What Is Admiralty Or Maritime Law?
Maritime or Admiralty Law, is a unique and exclusive body of law comprised of distinct and many times ancient rules that govern maritime activities, including marine commerce, navigation, salvaging, shipping, seamen and seawomen including but not limited to merchant mariners, and the transportation of passengers and goods by sea. It is enumerated in both domestic law governing maritime activities, and private international law governing the relationships between private entities that operate vessels on the oceans.
What laws provide protections for injured maritime workers?
The Merchant Marine Act of 1920, also known as the Jones Act provides protection for injured maritime workers. While protecting those who work in maritime environments, the Jones Act actually finds its roots in the railroad industry of the early 1900’s. FELA was enacted in 1908 to protect and adequately compensate railroad workers who had been injured while working on the job. The Jones Act extends the Federal Employer’s Liability Act (FELA) to seamen.
The development of interstate commerce was a pivotal interest for the United States during the early 1900’s, and thus, the strict liability workers’ compensation statutes of that era primarily shifted financial losses and compensable injuries from the employer to the workers’ compensation plan with the purpose of protecting young industries and nearly guaranteeing minimal compensation to the injured employee. FELA however, established a fault or negligence-based notion of liability, the purpose of which was to encourage higher safety standards in the especially treacherous railroad industry. Like FELA, the Jones Act sought to offer extra protection to injured seamen by federal statute to ensure that “seamen” are fairly and adequately compensated for injuries resulting from an employer’s negligence. Offshore workers, merchant mariners, and seamen alike are not your average employee. They are unique workers who sacrifice a tremendous amount of time, subjecting and exposing themselves to the “perils of the sea”. Daily, these dedicated workers are faced with highly unique dangers that could result in serious life-threatening injuries or even death. And since, like railroad workers, their roles are vital to the development of national economic interests, the Jones Act was modeled after FELA, modeling the same statutory language which has encouraged courts to apply negligence similarly.
What Is Unseaworthiness?
Vessel owners and operators owe a nondelegable duty to provide seamen with a seaworthy vessel aboard which the seaman is to work. The vessel and her owner are liable for injuries received by seamen as a result of the vessel being unseaworthy, or a failure to supply and keep in order the proper appliances appurtenant to the ship. Unseaworthiness is a far-reaching and wide-ranging doctrine which can be established from numerous potential shortcomings of the vessel ranging from improper, worn-out, or improperly designed equipment to untrained, unlicensed, or insufficient crew. Lack of properly posted safety warnings, failure to perform JSA’s (Job Safety Assessments), inadequate supervision, and working excessive hours are all examples which if proven, could lead to an unseaworthiness claim. To prove that a vessel is unseaworthy, the defendant must have provided a vessel (including its appurtenances, gear, and equipment) that is not reasonably fit for its intended purpose. Further, the unseaworthy condition must have played a substantial part in bringing about or actually causing the injury, and that the injury was either a direct result or a reasonably probable consequence of the vessel’s unseaworthiness. You should consider an attorney who has worked on board several types of vessels including semi-submersible deepwater drilling rigs, offshore supply vessels, ferries, and oceangoing ships who is familiar with the nomenclature and the day-to-day operations associated with your work environment.
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