury based on state procedural rules. Additionally, if a Jones Act seaman files a claim under the Jones Act along with one or more maritime law claims, the Jones Act seaman is entitled to a jury trial under the Jones Act.  This wouwhat is maritime lawld also include a jury trial in regard to his maritime law claims. 

             Remember, the general rule is that maritime law does not provide for a jury trial.  However, there are typically very many exceptions to this rule which may allow for a trial by jury. 

What is Maritime Law’s Statute of Limitations for Claims

What is Maritime Law’s Statute of Limitations?

A statute of limitations is the time period in which an individual must file a claim in court.  If the statute of limitations expires, or the individual waits longer than the statute of limitations allows, then the individual’s claim will expire and he will be barred from filing a claim. Under maritime law, the statute of limitations is three years to file any such claims.  This three-year statute of limitations under maritime law does not require any type of pre‑filing procedures.  The individual may wait until one day prior to three years and simply file his claim in court.  There is no administrative process or claims process that must occur before the individual files a maritime law claim in court.  However, it’s critical to remember that maritime law claims have a three-year statute and if the individual waits beyond this period, his claim will “run” or expire, and he will lose any rights he has under maritime law. What is Maritime Law’s Statute of Limitations

             Finally, it is also very important to note that an individual with a maritime law claim may have other rights or claims which he can also pursue. In such cases, these rights or claims may have a shorter statute of limitations. For example, in Louisiana as well as some other states there is an one‑year statute of limitations on state law claims. To the extent the individual may have state law claims along with maritime law claims, a one-year statute of limitations may apply to some of the claims. It is very important to speak with an attorney regarding any individual situation you may have to determine the time period in which you must file all of your claims. 

What is Maritime Law’s Limitation of Liability Proceeding

What is Maritime Law’s Limitation of Liability?

In the BP DEEPWATER HORIZON oil spill case, Trans Ocean as the owner of the DEEPWATER HORIZON filed what is known as a Limitation of Liability proceeding.  This is a proceeding in which the owner of a vessel seeks to limit its liability to the value of the vessel.  It is a defense that vessel owners file in situations when they believe that a person’s injuries may exceed the value of the vessel upon which the accident occurred.  In the DEEPWATER HORIZON case, for example, even though Trans Ocean’s oil rig costs several hundred million dollars, Trans Ocean would have been happy overall to limit its costs and liability for the horrible accident to the value of its oil rig. What is Maritime Law’s Limitation of Liability

             Limitation of Liability claims are often filed when Jones Act seamen suffer injuries working aboard their employer’s vessels. In these situations, the employer may file a Limitation of Liability in court regardless of whether or not the injured seaman has filed a claim under the Jones Act or maritime law. Often the seaman is then mailed a copy of the Limitation of Liability suit and he is required to file his “claim” within the Limitation of Liability court.  There are many exceptions to the Limitation of Liability defense and there are many actions which should be taken to better protect your rights under maritime law if a Limitation of Liability proceeding has been filed in regard to your injury. 

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