Understanding the distinction between maritime law and personal injury law is critical when charting your course of action after a marine accident. Maritime law governs incidents and issues arising on navigable waters.

On the other hand, there’s personal injury law, which operates a bit differently, focusing on acts of negligence occurring on land resulting in physical or psychological harm. Such cases can stem from car accidents, slip and falls, defective products, and more. The governing laws depend on what state the accident occurred in.

Both types of law center around securing compensation for injuries but differ quite a bit when it comes to the specifics.

Personal Injury Law Specifics

Personal injury law allows an injured individual to seek compensation when someone else’s wrongful conduct leads to their harm. This area of the legal system is designed to protect individuals from the harmful acts (or failures to act) of others. Here’s what must be proven to be successful in a personal injury claim:

Duty: The defendant owed a legal duty of care under certain circumstances. For example, drivers have a duty to drive safely and avoid taking actions that will injure others on the road.

Breach: There was a breach in this duty through some kind action or lack thereof on the part of the defendant. In the driving example, this could be a driver speeding or texting and driving.

Cause: This breach caused the plaintiff’s injuries. If a driver is speeding and runs a red light, causing an accident, this is clear causation. 

Damages: The plaintiff suffered losses, like medical expenses, property damage, and pain and suffering.

If this is proven, the victim can collect compensation from the responsible party.

Maritime Law Specifics

One of the defining features of maritime law is its use of federal statutes as opposed to state laws. This applies because these incidents occur not within any particular state’s jurisdiction, but on navigable waters. Common issues governed by maritime law include the following:

Employee Accidents: These laws oversee injury cases involving seafarers including sailors or deckhands onboard a ship, longshoremen working near dock areas, as well as port workers handling vessel loading and unloading processes.

Passenger Injuries: Maritime accidents could also entail injuries sustained by passengers while aboard a vessel— cruise ships for instance.

Damage to or Loss of Vessels/Cargo: In the event a vessel is damaged or sunk, maritime law governs. 

Maritime Insurance Contracts: Disputes arising from insurance contract claims for vessels (or their cargo) are within the purview of this domain too.

The Jones Act and Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act (LHWCA)

The Jones Act and the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act (LHWCA) are primary pillars of maritime law offering protection for workers’ rights. 

The Jones Act 

Designed to protect employees classified as seamen, The Jones Act essentially allows injured seamen to bring personal injury claims against their employers. It requires proof of negligence by an employer or co-worker, or proof that the vessel was unseaworthy. 

The definition of ‘vessel’ within this law is wide-ranging, stretching from shipping boats and oil rigs right through jack-up barges. However, to be eligible for a claim under this law, workers must spend at least 30% of their work time aboard the vessel.

The Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act

The Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act ensures compensation to maritime employees who aren’t covered under the Jones Act or any state workers’ compensation legislation. This act applies especially to those located on docks, terminals, piers, harbors, or dry dock facilities.

The LHWCA is essentially equivalent to no-fault state workers’ compensation laws where there isn’t any requirement for an affected worker to demonstrate employer negligence to secure eligible benefits.

While maritime and personal injury law both seek to offer compensation for injuries and losses, their application varies significantly. Given the complexities involved in each type of case, it’s critical to reach out to a lawyer with specialized experience in the relevant area of law. For help with a maritime injury or a personal injury, we’re here to help. Contact us to schedule a free consultation.