How Is Maritime Law Different from Personal Injury Law?
July 11, 2022
If you are injured in an accident on the water or on a vessel, you may decide to pursue a personal injury claim against the party or parties whose negligence caused the accident. However, most injury cases that arise on a vessel or on the water are governed by maritime law rather than a state’s personal injury laws. Maritime law can differ significantly from personal injury law. This makes it important to seek out the assistance of an attorney with experience in maritime law cases to help you with your injury claim. Not every personal injury attorney will have the knowledge, experience, and resources necessary to navigate a maritime accident case. When you have such a case, you should also speak to a maritime lawyer to better understand how maritime law differs from personal injury law, which laws may apply to your case, and what legal rights and options you may have under the applicable law.
What Is Personal Injury Law?
Personal injury law encompasses the case law and statutes that govern the rights of victims to recover compensation after being injured because of the negligence, recklessness, or willful acts of another party, or the right to recover compensation under strict liability. Personal injury can provide financial compensation for losses incurred due to physical injury or damage to reputation or emotional well-being. Common examples of the types of cases covered by personal injury law include:
- Motor vehicle accidents
- Boat, train, or plane accidents
- Slip/trip and fall accidents
- Defective product accidents
- Premises liability accidents
- Medical malpractice
- Construction accidents
- Workplace accidents
- Assault and battery
What Is Maritime Law?
Conversely, maritime law, or admiralty law, is concerned with legal issues and disputes that arise on navigable waters, the high seas, or in maritime facilities such as harbors, docks, ports, or shipyards. This not only includes injuries or property damage that may arise in the maritime context, but also other issues like safety regulations, contracts, legal rights to enter waters or ports, and insurance for vessels and cargo. Maritime cases may involve:
- Injuries suffered by maritime workers, such as seamen, longshoremen, dock/port workers, or shipyard workers, including workers’ compensation claims of maritime workers
- Injuries suffered by passengers on a vessel
- Damage to or loss of vessels or cargo
- Claims against maritime insurance contracts
Maritime Law vs. Personal Injury Law
Although it can cover personal injuries, maritime law has many significant differences from personal injury law. First, personal injury law arises under the law of each state in the U.S. For example, if you are injured in an accident in California that was caused by someone else’s legal fault, your personal injury claim will be governed by California law. However, maritime law is exclusively a matter of federal law. Thus, if you have a legal claim that falls under maritime law, any state laws that would otherwise govern your claim are superseded by federal maritime law. For example, while workplace injuries would normally be covered by a state’s workers’ compensation law, injuries suffered by maritime workers are instead governed by maritime injury laws, such as the Jones Act or the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act.
Because personal injury law is a state law matter, you normally would file a personal injury lawsuit in state court (usually the state where you were injured), although in certain circumstances you may also have the option of filing your personal injury lawsuit in federal court. Conversely, maritime laws must be filed in federal court. State courts and federal courts have different sets of rules and procedures that must be followed. Failing to follow a court’s rules and procedures can lead to the dismissal of a case.
Why You Should Turn to a Maritime Law Attorney Instead of a Personal Injury Lawyer
Due to the specialized nature of maritime law, you may not get the best legal representation from any injury attorney if you were injured in a maritime accident. Instead, a maritime lawyer will have the knowledge of federal laws and experience in federal courts necessary to vigorously pursue your legal rights. Having an attorney that specializes in maritime law may be key to ensuring the success of your claim. Some of the ways that hiring a maritime accident lawyer can benefit you include:
- A maritime lawyer will have a full understanding of how injury claims are governed under federal maritime law as opposed to state personal injury laws. This means that your attorney can more accurately advise you as to your legal rights and options in your injury case, including determining whether maritime law or state injury law applies to your case.
- A maritime accident attorney will also have the experience necessary to thoroughly investigate your case to recover the evidence that will be needed to build a strong, persuasive argument on your behalf.
- A maritime lawyer will have experience negotiating with big companies that are frequently involved in maritime accident cases, such as shipowners, shipping companies, passenger ship operators, port/harbor/dock operators, and shipyards.
- If your case needs to go to court, a maritime law attorney will also be experienced in shepherding cases through the federal court system if your case must be filed in federal court (as many maritime law cases are required to be), having knowledge of federal court rules and procedures including the special rules applicable to admiralty cases.
Reach Out to The Law Offices of Preston Easley for a Free Case Evaluation to Discuss How a Maritime Law Attorney from Our Firm Can Make the Difference in Your Case
If you have an injury claim that is governed by maritime law, you need an experienced maritime attorney to ensure that you fully understand your rights and that your interests are properly looked after. Contact The Law Offices of Preston Easley today for a free, no-obligation consultation to speak with a maritime accident attorney from our firm to get a better sense of your legal options in your case.