Virginia Third Party Maritime Negligence Lawyers
Virginia’s coastline has always been a pivotal part of its society. From Early American history, when European settlers landed in Jamestown in 1607, to the modern day, the water and the coastal areas found in Virginia are still relevant for both commercial and recreational uses. Unfortunately, sometimes things go wrong. The Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources reports that in 2022, there were 87 recreational boating accidents, with 17 of those resulting in fatalities, many of which involved negligence. These figures do not include workers who suffer injury when performing their maritime jobs.
Whether you are working out at sea or enjoying a leisurely day on a boat, you deserve to move about without fear that someone else’s negligent behavior will hurt you. Unfortunately, maritime accidents are all too common, whether it is negligence in operating a vessel or if the vessel shows an indication of unseaworthiness.
Bringing claims forward for maritime injuries that meet criteria for maritime causes of action against employers or other third parties can be intimidating because laws governing injuries are different from the set of laws written for injuries on land. The rules are even less clear when a third party is responsible.
The maritime negligence attorneys at Montagna Maritime Law are well-versed in Virginia and federal laws when it comes to boating accidents. Our legal team has compiled some helpful information about third-party negligence claims to help you become more familiar with this complex process. Learn about your rights at sea, and when you are ready, contact Montagna Maritime at (877) 622-8100 to get your case underway.
What is Negligence in Maritime Law?
Many different types of personal injuries are rooted in negligence, and maritime law is no exception in this respect. To prove negligence in a maritime accident and receive compensation, you need to prove without a doubt another party acted negligently.
In legal terms, this means the at-fault party must have failed to exercise appropriate or ethical care which led to injury. Four elements need to be proven in a maritime negligence action case.
- Neglected to provide the appropriate duty of care that led to an injury
- Committed a breach of duty by failing to uphold their duty of care by acting in a way or displaying behaviors a reasonable person would not do.
- Causation must be shown by proving the actions of the defendant directly led to the plaintiff’s injuries.
- The injured person must demonstrate they suffered damages as a direct result of the defendant’s actions or inactions.
Oftentimes, liable defendants in these cases are third parties. Examples of this might include individuals making defective products (e.g., defect in a vessel’s design or of its internal features), employers or owners failing to properly maintain vessels, co-workers displaying reckless behavior leading to crashes, companies chartering vessels for leisure trips, or a contractor not following proper safety protocols when working on a vessel.
Additional types of third parties may also carry liability for injuries, depending upon the circumstances surrounding an accident. Speaking with a knowledgeable Virginia maritime attorney can help explore the situation and determine if another party may be at fault for your injuries.
What is General Maritime Law?
General maritime law is a broad set of regulations, treaties, and laws that cover just about anything related to vessels or events happening on the water. Due to this, this area of law quickly becomes quite complex.
To prove a case under general maritime law, you must approve the same four elements as negligence, but it is important to understand that not all injuries occurring on vessels are due to a breach by a vessel owner or operator, whether on a commercial or recreational vessel. However, depending upon the nature of the injury and whether the individual in question is an injured employee, a case might involve specific laws, including:
- The Jones Act
- Limitation of Liability Act
- Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act (LHWCA)
- Death on the High Seas Act
Under general maritime law, there are also a number of claims a person suffering an injury can make depending upon the circumstances of their illness or injury.
I Was Injured At Sea. What are My Rights Under General Maritime Law?
Maritime workers in the Hampton Roads area face many hazards and dangers at sea, including the risk of serious injury and death every time they go to work. If you are an ill or injured maritime employee working offshore on navigable waters, you have specific rights under both general maritime law and the federally enacted Jones Act, which works differently than filing for workers’ compensation against an employer.
Cases falling under maritime law are heard in federal court in accordance with Article III, Section 2 of the U.S. Constitution. However, injured maritime workers may choose to file their lawsuit in state court. Consulting with a knowledgeable Virginia maritime injury attorney can help you determine the appropriate legal action to take, whether it be to file a workers’ compensation claim or pursue a claim under general maritime laws.
Can I Recover Damages From a Third Party After an Injury at Sea?
Yes, you can pursue compensation from a liable third party after suffering an injury at sea. How you go about it will depend on whether you are a worker or non-worker at the time you suffered an injury or illness.
The Longshoremen Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act empowers you to pursue compensation from a third party who caused your work-related injury. In most cases, you would not sue your employer for workers’ compensation benefits but instead go directly after the liable third party.
- Vessel’s owner (even if the employer/owner is one and the same, the claim can be filed against the party as an owner as opposed to an employer)
- Contractor or other non-employer who was on the work site
- Manufacturer, distributor, or seller of defective and/or dangerous vessels or related equipment involved with shipbuilding
- Ship loaders who were negligent in their jobs
This list is not exhaustive since there are many different individuals in numerous roles who could have been negligent and impacted a worker at sea.
Non-maritime workers also face risks when out on open waters. If you do not fall under the definition of a maritime worker or were a passenger injured during a recreational or another activity, you can still file a lawsuit or wrongful death action against a third party who was negligent in obtaining compensation to cover medical expenses and other losses.
- Party that sold tickets
- Vessel owner
- Company operating or chartering the excursion
- Ship’s physician
In many cases, there could be a number of liable third parties that did not exercise a duty of care and take reasonable action to prevent injury.
Whether you are a worker or non-worker, in either scenario, you will want to talk with an experienced Virginia maritime attorney. Maritime and admiralty law are complex, and identifying the correct liable parties, along with taking the right courses of action, are often specific in these types of injury cases.
Can Maritime Workers Recover Damages From Third Parties Under the Jones Act?
Whether you can pursue compensation from a third party will depend upon the specific situation since there are two conflicting rulings from Virginia Circuit Courts. The bottom line is it depends on where you were when the accident or incident took place.
Generally speaking, most cases will not be third-party liability cases, as a seaman will normally file under laws passed by Congress designed to protect them. However, other workers, such as stevedores, shipyard workers, or longshoremen, are more likely to have a third-party negligence case, whether on land or at sea. There will be some exceptions for seamen – your attorney can help determine what laws and options apply in your case.
What is the Statute of Limitations for Third-Party Negligence Claims in Virginia?
The Commonwealth of Virginia does impose a three-year statute of limitations to file third-party negligence claims for civil actions. This means you have three years from the date the maritime-related injury occurred to file a claim. In wrongful death cases, the date the victim passed away would begin the three-year time limit to file. It is important to speak with a lawyer sooner than later because, while you do have some time, you will want to make sure there is sufficient time to gather evidence and build a strong case.
Benefits of Hiring a Virginia Maritime Lawyer
It is a given, in any personal injury case, that a defendant and their insurance company will do anything they can to reduce their liability and avoid paying the full amount for your medical treatment, wage losses, and other damages. Maritime cases are particularly tricky, and you need the right type of representation to ensure the opposing side does not try to pin any part of the accident on the victim.
While personal injuries are certainly a part of maritime law, not all Virginia personal injury law firms have the knowledge needed to successfully file and win a maritime negligence case. A typical car accident or personal injury claim attorney likely does not have the right legal experience to properly assemble a case for a maritime injury claimant.
Water accidents are handled very differently from land accidents, especially since boating accidents are far more complex than car accidents and may involve a number of third parties named as defendants. Additionally, regular personal injury attorneys are not usually well-versed in the Jones Act, Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act, or general maritime law. Working with an experienced Virginia maritime law firm that possesses this specific knowledge will prove to be important in winning your case.
Why Our Clients Choose Montagna Maritime
Montagna Law has a long and proven history of putting its clients first and providing them with a high level of accessibility to their lawyer. The attorney-client relationship is extremely important to us, and every member of our legal team will treat you well.
When you work with Montagna Law, you can expect your case to be hand-crafted by your attorney, with answers provided to your questions and consistent updates about your case. You are always welcome to call us with any concerns or inquiries. Our job is to be your advocate and support you in any way we can to help you move forward after your accident.
Let’s Get Your Case Underway Together
Suffering a maritime injury can have life-altering repercussions. It might feel frightening to have to face life in the immediate aftermath of an accident, not knowing what to do or who to turn to in getting help paying for your medical care, especially if you are put out of work.
The caring and compassionate Virginia injury lawyers at Montagna Law have a long and proven history when it comes to maritime accident cases, workers’ compensation law cases, and third-party claims.
Upon our initial meeting, we will provide you with a free consultation. Next, we will closely examine the details of the accident, identify at-fault parties, and begin to gather evidence. We will negotiate with the other side hard on your behalf, and if we cannot reach a resolution, we will prepare to go to court.
Our attorneys routinely represent injured workers and crews aboard dredges, barges, tugs, fishing vessels, container ships, and other types of vessels. We are thoroughly versed in maritime law and are equipped to assist in your injury case. Contact Montagna Maritime Law today at (877) 622-8100 or, if you prefer, by filling out our online contact form.