History of Admiralty & Maritime Law
Admiralty law (also known as maritime law) governs the conduct of vessels
and incidents occurring at sea. Although most countries have their own
laws regarding maritime commerce, seamen, and the conveyance of passengers,
many aspects of admiralty law are recognized internationally through multilateral
treaties. As ships provided one of the earliest methods for transporting
goods over long distances, rules regulating shipping can be traced back
to the ancient Greeks in approximately 900 B.C.
The concept of a separate legal authority regulating maritime issues was
brought to the west by Eleanor of Aquitaine, who learned of the concept
when she accompanied her first husband King Louis VII of France to the
Mediterranean on the Second Crusade. The term
admiralty law came from the British admiralty courts, who presided over maritime matters
separately from England's common law courts. As the U.S. judicial system
is based on the British system, amended admiralty laws were gradually
incorporated into our legal system soon after the constitution was ratified.
Involving a Maritime Attorney
Maritime injury attorneys exist to help injured seamen or dock workers
get the compensation they need to recover from serious injuries and afford
long-term medical costs that occurred offshore. That includes any accidents
that occur on "navigable waters" (rivers and ocean) and in harbors or docks.
Our maritime lawyers have represented clients who were injured in:
- Jack-up rig accidents
- Barge accidents
- Deck accidents
- Commercial fishing accidents
- Tugboat accidents
- Cargo ship accidents
- Oil platform accidents
- Shipyard accidents
Our maritime attorneys represented more crew members of the
Deepwater Horizon and the
El Faro than any other law firm. We not only understand maritime law, but the
practices and culture of maritime employers. Speak with us to discuss
your case so we can go over your legal and financial options.
Features of Admiralty Law
- The right of a rescuer to claim a Marine Salvage award for recovering property
lost at sea.
- The right for creditors and seamen who are owed wages to have a Maritime
Lien against a vessel as a security interest to ensure they are paid.
The duty for ship owners to provide reasonable care to passengers.
- If negligence results in a passenger injury, suit may be brought against
the shipowner just as if the injury had occurred on land.
The benefit of maintenance and cure, which requires ship owners to care
for injured crew.
- Maintenance obligates ship owners to provide seamen with basic living expenses
until they can return to work. Cure obligates ship owners to provide free
medical care—even if that care is long-term or permanent until an
injured seaman reaches the state of maximum medical cure (i.e., returned
as close as medically possible to the condition the seaman was in before
Jurisdiction in Maritime Law Cases
In the U.S., jurisdiction over admiralty law matters was originally given
to the federal courts. However, today most admiralty cases can be heard
by both state and federal courts under the saving to suitors clause in
Title 28 of the United States Code (28 U.S.C. § 1333). The exception
to this is any matter involving maritime property; those cases may only
be tried in federal court. If a state court presides over an admiralty
case, the court is required to apply admiralty or maritime law rather
than its state law.
How Does Maritime Law Provide for Hurt Workers?
Without maritime law, injured seamen would be left on their own to counteract
suffering they sustained while working. Anytime a ship employee becomes
injured or sick, the vessel owner is required to reimburse their losses.
Maritime law refers to this reimbursement as maintenance and cure, meaning
that until the seaman fully recovers, the employer must provide for their
affliction. The court views this obligation as an unquestionable duty
that the shipowner owes any seaman aboard their vessel. Seamen are also
eligible to recover full wages for the length of the voyage during which
they sustained injuries or illness. An employment contract may dictate
the amount of unearned wages a seaman can receive.
Provisions for Maintenance & Cure
Maintenance and cure refer to the benefits a seaman is entitled to until he/she recovers and
is fit for duty. However, there is a maximum medical improvement (MMI)
limit that can control the amount of compensation received.
Because many ship owners are loathe to pay the highest amount possible,
they either follow old rates (from $15 to $35 a day) or regulate cure
benefits by hand-picking covered medical treatments. The U.S. Supreme
Court states the duty to provide maintenance and cure must be broad and
inclusive. In the case of compensation, the seaman is almost always favored
when skepticism is involved.
Recovering Full Costs for Maritime & Offshore Accidents
Following a serious accident, injured seamen may face a host of costs.
These do not only have an immediate impact but can affect them for many
years to come. In almost all cases, the immediate effects are obvious
in the inability to work, steep bills, and the pain and suffering associated
with the injury or illness. Even the future costs of rehabilitation are
often well-known. However, it is not always easy to see what the future
costs of an injury will be. In some cases, the individual may require
lifelong medical attention or may eventually pass away from the side effects.
For this reason, it is crucial that the injured and their family recover
just damages for the injury under maritime law.
Consider these costs that could result from a maritime injury or death
of a seaman:
- Long-term rehabilitation
- In-home care
- Lost wages and earning capacity
- Emotional and financial counseling
- Vocational rehabilitation
Maritime Injuries: Do You Know Your Rights?
After an accident, one of the most important things you can do is to ensure
all of your needs are met: medically, legally, emotionally, and financially.
However, this can be difficult.
Therefore, it is important to keep in mind a few issues that could be compromised.
you have the legal right to select your doctor. Never feel obligated to choose the doctor's office or attending physician
your business or insurance company may be pushing on you. Often, you will
need to see the recommended doctor for an evaluation, but this is the
extent of your obligation. Who you choose for treatment is up to you and
should not be threatened by any employer or adjuster you may be working
with in regards to your case.
you are entitled to medical treatment. The provision of medical benefits is protected under the Jones Act, so
injured maritime workers need not worry about being compensated for recovery.
This is true regardless of who may be at fault for the accident. Furthermore,
the Jones Act protects injured seamen who may be given differing opinions
This means that if one doctor recommends treatment while another claims
it is not necessary, the disagreement will be resolved in favor of treatment.
Unfortunately, many injured seamen have not been hurt for the first time.
However, if a pre-existing condition is aggravated, then employers will
be obligated to ensure that adequate coverage is provided. All that will
be needed is an evidentiary statement made by your doctor on your behalf.
You are entitled to medical benefits and financial maintenance payments,
whether or not you sign paperwork brought forth by an insurance adjuster.
In fact, it is in your best interests to be cautious of any documents
brought to you by an insurance adjuster; these often don't have your safety
and well-being as a priority. As such, you should be hesitant to sign
any paperwork under the condition that medical benefits and/or maintenance
payments rely on a signature.
you are not required to give a recorded statement after any sort of accident and/or injury. Of course, reporting the incident
as quickly as possible is a crucial step of the process; however, attention
must be paid to the fact that many accidents can affect the memory and
mental functioning of an injured person. Therefore, it is unwise to record
a statement of events that may later need to be adjusted—a process
that can prove to be quite difficult.
From the initial filing of a claim to the preparation and proceedings of
a court case, there are a number of instances in which your rights can
be compromised. Unsympathetic employers and insurance companies care little,
if at all, about the well-being of injured employees. Therefore, is it
imperative to seek legal representation from an attorney who does care
about the future of your health and well-being.
Maritime Law as It Applies to Employers
Under general maritime law, ship owners are required to keep their vessels
maintained per a certain standard.
As the employer and owner, the vessel holder must preserve the safety and
structure of the ship in a way appropriate for all employees on board.
Manning, equipping, and supplying the vessel are all key aspects of a
ship owner's duty per maritime law. Subsequently, if an employee of the
vessel becomes injured or ill due to a ship’s unseaworthiness, the
owner will be held accountable for any loss.
Why Do I Need to Hire a Houston Maritime Injury Lawyer?
If you are not ready to consider litigation, you should still consult with
an experienced Texas maritime attorney to discuss your claim. In many
instances, your company may ask you to sign an agreement or release in
exchange for payment of unearned wages, maintenance, or medical benefits.
It is imperative that you have any documents you are given reviewed by
a competent Houston maritime injury attorney before signing so you do
not waive any of your rights to recovery.
Perhaps the most important reason you need a lawyer is that employers and
insurance companies have teams of lawyers representing them. Their goal
is to dispose of your claim as cheaply as possible. The only way to level
the playing field with your employer or the insurance company is to have
an experienced attorney representing your interests. As an injured employee,
you are new to the process, whereas your employer, his insurer, and their
attorneys deal with these cases on a regular basis. It is critical to
the outcome of your claim that you have a team who regularly handles maritime
The Benefit of Hiring a Texas Maritime Attorney for Your Case
An experienced maritime lawyer can review your case's facts and determine
your best legal options.
They will do this by examining the following:
- Your worker status at the time of injury
- The seaworthiness of the vessel you were working on
- The timeframe for bringing a claim
- All other factors that may have contributed to your injury
Another reason you may benefit from hiring a lawyer is that they know how
to deal with offshore companies. On your own, you may feel like you have
no hope. After all, you're just one person, and your company is likely
an established corporation that knows how to handle injury cases.
There is no reason why you can't have aggressive representation as well.
You may feel as if any attorney will do, but if you are an offshore worker,
you and your company are bound to a specific set of laws called maritime
law or admiralty law. You need a lawyer who is well versed in this specific
and specialized area of the law if you want to get the full amount of
compensation that you are entitled to.
Maritime Law FAQ
What Is Maritime Law?
Maritime law is one of the oldest sets of rules used to protect offshore
workers before the Jones Act, Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation
Act, and the Death on the High Seas act. It provides basic provisions
that make sure workers are provided with maintenance and cure after an injury.
What Is Maintenance & Cure?
Maintenance and cure describes the cost of living (maintenance) and the
medical expenses (cure) that an offshore worker needs after an accident.
For decades, maritime law has required vessel owners to ensure that injured
workers receive maintenance and cure after sustaining an injury.
What Type of Compensation Do I Qualify for After My Offshore Injuries?
This depends on what type of job you were performing during your injury
and what laws govern it. Some workers will be entitled to compensation
under the Jones Act while others might qualify for recovery with the Longshore
and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act. Defining what workers qualifies
for assistance from these laws is not always simple. Speaking with our
offshore injury lawyers during a free consultation is the best way to
discover your options.
Our Texas Maritime Lawyers Can Help: Call (888) 493-1629!
At Arnold & Itkin, we have seen all too often how maritime injuries
occur not only in the Gulf of Mexico but also in our inland waterways
and around the globe. For this reason, we remain wholly committed to helping
injured workers and their families recover just compensation. We believe
what we do is about more than just money.We work tirelessly to see that
our clients recover not only financially, but physically, emotionally,
Our team is dedicated to helping the individuals who have suffered from
life-changing injuries recover the compensation they need for past, current,
and future costs. Armed with years of experience, we have a unique perspective
in our approach, and we can work toward helping our clients receive the
compensation that they need to pay for the long-term costs.
If you believe you have a case that falls under maritime law,
contact our firm. During your free consultation, you can get your questions answered
and learn how our experience can benefit you.
"They are great lawyers. They are lawyers with integrity. To me, they
mean family. They are my new friends now. It’s always good to have
good friend, but a friend like Arnold & Itkin…I would want
them to be in my corner now and I thank God for them."