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Injured Workers’ Guide to Maritime Law Terms

During the course of your maritime injury claim, you may encounter words or phrases that are unfamiliar. Knowing the definitions of these legal terms may help you better understand the progression of your case.

Below is a user-friendly guide to the terms most commonly used in a maritime injury claim:

  • Admiralty law – Refers to any contracts, injuries, torts (civil legal actions) or other offenses taking place on navigable waters. This term has the same functional definition as maritime law.
  • Alternative dispute resolution – A non-litigation method of resolving a conflict. Examples of alternative dispute resolution include arbitration and mediation. A lawyer may represent your best interests in the course of an alternative dispute resolution.
  • Alternative dispute resolution – A non-litigation method of resolving a conflict. Examples of alternative dispute resolution include arbitration and mediation. A lawyer may represent your best interests in the course of an alternative dispute resolution.
  • Answer – The defendant’s written response to your initial court filing (the complaint). This typically will provide an alternate version of events, such as denying certain facts or offering a different timeline in which events took place.
  • Appeal – A formal, written petition submitted to a higher court. This document makes a request to reverse or otherwise modify another court’s earlier decision.
  • Arbitration – A process of alternative dispute resolution in which both sides present their case to an arbitrator or arbitration panel. This is a private process, as opposed to a courtroom trial and typically has a much shorter timeframe than traditional litigation.
  • Comparative negligence – A system of determining liability in which the court or jury considers the actions of both the defendant and the plaintiff in causing the accident. A defendant who contributed in some degree to his or her accident will have his or her final settlement or award reduced in direct correlation to the percentage of fault.
  • Complaint (otherwise known as causes of action) – The official documents filed with the court in initiating your lawsuit. You (as the plaintiff) will file the complaint against your employer or insurance company (the defendant).
  • Damages – This term may refer to the injuries and losses you suffered as a result of an accident. It may also refer to the money you recover in a successful lawsuit.
  • Discovery – A pre-trial process in which each party to a lawsuit may question opposing parties and witnesses. This stage typically includes requests for evidence and allows each side to evaluate the strength of all respective sides.
  • Mediation – An informal process of conflict resolution in which both sides agree to meet with an impartial third party who attempts to facilitate an agreement.
  • Pain and suffering – A quantification of the subjective value of physical and emotional injuries. This often factors into the final value of a claim.
  • Statute of limitations – The legally mandated time limit in which you must take legal action after an accident or injury. The statute of limitations varies by state, case type and other factors.
  • Jones Act – A set of federal laws protecting maritime workers in the event of a workplace accident. A Jones Act worker enjoys certain protections, including the right to recover compensation for medical injuries and lost income. Further, the Jones Act gives injured employees the right to directly file a lawsuit against the employer who is liable for their injuries. This stands in contrast to a workers’ compensation claim, which forbids a worker from bringing action against an employer. In this way, Jones Act workers enjoy special rights and protections not held by employees in non-maritime industries.
  • Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act (LHWCA) – A federal law providing benefits for workers who sustain injury while on the job. The act covers land-based maritime employees, such as: crane operators; dock workers; harbor workers; repairmen; forklift operators; longshoremen; and any other land-based maritime worker responsible for loading, unloading or otherwise assisting with the operations of a vessel. Injured workers covered under the LHWCA receive benefits similar to those provided by workers’ compensation. This includes money to address medical injuries and lost income. Workers must meet certain criteria to qualify for payment of benefits. For example, a worker who intentionally causes an injury will be ineligible for LHWCA benefits.
  • Maritime law – Those laws pertaining to any actions or injuries occurring on navigable waters. Maritime law applies in cases where a vessel is involved or a maritime worker is injured in the course of his or her job duties. (See also: admiralty law.)
  • Seaman – This term generally refers to a person who enjoys protection under maritime law and/or the Jones Act. The definition of a seaman generally refers to a worker who is permanently assigned to a vessel and who spends at least 30 percent of his or her workable hours on the vessel. The term may also be used to refer to the plaintiff in a maritime injury or Jones Act claim.
  • Seaworthiness – A vessel is considered seaworthy only if it is well maintained, safe and in good working condition. The failure to provide a seaworthy vessel is a violation of the Jones Act. An employer who requires maritime employees to work and/or live aboard an unseaworthy vessel has committed an act of negligence and may be liable in the event of an accident or injury.
  • Transportation Worker Identification Credential (TWIC) – A mandatory form of identification granting maritime employees access to secured ports and vessels.

Learn more about maritime injury claims by ordering a free informational package that includes a guide to “Understanding Your Offshore Injury.” This toolkit also includes two additional informational CDs. If you’re ready to take action, schedule a free case evaluation by calling 866-715-3664.

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