Determining Negligence in Maritime Law

In maritime law, an individual or entity is considered liable for any and all damages caused by their negligence. Proving negligence under maritime law often involves convincing a judge, a jury, or both, that the employer or shipowner failed to take an action that should have been taken, or by proving that these parties did not employ appropriate safety measures. 

Many cases of maritime negligence involve the actions or inactions on the part of a shipowner or employer, an employee, or the lack of “seaworthiness” of a vessel. These specific claims fall under the Jones Act, a federal law. This Jones Act makes provisions for much more significant financial awards than most workers’ compensation claims addressed on the state level.

Monetary Awards for Legal Damages

A monetary award of legal damages under the Jones Act often includes compensation for:

  • Lost wages
  • Lost earning capacity
  • Medical expenses
  • Mental anguish
  • Pain and suffering
  • Disfigurement

However, being awarded full compensation for injuries under the Jones Act means meeting several critical elements, such as:

  • Proving that the specified injuries resulted from the negligence of a co-worker or employer 
  • Filing the case with the proper court within the established statute of limitations  
  • Demonstrating the injured worker’s status when the injury occurred
  • Determining which of the available legal remedies can provide the most extensive financial recovery to the injured worker  

If the owner of the vessel or an insurer seems to be prolonging the process or ignoring the claim unnecessarily, it may require bringing a lawsuit or an administrative proceeding to resolve the case quickly. These situations may also require holding a trial or a hearing in the proper court. In this regard, it is critical to be mindful that federal maritime laws do not provide a guarantee of the right to litigation before a jury, while claims brought under the Jones Act do have that right.

Additionally, it’s important to be mindful that employers and insurance companies may put injured employees under surveillance to confirm whether they are: 

  • Working against medical advice
  • Inappropriately applying for unemployment
  • Engaging in activities that are not consistent with the medical disability claim

Some employers have even been underhanded enough to offer jobs that are inconsistent with a claimant’s medical disabilities to entice the injured worker into negating their claim.

Talking to a Maritime Injury Lawyer

attorney at law with clients

Some shipowners may actually attempt to discourage employees who have been injured on the job from seeking and obtaining information about their legal rights. They may request that workers sign waivers or other written statements that serve to minimize their claims. Or, they may try to get injured workers to file claims under longshoreman and harbor workers’ laws or workers’ compensation laws instead of filing them under the Jones Act.  

If you or a loved one are injured in a maritime setting, it is critical to protect your rights by hiring the legal counsel of a qualified and experienced maritime lawyer. The maritime attorney can communicate with your employer and the insurance companies on your behalf. They will act to ensure that all your current and future medical expenses are paid and that you receive the full and proper cash settlement you deserve.

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