How is a Maritime Injury Different Than a Land Injury?

Written by AskTheLawyers.com™ on behalf of Wayne D. Parsons with Wayne Parsons Law Office.

How is a Maritime Injury Different Than a Land Injury?
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Maritime injuries or those occurring on navigable waters differ significantly from land injuries not only in type but also in options for recovery. The legal process for recovery after a maritime injury is governed by a specific set of laws known as maritime or “admiralty” laws and often involve stricter regulations that can make filing a claim difficult without the help of a maritime lawyer.

For example, maritime injury claims must typically be filed in the port of departure, which can be difficult after the fact and may even be hard to identify if your injury occurred on a vessel that docked in multiple places. Additionally, the statute of limitations or window of time in which a claim can be filed for this kind of case is typically three years from the date of the injury, although the necessary evidence may become difficult to obtain much earlier than that.

Common maritime injuries include:

  • Injuries sustained in falling overboard (i.e. brain injuries, broken bones, spinal cord injuries, hypothermia, etc.)
  • Gangway falls
  • Slip and fall accidents
  • Struck-by injuries in enclosed spaces (i.e. cargo holds, access routes, etc.)
  • Chemical burns
  • Electrocution
  • Machinery fires and/or explosions
  • Repetitive motion injuries for maritime workers
  • Fishing injuries
  • Injuries on docks and piers due to heavy cargo, slippery walkways, and vehicle collisions
  • Sound pollution injuries
  • Illness caused by unsafe or contaminated food
  • Drowning

While some of the above injuries may also occur on land, injuries on the water are often exacerbated by the added risk of distance from a proper medical facility and the hazard of water all around the vessel. For example, if someone suffers a head injury on land and is disoriented, they may be able to sit down and wait for an ambulance. If someone suffers a head injury while on a ship, they fall overboard and suffer from added disorientation in the water, increasing the risk of drowning.

The type of evidence available in a maritime injury case differs significantly from a land injury.

It’s important to note that the liable parties in a maritime injury are unique to maritime matters. For example, a ship captain, crewmember, or their employer could be liable depending on the circumstances of the injury. Additionally, the type of evidence needed to prove how an injury occurred may involve ship logs, maintenance records, incident reports, and more. If the injury occurred to a crewmember while on the job, the crewmember may be eligible to seek recovery under the Jones Act which applies specifically to maritime workers.

Maritime injury claims are not handled by the average personal injury lawyer.

One of the most significant differences between a maritime injury case and a case for an injury that occurred on land is the type of legal representation needed. Maritime law is unique, so much so that a personal injury attorney without maritime law expertise could find themselves lost building the case. Maritime injury attorneys must be able to track the liable party across navigable waters, determine when and where the claim must be filed, and must know exactly what kind of evidence is likely to be available in this kind of case as well as how to obtain it regardless of poor cooperation.

The good news is that maritime injury attorneys typically follow the same rule of thumb as standard personal injury attorneys in that they typically offer free consultations and work on contingency; this allows the injured party and their family to focus on healing and a return to daily life rather than worrying about another out-of-pocket expense.

To learn more about maritime injuries or for help investigating a claim, reach out to a maritime injury lawyer in the port of departure for your injury.

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