Have You Been Injured at Sea?If you have suffered an injury while at sea, it is important to realize that a different set of laws, specifically referred to as maritime or admiralty laws, may apply in your situation.
Maritime and Admiralty LawsThe open sea is not within the jurisdiction of any particular country. Therefore, a United States citizen from Oklahoma who gets injured on a cruise ship that is registered in Norway cruising in the Greek Isles will not be able to use Oklahoma law when suing for recovery from a personal injury.
By international agreement, countries—not states—have jurisdiction over waters 20 nautical miles from their shores; beyond that, the waters are “international” in character. Consequently, a separate body of law has developed, called admiralty law or maritime law, that governs virtually all matters dealing with navigation and shipping, both commercial and recreational. The law that applies in a given circumstance—both as to where case may be brought or what particular laws will apply—may depend upon international treaties, where the incident occurred, where the ship is registered, and any contractual agreement that applies between the injured party and the ship operator.
For workers involved in maritime industries, some of the laws that may apply include:
- The Jones Act, a federal law which defines the duties and obligations that ship operators owe to seamen on their vessels, and which provides a means for seamen to obtain recovery for injuries sustained on the job;
- The Death on the High Seas Act, another federal law that provides financial remedies for the families of seamen killed in international waters; and
- The Longshore and Harbor Workers Compensation Act, which provides medical benefits and income compensation for longshoremen and other port workers.
Types of Maritime and Admiralty Injuries
- Injuries on offshore oil rigs, resulting from explosions, fires, or injuries from heavy equipment;
- Cruise ship accidents, including accidents caused by weather events, fires, negligence, malfeasance or intoxication by ship operators, or ship malfunctions;
- Injuries on commercial fishing vessels;
- Tugboat accidents;
- Barge accidents, including collisions and groundings;
- Accidents on tankers and cargo ships, such as explosions from volatile substances;
- Marine crane accidents, including injuries caused by broken winches or wires, or negligent operation of equipment;
- Research vessel accidents;
- Industrial or recreational diving accidents;
- Recreational boat accidents; and
- Any other injury occurring at sea