The United States has a few hundreds of thousands of square miles of bodies of water both inland and in four coasts – the Atlantic in the east, the Gulf of Mexico in the south, the Pacific in the west, and the Arctic in the northwest. Much of the nation's development has been attributed to the excellent seamanship of its maritime personnel. More and more products are getting exchanged and distributed with the rest of the world through American merchant marine vessels. Recreational ships also abound bringing tourism to the fore.
The US maritime industry contributes close to $100 billion to the national economy and supports more than half a million employees and is vital in the nation's quest for energy independence. Unfortunately, despite the important role of the US maritime industry has on national progress, accidents do happen which can gravely endanger the lives of people working on these vessels as well as those who use such vessels for recreational purposes. When such accidents or incidents occur on American-registered water vessels or any watercraft operating legally in the fresh waters of the United States as well as in open waters, victims need to have a way of seeking redress for their injuries and sufferings. At Martzell, Bickford, & Centola Law Firm, we have been providing legal assistance to individuals who may have been traumatized by incidents involving watercrafts for the past 3 decades. Our assertive, compassionate, and dedicated team of maritime lawyers have continued to represent the best interests of our clients in their maritime cases. Contact a New Orleans maritime lawyer at our firm today if you have questions.
The maritime laws of the United States is closely linked to the Admiralty Law whereby specific laws, rules, and regulations govern the conduct of activities in the navigable waters of the United States. This includes international treaties and agreements to which the US is a signatory and is applicable in both inland waterways and the open seas. Admiralty law is always a matter of federal law. Specifically, it adheres to the reverse Erie doctrine whereby state courts that are hearing admiralty cases are compelled to apply existing federal admiralty laws. This is very important especially in the application of the legal doctrine joint and several liability whereby states or jurisdictions that do not necessarily observe such concepts will be compelled to do so. The doctrine calls for the assignment of equal liability among tortfeasors regardless of the magnitude of their contribution to the injury or loss. This means that if an injury or loss was caused by two or more individuals, there is equal liability for each individual, even if one only contributed little to the incident.
The Jones Act
Merchant marine personnel or seamen who get injured aboard ships can file for compensation as provided for in the Merchant Marine Act of 1920, otherwise known as the Jones Act. The law provides compensation for seamen who sustained injuries secondary to negligence of the ship's owner, captain, or fellow seamen or other members of the ship's crew. It should be understood that the Jones Act is a statute that is strongly grounded on comparative negligence. As such, it is very important to ascertain that the injury you sustained is wholly due to the negligence of others. If your own negligent actions contributed to the injury, then damages may be significantly reduced. It is therefore very important to discuss the matter with a highly qualified maritime lawyer to determine whether a maritime lawsuit can be filed.
Some of the common reasons cited for maritime negligence can include the following:
- Assault by another member of the crew
- Failure of the ship's owner to provide a vessel that is seaworthy
- Failure to perform routine and frequent maintenance checks on all ship resources, parts, components, and equipment
- Failure to provide a non-slip, non-skid deck surfaces
- Failure to provide appropriate and well-placed warning signs especially in hazardous areas in the ship or vessel
- Failure to provide proper safety training to prior to permitting seamen to perform their assigned duties
- Failure to provide the correct and fully functional safety equipment for all seamen and ship's crew
- Failure to repair ship parts, components, and equipment that have been deemed malfunctioning
- Negligence on the part of other members of the crew
- Unsafe maritime work methods
There are other maritime laws that can be invoked by victims of maritime-related injuries. The Longshore and Harbor Workers' Compensation Act provides compensation for injuries sustained by maritime workers not covered under the Jones Act. These often include dock workers and other employees who spend less than 30 percent of their working hours on marine vessels. Anyone working more than 30 percent of their working hours onboard a vessel automatically qualifies them as seaman and as such are protected under the Jones Act.
Families of individuals who died on the seas while working aboard a ship can seek compensation through the Death on the High Seas Act. If negligence can be connected to the death, additional statutes may be considered in pretty much the same way as wrongful death can be claimed by families of victims of negligent personal injury cases. Additionally, some provisions of the General Maritime Law may have to be invoked.
Seeking Legal Help? Call Our New Orleans Maritime Lawyers
In Louisiana, our team of expert New Orleans maritime lawyers have been helping clients get the justice that they truly deserve. As negligence is always a very complicated issue to prove in personal injury cases, it is imperative that we work hand in hand with our clients in order to fully understand their situation.
By collecting as much relevant and factual information as we possibly can from our clients as well as from our own extensive research, we can build a formidable case in which we can use to obtain the most favorable settlement or verdict that our clients seek. In the past 3 decades, our team of expert maritime lawyers at the Martzell, Bickford, & Centola Law Firm has handled a number of high-profile maritime cases leading to a successful track record of obtaining favorable settlements and verdicts for our clients. Contact a New Orleans maritime lawyer at our firm today at (504) 581-9065.