Working on, or near, large bodies of water can be dangerous and risky. If you happen to get injured, or a business deal sours, it’s important to know who to turn to and who’s the best in the maritime legal field.
Maritime Law, which is also known as Admiralty Law, covers offenses in navigational waters which are used to travel for profitable use (i.e. king crab boats) or for transportation. This area of law covers the owners of vessels, employees, and customers.
It’s a good idea to have a lawyer or firm already on your speed dial before you embark on a cruise or begin working in commercial fishing or ocean travel. An experienced maritime legal firm can help you with any legal matters which may arise while on the sea.
Each maritime attorney specializes in certain claims and specific areas of maritime law, and it can be confusing if you’re not familiar with the terminology. To understand which lawyer to choose, you must know which of the following categories your intended legal action may fall into:
- Personal Injury
- Products Liability
- Workers Compensation
- Commercial and Contract
Products liability is when the manufacturer, operator, suppliers, and/or retailer’s products result in injury or faulty equipment. The party at-fault will be held responsible.
According to Texas Maritime Law, ‘ship owners and cruise lines’ are the typical targets of products liability claims.
Personal injury is the result of a physical injury or death of a person who is not an employee. A successful maritime lawyer can help you navigate negligence, personal injury and wrongful death claims.
Workers compensation is when an employee is injured on the job.
There are two types of workers compensation under maritime law; those who are classified as “seamen,” and those who work on, or near, the water. A maritime lawyer who specializes in workers compensation will be able to successfully classify if you are considered a seaman, or under the care of the Long Shore Act, and take further action against your employer.
Commercial and contract protects the ships and owners from the companies who hire them. If you’re an owner of a ship, are hired by another company and there’s a breach of contract, a maritime lawyer who specializes in this field will be able to help you take legal action against the company who hired you, and the ship or vessel you work on.
As soon as you’re able to classify which category your claim falls into, the next step is how to recognize and hire good lawyer.
Most maritime lawyers work individually, but some will be a partner in a firm. A lawyer who guarantees good customer service is the first quality you want to look for.
Working near the water, or on ships and vessels, it can be difficult to find the time to adequately communicate with your attorney. You’ll need a lawyer who is quick to respond to calls and inquiries. Time won’t be wasted with fast and effective communication.
Every lawyer is going to need proof that your injury occurred where and when you stated it did, and an injury report must be filed immediately, clearly stating everything that happened in fine detail.
Receiving immediate medical care will back up your claim as well. If you’re claiming an injury occurred, waiting longer than a few hours after it happens is inadvisable. However, if you’re not able to stake your claim, legal action and filing with a lawyer needs to transpire within seven days of injury. After seven days, a lawyer will be unable to help you.
Next, you’ll want to research the lawyer or company you plan to hire, if you haven’t already. An experienced professional with an excellent reputation is important while your future career and health are on the line.
Consider the following questions when looking to hire a maritime attorney:
- How long have they been in practice?
- What is their track record?
- Do they seem interested in your case?
- Do they answer your questions patiently?
- Are they easy to contact, and do they return your correspondence quickly?
- How will they be compensated?
Furthermore, your initial consultation should be free. Some law firms also work on a contingency fee basis, which means you only pay them if you receive compensation for your claim. Research the firm, and the lawyer, and make sure you’re comfortable with what they can provide for you.
If you’re ever injured while working or cruising on or near the water, make sure you understand that your claim will be covered under maritime law, and that you’ll need the help of an experienced and dedicated maritime law attorney.