Legal systems around the world recognize that the law of the land does not necessarily apply well at sea. For injuries and other legal issues that arise offshore or on an inland waterway, maritime law is often used to settle legal disputes.
Maritime law covers marine shipping, commerce, and the transportation of passengers. Maritime law also covers the operation of offshore oil rigs and docks. That means that any injury sustained in a maritime context, by a passenger or a worker, in a commercial or recreational context, may fall under maritime law.
Jones Act Maritime Law & Other Louisiana Related Laws
In Louisiana, several laws protect those who have been injured in a maritime or offshore incident. Federal legislation includes the Jones Act. Enacted in 1920, this law allows seamen who are injured on the job to bring a personal injury lawsuit against their employer. Atypically for maritime laws, plaintiffs have rights to a jury trial under the Jones Act.
For those not covered by the Jones Act (such as harbor workers), the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act (LHWCA) fills in the gap by guaranteeing workers’ compensation for on-the-job maritime injuries. Benefits are paid out either through the employer’s insurance, or through the Department of Labor.
Under the Death on the High Seas Act (DOHSA), if someone dies at sea because of the negligence of another person, the family of the deceased may bring a suit against the negligent party. The negligent party could be a company or an individual. Like the Jones Act and the LHWCA, DOHSA is federal law.
With a long coastline and an economy that relies heavily on fishing and offshore oil, maritime laws are important in Louisiana. Many workers in the state are protected under the Jones Act. The state of Louisiana also has its own strict regulations on boating and shipping safety equipment to protect both recreational boaters and workers. If these regulations are violated, the negligent party may be held responsible.
FAQs Regarding Maritime Law
- Question: What should I do if I have suffered a maritime injury?
Answer: You should seek medical attention, taking care to thoroughly document your injuries. You should also seek legal advice to make sure your rights are protected.
- Question: How do I know if I’m protected under the Jones Act?
Answer: If you are a “seaman,” you are protected. Generally this means you are connected to a particular vessel or fleet, and spend a significant portion of your working time at sea.
- Question: What if I was injured because of an unsafe vessel?
Answer: Sometimes, injuries occur not because of a specific individual’s negligence, but because the vessel was unseaworthy or the crew unqualified. In this case, you may bring an unseaworthiness claim.
- Question: If I work on a rig or a dredge, am I protected under the Jones Act?
Answer: Yes. According to the Jones Act, those are sea vessels.
- Question: What if my “injury” was in fact illness due to chemical inhalation or other dangerous exposure?
Answer: Legally, this can still be considered an injury, and you may still bring a personal injury claim.
- Question: If I’m a dockworker or a longshoreman, am I protected under the law?
Answer: Dockworkers are not specifically protected under the Jones Act, but they are protected by the LHWCA. If you were injured, you may be entitled to workers’ compensation.
- Question: What if my employer contests my workers’ compensation claim?
Answer: If you are being denied compensation, you should seek an attorney’s help to protect your rights.
- Question: How quickly do I need to file a claim?
Answer: You should file as soon as possible, and be sure to meet all deadlines. Louisiana has statutes of limitation (limits on how long after the injury you may file) that vary according to the type of vessel and what you are suing for.
- Question: What kind of damages might I receive?
Answer: In a personal injury case under the Jones Act, you can receive damages for medical expenses, lost earnings, pains and suffering, disfigurement, and more.
- Question: Why do I need an attorney if I suffered a maritime injury?
Answer: Often, whoever is responsible for your injury will want to avoid compensating you. That party will likely have a litigation team, so it’s important to have an attorney on your side who will pursue the compensation you deserve.
How Neblett, Beard and Arsenault Can Help
If you or a loved one has been injured at sea due to another person’s negligence, the maritime lawyers at Neblett, Beard and Arsenault can help. We have extensive maritime law experience, and we’ll work hard on your behalf, both in and out of the courtroom. We work with clients in Baton Rouge, Shreveport, Monroe, Lafayette, Alexandria and across the entire state. Contact us to set up a consultation.
- Loyola University Law Library: Admiralty and Maritime Law Research Guide
- Cornell University Law School: Admiralty: An Overview
- Cornell University Law School: Jones Act
- Washington and Lee Law Review: Seamen ‘s Death Actions Under the Jones Act, DOHSA, and the General Maritime Law: A Comparison
- US Department of Labor: Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act
- Department of Wildlife and Fisheries: Related Equipment and Regulations