The basics of maritime accidents

If you have been injured while working on a ship or other seagoing vessel, you may be wondering how the law will apply to you and your employer.

Maritime law comes into play when injuries or accidents occur aboard ships. It applies to the relationship between individuals or businesses that participate in maritime activities. The law includes everyone involved from passengers and ship workers to ship operators. Cases that are governed by maritime law are most often settled in federal court.

Owner's responsibility

It is the responsibility of owners and operators to provide proper safety aboard their vessels. The ship must be seaworthy and crewed by enough trained workers to maintain that safety. Even if the vessel is appropriately crewed and maintained, under maritime law, the owner may still be responsible if a crewmember or passenger becomes ill or injured.

Ship workers' rights

While at sea, if a worker becomes ill or is injured, the owners and operators of the vessel must provide a proper level of care, treatment and compensation. If a worker is not provided these things, then the owner or operator may be in violation of maritime law.

A worker that is injured while in service of a ship is entitled to free medical care provided by the owner. In addition to treatment, the owner is also required to pay for pain medication, disability aids and living expenses during the worker's healing process.

If a ship owner does not provide these things and the worker is forced to sue, maritime law also allows the worker to recover legal fees from the owner.

Duty to operate a seaworthy vessel

Under maritime law, the ship owner or operator must maintain a seaworthy vessel. Not only must the work environment be reasonable safe but all parts must properly function. In addition, the ship is required to be adequately staffed by a qualified crew.

The Jones Act

The Jones Act made maritime law a federal obligation that is applicable to seamen, sailors and ship workers that spend more than 51 percent of their time aboard a ship in navigable waters. It provides protection for these workers if they are injured or become ill while on the water, regardless of who was at fault.

If you have been injured while working aboard a ship, it is important to understand your rights and the obligations of the ship owner. For advice concerning such a case, contact an attorney experienced with maritime law.