When do you need a maritime lawyer?
Act quickly after any boating accident and speak to a maritime lawyer about your next steps.
A maritime law attorney is a lawyer who handles cases dealing with ships and accidents or disputes at sea. Maritime or “Admiralty” lawyers handle a wide range of legal areas and many different types of cases, from maritime and commercial disputes to ship labor disputes to casualty and injury cases.
For the average person, your encounter with the law of the sea is often in the event of an accident or injury on a boat or other vessel. The law of the sea can even apply to lakes and rivers, as you are sailing on “navigable waters”. If you have been injured on a boat or at sea, you should refer your case to a marine lawyer specifically rather than a “normal” personal injury attorney.
When to hire a maritime injury attorney
Marine injury attorneys handle injury cases from a variety of different types of accidents. Any boating accident or injury on board a boat can result in marine injury incidents if they occur in “navigable waters”. This means your case may be governed by the law of the sea, rather than the specific state laws in which the violations occurred. Maritime cases are often handled by maritime attorneys who typically require additional training and certification to qualify as maritime attorneys.
Crashes between two boats – or boat accidents caused by crashes into docks, pillars, or rocks – can cause serious injury. Boats don’t have brakes, so accidents often happen at high speeds and can throw passengers and crew on deck, bump them into bulkheads, or even throw them overboard.
High speed flat boating at Skippers Canyon near Queenstown, New Zealand; Image by Shahid Kazi via Unsplash.com.
Accidents with party boats, ferries, yachts, or even speed boats and fishing boats can result in serious injuries. A boating accident attorney can help these victims get the compensation they need.
Injuries on cruise ships
Cruise ship attorneys often make claims against large cruise lines for passenger injury and illness. Slip and fall injuries on deck and other injuries from unsafe hazards are particularly common. Other incredibly common causes of injury include assault or sexual assault by a crew member, food poisoning, and injuries from over-served guests in bars and restaurants on board the ship.
Cruise ship injuries can also include injuries from excursions such as bus tours, helicopter tours, snorkeling trips, and surfing tours. As long as the excursion was departing from the ship or operated by a company that is a subsidiary of the cruise line, the accidents and injuries could be the fault of the cruise line.
Injuries to the crew and seafarers
If you work on a container ship, barge, oil rig, fishing boat, tugboat, or other commercial boat or vessel, you may already be familiar with some aspects of the law of the sea. The Jones Act, one of the fundamental laws of the United States of America, gives injured crew members and seafarers the opportunity to sue their employer or the shipowner for accidents on board a ship. This can often help victims get compensation if the ship was unseaworthy or if accidents while on the job resulted in serious injuries. The families of deceased crew members and ship workers may also hold the employer or ship owner responsible for the fatal injuries of their loved ones.
When do you need a lawyer for a marine accident case?
Many injury victims grapple with questions such as how early to hire a lawyer and how long to wait before filing a case or consulting an attorney about their injuries. Remember that timing is generally up to you, but there are some strict legal limits that will affect your case and some important considerations to keep in mind.
How long do I have to file a marine injury case?
Technically, you don’t have to pursue an injury case after an accident. However, if you fail to do so, you are likely responsible for your own damages and medical bills, even if someone else would have been otherwise liable. Nor is it required that you have to work with a lawyer, but defendants handling their own cases per se are subject to the same standards as lawyers. Without the training and experience of an experienced maritime injury attorney by your side, your case could be at risk.
The law of the sea gives victims 3 years from the date of the violation to make their claims. This means that before you run out of time, you should speak to an attorney at the latest who has enough time to schedule meetings, review your case, and get the papers in for you.
In some cases, your passenger ticket for a boat trip or cruise may include terms that allow you a shorter period of time to submit your case. Speak to an attorney early on to make sure you don’t miss the deadline.
How early should I call a maritime lawyer?
While waiting until you have a few months left may be easier for you, it is better to be proactive and speak to an attorney as early as possible. Speaking to a lawyer the same day you were injured or within a few business days can help them get your case under control. Your attorney can oversee the collection of evidence, send letters to hold evidence (such as surveillance cameras), and help keep track of your expenses and coordinate your care to aid in the loss calculation. It is important to give your lawyer more time to build your case, especially with complex cases or cases that involve many different parties.
In the event of an accident, the offending party can send representatives to speak to you. Especially if you’ve been injured on a cruise or on a transport like a ferry, customer service teams, insurance companies, and even lawyers can contact you early on to get you to drop your case or come to a hasty settlement. Having an attorney with you can protect your case, protect your rights, and prevent you from accepting a low-ball settlement offer.
Act quickly to protect your rights
If you file an injury case too late, you may lose the opportunity to receive full compensation. Act quickly after any boating accident and speak to a maritime lawyer about your next steps. Maritime law attorneys get calls for boat injury cases all the time, and no one expects you to know how the law of the sea works, or if your case is right for a maritime lawyer, before asking. The best way to find out is to call and set up legal advice to see if a maritime lawyer can help with your case.