Working aboard any type of vessel comes with its potential hazards; therefore, it is important to be aware of how to file a maritime claim in the case that an illness or injury does occur on the job. From barges to cruise ships, thousands of individuals head to work on the seas every day. Whether due to failures in following safety measures or in the vessel itself, injuries do occur. This type of legal case comes with its own set of rules and procedures. Working with a legal professional experienced in such casework can help ensure proper compensation is provided in the end.

Dating back to 1789 with the signing of the US Constitution, such cases began to develop distinctive standards known as maritime or admiralty law. It ensures that seamen, or those spending at least 30% of their time aboard a vessel in navigation, are properly compensated in the event of an injury or even death. Those liable for the injury are dependent upon the type of boat, the individual’s function on board and the conditions playing a role in the resulting harm.

Federal law requires that companies employing seamen carry specialized worker’s compensation insurance known as Federal Longshoremen’s Coverage, yet specific events may lead victims to seek compensation under the Jones Act or Longshore Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act as well. The latter provides benefits for on-shore employees such as harbor workers and longshoremen.  The former allows seamen to request damages for personal injury or property damage occurring while aboard the vessel due to the negligence or willful misconduct of their employer or fellow employees while on the job. The victim may also file a civil maritime claim against the ship owner if the boat is deemed unseaworthy or in the case that sufficient medical care was unavailable. Owners have a responsibility to supply a seaworthy vessel that is adequately equipped with the proper equipment and safety measures in place, yet they are not liable for damages caused by circumstances not under their control such as public enemies, acts of God, dangers of the sea, and inherent defects of the goods.

While the statute of limitations for such cases is usually three years, it is imperative that the injured party submit an incident report with their employer at the earliest feasible time. The master of the boat is to file a dated entry in the official logbook to document the injury or death and any treatment that was received. The entry is then to be signed by the vessel master and chief mate.  The US Constitution gives the federal court jurisdiction over a maritime claim, yet many lawsuits can be heard at either the state or federal level due to the “saving to suitors” clause. State courts must employ the applicable admiralty law even when it differs from the law of the particular state.

Upon filing a report of the incident the employer is required to supply “maintenance and cure” benefits
. “Maintenance” refers to basic living expenses for the remainder of the voyage whereas “cure” enables the victim to receive medical care including hospitalization, medication, rehab services, and short and long-term medical devices required to improve their condition. These benefits may be in addition to any damages recovered under the Jones Act and are discontinued when the seamen reaches the maximum amount of medical improvement. Compared to a standard worker’s compensation suit this type of case frequently results in much higher compensation because of the dangers seamen must face on the job.

A maritime claim can be quite complicated; therefore working with a legal professional that has the knowledge and experience in such casework is invaluable.