Do I Need a Maritime Lawyer if I was Injured on the Water?
Written by AskTheLawyers.com™ on behalf of John H. (Jack) Hickey with Hickey Law Firm.
In most cases, when someone suffers an injury as the result of another party’s negligent or intentional conduct, the injured party can reach out to a personal injury attorney to file a claim. However, if the injury occurred on the water, the process could be notably different. For instance, when someone is injured on the water, they will need to seek out a maritime or “admiralty” law attorney to take their case.
Maritime law governs any disputes or injuries that may arise while on navigable waters, and maritime law often involves stricter regulations which can add to the urgency of the claims process. “Navigable waters” in this case refers to any “waters that are subject to the ebb and flow of the tide and/or are presently used, or have been used in the past, or may be susceptible for use to transport interstate or foreign commerce,” according to the Code of Federal Regulations.
Maritime injury claims are unique in that they must typically be filed in the port of departure.
In land-based personal injury claims, the lawsuit typically needs to be filed in the state in which the injury occurred. Maritime injury claims differ in that they must typically be filed in the port from which the craft departed. In the United States, this means that many maritime claims are filed in Florida. If you are unsure where to file, a maritime injury lawyer can help you identify the port of departure using your tickets, receipt, or other travel documentation. If the injury occurred while working at sea, such as on an oil rig or commercial vessel, you may be eligible to file for compensation under the Jones Act, and different filing requirements could apply.
The statute of limitation for maritime personal injury claims is typically three years from the date of the injury.
Statutes of limitation for personal injury cases vary from state to state and typically range from two to four years. However, in the case of maritime injuries, the injured party typically has three years from the day the injury occurred to file a claim. However, some obstacles to this deadline can present themselves in the matter of travel and evidence collection, which needs to occur prior to filing. This is why it is highly recommended to contact an attorney as soon as possible after sustaining an injury due to another party’s negligence; this is particularly true for maritime injury claims, which often entail extra steps.
A common misconception is that you have to wait for your craft to dock before contacting a lawyer.
If you or a loved one were injured on a cruise ship, for instance, it may be tempting to wait until you have returned home to report the incident and talk to a lawyer; however, there may be important evidence you can start collecting aboard the ship that will be much harder to access upon docking. Contacting a maritime law attorney while you are still on the water is a great way to begin protecting yourself and your case right away; a maritime lawyer can advise you on what to say or not say, where to seek medical care, and what sort of documentation to begin preserving right away. If the cruise ship or watercraft operator files an incident report, it’s a good idea to request a copy. Additionally, it’s wise to seek additional medical care from an on-land facility when you return home, even if you sought care in the ship’s infirmary as well.
To learn more about what sets apart maritime injury claims, or for help filing one, reach out to a maritime injury attorney sooner rather than later.