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What is Maritime Law?

maritime lawThe lawyers at Stacey & Jacobsen, PLLC focus their practice in Maritime and Admiralty Law. Maritime or Admiralty law is a set of legal rules and practices governing the business of employment and transportation of people and goods over or near navigable waters. "Navigable waters" is a broad term and includes all waters which are capable of transporting people or cargo in interstate or foreign commerce. Since maritime commerce most often occurs outside the boundaries of States, the founders of the United States recognized the need for "uniformity" in maritime law and therefore provided in the U.S. Constitution that Admiralty and Maritime law should be Federal. Generally speaking, the same body of law applies to seamen and maritime workers regardless of the location of accident or residency of the people or corporations involved. In 1920, Congress enacted the Maritime Marine Act of 1920, commonly known as the Jones Act, that provides substantial benefits to seamen injured at sea.

Maritime law applies to the operation of most any type of vessel, from the largest ocean going cargo vessel, to fishing vessels, to jet skis. This body of law provides rights and remedies to most everyone who works on or near these vessels. For instance, skippers, engineers, deckhands, seamen, galley workers, fishermen, crabbers, on-board seafood processors, ferry workers, and tug & barge hands have rights under maritime law. Oil rig workers, longshoremen and ship repairers have maritime rights. In addition, maritime law governs airplane or helicopter crashes on navigable waters.

With respect to maritime employment, maritime law could apply to personal injuries, death cases, wage and labor disputes, sexual and racial harassment, disability discrimination, toxic exposures, hearing losses and workplace fatigue injuries. Maritime law would also apply to maritime insurance disputes, maritime property damage, loss of cargo, damage to shoreside property by vessels, suppliers/vendors of vessel supplies, repairers of vessels, and fishing rights.

The Hazardous Fishing Industry.

It's no fish you are buying - it's men's lives.
- Sir Walter Scott, The Antiquity (1816)

In March 1999, the United States Coast Guard issued a Fishing Vessel Casualty Task Force Report. Coast Guard statistics show that "commercial fishing continues to rank at or near the top of the most hazardous occupations in the United States." The Coast Guard stated that "commercial vessel safety standards are lower than standards for other domestic commercial vessels, and lower than international standards for fishing vessels. There have been many attempts to raise safety standards over past decades, however, the prevailing opposition to higher standards accepts the high risks of commercial fishing relative to the cost of those standards."

In other words, injuries continue to happen in the fishing industry due to poor equipment and poor training. To protect yourself and your family, you should know your rights as a seaman/fisherman. If you are injured or become ill while working, you have the right to receive maintenance, medical care, unearned wages, and airfare to the point of hire. These are your entitlements, regardless of fault.

In addition, you may also receive compensation for pain and suffering, loss of enjoyment of life, retraining costs, lost income, and other damages. These damages may be awarded if your employer or other crew members were negligent or if your vessel was not seaworthy. Negligence is defined as the lack of reasonable care. Seaworthiness is defined as the vessel and equipment being in good condition. This includes the vessel being sufficiently staffed with a trained crew.

Our Successes
$16,000,000 - Jury Verdict for Ferry Worker Injury Gangway Collapse
$11,401,000 - Jury Verdict for Deck Mechanic Injury Injured Jones Act Deck Mechanic
$7,000,000 - Federal Jury Verdict for Oiler Injury Injured Jones Act Oiler
$4,200,000 - Wrongful Death Judgment for longshoreman killed by unsafe cargo container stow.
$4,000,000 - Jones Act Maritime Wrongful Death
$4,000,000 - Burn Injuries Fire and explosion in engine room of fishing vessel.
$3,500,000 - Brain Injury Tug boat deckhand injured by defect in barge’s crane.
$3,500,000 - Cognitive Injury Seaman's cognitive injury settlement