Understanding the Challenges Associated with Maritime Accident Lawsuits
Anyone who has been injured in a maritime accident has found out firsthand (or is about to) how difficult these cases can be. Maritime lawsuits are very different, in terms of the relevant laws and processes, from your typical personal injury claim or workers’ comp claim. Today, we’ll look at why these cases are so challenging, what challenges you’ll have to face, and how you can do so with the greatest chance of a positive outcome.
Factors of Maritime Admiralty Law that Create Challenges for Accident Victims
Most challenges associated with Maritime law (or Admiralty law) are related to the various factors that come into play in these cases, which you don’t generally have to deal with in other personal injury or workers’ compensation cases. There is actually a particular set of laws that relate to such accidents, which involve anyone who can be classified as a harbor worker, a seaman, or a longshoreman in Alabama. Among this set of laws, you’ll find the Jones Act, the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act, The Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act, and the Death on the High Seas Act. Naturally, you don’t see laws like this in other cases.
Which Maritime Laws Apply To Your Case?
To start sorting through the details of your case and which laws might apply, let’s look at some of the different acts that may come into play, as mentioned above. The Jones Act addresses any injuries that occur on the job for seamen who spend at least 30% of their work hours on a boat. This act applies to any case where employer negligence caused your injuries.
The Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act is there to protect maritime workers who do not spend at least 30% of their work hours on a boat, and thus, do not qualify as seamen. These are the workers who are employed in positions in harbors and shipyards, for example. This act does not force the victim to prove negligence.
Those who work on structures in the continental shelf regions, such as oil rig workers, are protected by the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act. The act is necessary to address any injuries to such workers because they do not meet the requirements to be covered as seamen or as longshore and harbor workers.
Then, there are those who lose a loved one to a maritime workplace accident. If you are in this category, as someone who has lost a family member to such an incident, then the Death on the High Seas Act allows you to seek compensation for the associated damages and expenses.
Do You Meet the Requirements to File a Maritime Lawsuit in Alabama?
It is important to be aware that these acts will only apply to your case if you actually meet the requirements to file a maritime lawsuit in Alabama. These requirements include your official classification, how much time you spent on the boat or vessel, and whether or not it was actually a navigable vessel, just to name a few examples.
Your classification refers to whether or not you are actually a maritime worker. If you are classified as a maritime worker, then you are covered by maritime laws. This doesn’t mean that you have to be a sailor or seaman, as other occupations are also classified as maritime workers. These include anyone who works on navigable vessel, including the cooks, bartenders, and musicians on a boat or ship. Further, as mentioned above, there are acts to cover those who work on oil rigs and other structures and acts for those who work on the harbors.
The next thing to look at is how much time you spent on the vessel, as is important in the Jones Act, for example. Typically, if at least 30% of your work hours are spent on the vessel, you meet this requirement to be able to file a maritime lawsuit in Alabama.
Finally, you have to be working on a navigable vessel, meaning that the vessel is capable of making voyages (aside from those who are covered by the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act). Thus, if you are working on a vessel that is not navigable in the water, you may not have a case.
Challenges Associated With the Process of Filing a Maritime Lawsuit
Some of the challenges associated with the actual process of filing a maritime lawsuit, once you’ve established that you meet the requirements to do so, include the documentation required, the statute of limitations in your case, the necessity of proving negligence, the various mistakes that an injury victim might make, and the appeals process.
So, the first of these issues is the documentation that is required to prove that the accident occurred, how the accident occurred, what forms of injuries you sustained, what medical treatment was needed, the cost of that treatment, and more. This will involve having records of all details that are relevant to your case, and this can be challenging when you don’t keep adequate records in an organized manner. Without the necessary documentation, you may fail to have your case heard at all or end up delaying the process.
Next, you have to look at the statute of limitations, which is especially relevant in those cases where the process is delayed through a lack of documentation. The statute of limitations is a limit on the time that you have to file a lawsuit. You will need to take action and start the process as soon as you can because the statute of limitations is only three years from the date of injury, in most cases, and even shorter in other cases.
Then, there is the issue of proving negligence on the part of an employer. While this is not required in your typical workers’ compensation case, maritime lawsuits are different. Your employer may deny liability by saying that you caused the incident that resulted in injuries. It can be very challenging to prove negligence, and this creates a hurdle for many cases.
Furthermore, when you have a valid maritime injury lawsuit, it is very easy to make mistakes that can ruin the whole thing. If you fail to file an accident report with your employer, you’ll have a hard time proving that the accident occurred. If you don’t seek medical treatment right away, you may not be able to prove that the work accident caused the injury. You can further harm your case by answering questions about the case without an attorney.
In many cases, your claim might be initially denied, even though it is valid and you are entitled to compensation. This is where the appeals process comes in. This will involve a lot of time and work, involving various motions being filed and arguments on both sides.
Minimize the Challenges of a Maritime Lawsuit with a Skilled Attorney
While this advice can help you get through the challenges of a maritime lawsuit in Alabama, it is important to seek out a skilled Alabama maritime accident attorney to get the best possible outcome with the least difficulty. Contact Charles McCorquodale Law for a free consultation.