What Is General Maritime Law & Jurisdiction?
General maritime law is a body of U.S. law that has developed over time by the courts rather than by statute. It is rooted in history, court precedent, and judicial doctrine. At Montagna Maritime Law, our maritime attorneys are well versed in all of these areas and have successfully resolved hundreds of maritime law and personal injury claims for workers along the East Coast of the U.S.
General maritime law provides common law recourse for workers who have suffered an injury at sea and are unable to file a claim under a federal statute, such as the Jones Act or the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act. In these types of circumstances, general maritime law may provide a common law right of recovery.
What is General Maritime Law?
In our global economy, maritime trade is indispensable, and also one of the oldest forms of commerce. Every day, thousands of ships sail the seas, carrying large amounts of cargo from continent to continent.
As maritime trade has evolved, so too has the body of laws that apply to seamen, ship owners, and those who ship cargo by water. These laws are known as general maritime law.
General maritime laws were originally enacted to establish the rights of maritime workers long before the Jones Act or the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act were created. Its basic provisions ensure that maritime workers are given general living expenses and medical expenses after an injury, and that ship owners provide a safe work environment.
General maritime law doesn’t just cover injury, but also illnesses you come by on the job. Unlike the Jones Act, which stipulates your injury must be the result of unseaworthiness or negligence, under general maritime law the accident could be your fault or no one’s fault, and you could still be entitled to Maintenance and Cure.
Maintenance and Cure Benefits
Under general maritime law, an employer must provide an injured maritime work with Maintenance and Cure benefits until he/she is fit to work again or has reached Maximum Medical Improvement (MMI).
“Maintenance” refers to an employer’s duty to provide an injured worker with food and lodging while the seaman is off the vessel and not able to work because of injury or illness. “Cure” refers to doctors and hospital bills, diagnostic tests and scans, prescriptions, and rehabilitation and therapy.
You don’t have to prove fault to recover Maintenance and Cure. To file a claim, the same limitation periods apply as a Jones Act negligence claim.
Claims of Unseaworthiness
Under general maritime laws, a ship owner also has a duty to provide a seaworthy vessel that is properly maintained and equipped, and has a trained crew.
If your employer hasn’t provided a safe work environment, whether it’s a tugboat, fishing boat, or oil rig, and you’ve suffered an injury as a result, they could be liable for your injury.
Talk to an Experienced General Maritime Law Attorney
Suffering an injury while at work can be a stressful, confusing, and traumatic experience for anyone. Your employer might not be making the effort you expect to ensure your well-being. Often times, employers and insurers use underhanded techniques to get workers to settle their cases quickly. That’s why it’s important you speak to a knowledgeable maritime attorney who can advise you of your rights under general maritime law.
If you’ve been injured on the East Coast, call the skilled attorneys at Montagna Maritime Law to talk about your case. Our attorneys offer a high level of personal attention to each and every client, combined with extensive experience in the litigation of general maritime law. As an injured maritime worker who depends on your physical ability for your livelihood, it’s critical that you get the maximum compensation and benefits you’re entitled to under general maritime laws for you and your family.