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Maritime Laws: What You Need to Know

by | May 22, 2024 | Personal Injury


Everyone enjoys spending time at the beach or by the sea. Many people fantasize about sailing on a ship at least once in their lives. Both working and traveling at sea are dangerous, and no matter how many safeguards are taken, accidents are certain to occur.

Do you know what laws exist to defend your rights in the event of an accident or injury at sea? We’ll look at the maritime laws and regulations in-depth to learn about your rights and the parts where you must file a lawsuit for your injuries.

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What Are Maritime Laws?

Maritime laws, also called admiralty laws, are referred to as a system of law and regulations used to solve the issues related to the sea and ships. It is a private law that deals with the shipping industry. It determines the rights of seamen. The maritime laws cover solutions for seamen accidents or injury, passenger injury, and fisherman injuries.

Maritime laws are distinct from the laws of the sea. It is used to protect the rights of seamen when they get an injury at the time of work like other laws. This law provides the chance to file a claim under various maritime laws. The origins of these laws and codes can be traced back to ancient nautical conventions and rules. To file the maritime lawsuit, make sure you have all the below details.

  • Keep the shreds of evidence of your injury or illness
  • Keep all the medical expenses details
  • Write the details of the witness
  • Proof of employer’s negligence

When a maritime worker is injured, there are several sorts of maritime laws that can be used to establish a claim for compensation. It is according to the place where the injury occurred and the circumstances and surroundings.

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A cruise ship is deemed to be on international seas whenever it travels more than 24 miles off the coast of any given country. It means that the flag under which the ship is sailing determines the laws controlling offenses on board. Maritime laws for cruise ships apply if an accident or injury occurs to the person in the vessel.

Types of Maritime Laws

The list of maritime laws includes the following:

  1. Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act (LHWCA)
  2. The Jones act
  3. Death on the high seas act
  4. Maintenance and cure
  5. Passengers personal injury

Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act (LHWCA)

Maritime workers who are injured when they work on or near navigable waters are compensated longshore and harbor workers compensation act. Dock and deck work sites, ship repair spaces, loading, unloading, and building of vessels are all covered by this act.

The injured workers are eligible for compensation when they have a temporary partial disability, temporary total disability, permanent partial disability, and total permanent disability. After an injury, if an employee could not return to maritime work, the statute also provides free job retraining.

In 1927, the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act  (LHWCA) was approved by Congress to provide restitution to injured maritime employees. Because under state law, courts were not granting maritime employees compensation for injuries.

The LHWCA was amended in 1972. Amended LHWCA includes the following rules.

  • A two-part test that is the status test and situs test replaced the 1927 water’s edge test. Here, the word status refers to the nature of the work during the accident, and situs refers to the area where the accident occurs.
  • It’s mandatory to take the status test and situs test to prove the area where the accident occurred and the nature of the job. Because to be eligible for the longshore and harbor workers compensation act, workers must pass these tests.
  • The LHWCA prohibits injured maritime employees from suing the vessel’s owner based on the vessel’s unseaworthiness. The third party can be sued for negligence, including the vessel owner. The third party, including the vessel owner, can be sued for negligence.
  • Increase the benefit levels of LHWCA

The LHWCA was amended in 1984 for the second time. When they are covered under a state workers’ compensation law, the following people are expressly excluded.

  1. The temporary employees who work in a maritime company
  2. Employees exclude retail stores, museums, clubs, camps, or recreational operations
  3. Aquaculture workers
  4. Government employees
  5. Masters or members of the crew in a vessel

Benefits of LHWCA

If the work injury leads to the death of the employees, their dependents are entitled to survivor payments under the LHWCA. The surviving spouse will receive 50 percent of the worker’s average income and 16 and 2/3 percent of the worker’s typical wage for each of the decedent’s surviving children. Also, they would receive around $3,000 for funeral expenses.

You might be wondering if I can file a maritime case for both state workers’ compensation and the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act (LHWCA) if I am hurt while working at sea. The answer is, in some states, you can file a lawsuit for both state workers’ compensation and LHWCA for the restitution. But you can’t get both compensations instead of that, you can receive any one of the benefits.

Workers’ compensation statutes in certain states exclude any employee who is eligible for LHWCA coverage from state coverage. The statute of limitation for LHWCA is one year from the day when you are injured.

The Jones Act

In the year of 1920, the United States passed the Jones Act. It is a complicated system of rules and principles that covers the workers’ right to compensation. No protection was there for employees before the existence of the Jones act. This act helps deal with difficulties like transporting commodities or persons between ports inside the same country and maritime commerce.

Jones act allows seamen to sue their employers for their injuries if it occurs due to the employer’s negligence. The Jones act offers compensation to sailors or individuals employed on a vessel who are injured on the job. According to Jones act, the person must spend a minimum of 30 percent of his life as a seafarer to receive compensation under the Jones act.

The Jones Act prohibits all water cargo transit between U.S. ports unless the boats are built, owned, and operated in the United States. The vessels must be American- made, American- registered, American-crewed, and American-owned for the transportation of goods between two ports.

The Jones Act prohibits passengers from pre-planning or purposefully beginning or ending a trip in a port other than the one they debarked. If any passenger’s vessel violates the act, $762 penalties will be awarded to them.

The burden of the Jones act claims is much lower than the ordinary personal injury claims. Under maritime law, the sailors only need to prove that the employer’s negligence or role is the reason for their injury. The seamen can file a lawsuit against the employers for their negligence, such as,

  • When employers fail to provide adequate safety equipment
  • Inadequate training for the employees leads to injury
  • Fail to give warning to the employees about the dangerous area
  • Hazardous material spill

Benefits of the Jones Act

The main goal of the Jones Act is providing workers to the U.S. military at the time of war or emergency in American ships.

American maritime partnership states that this act provides 650,000 jobs for Americans and $150 million in economic benefits.

Death on the High Seas Act (DOHSA)

Many maritime laws protect marine employees and their families when they are harmed or dead. One of the laws in the maritime laws is the death on the high seas act.

It was passed in the year 1920 by the United States government to provide restitution for the seamen’s families who died while on the job. Amendment was done in the year 2000. DOHSA is also applicable if the employees or passengers are killed in passengers’ aircraft beyond the 12-mile limit territorial sea.

When a person dies on the high seas beyond three miles off the coast as a result of negligence or unseaworthiness, or default, it is covered by the death on the high seas legislation. The state law, ordinary marine law, or the Jones Act cover deaths that occur within three miles off the coast of the shore.

The death on the high seas act covers only if the deaths occur outside the states or U.S. (three miles off the coast of the shore). The negligence under the DOHSA is,

  • Failed to provide adequate safety equipment
  • Unsafe hazards on the vessel
  • Safety inspections aren’t thorough enough.
  • Unable to provide adequate medical treatment

The employee’s spouse, children, parents, and siblings, if they depend on the maritime worker, can apply for the settlement. The family members can get the following restitution under the death on the high seas act.

  • Loss of inheritance
  • Expenses for medical treatment incurred before death
  • Financial support
  • Loss of the decedent’s previously offered home services

To get restitution, one must prove who is negligent, or the employer’s negligence is the reason for the death. The family members cannot get a settlement for the pain and suffering and loss of companionship.

The statute of limitations to file the claim under the death on the high seas act is three years. The person from the deceased worker’s family should not exceed the statutory limit to file the lawsuit.

Maintenance and Cure

Maintenance and cure is a type of general maritime law. Under maritime laws, the seamen who are injured at the time of work in a vessel due to the employer’s negligence can be entitled to the benefits of maintenance and cure. To receive the compensation under maintenance and cure, workers do not have to prove who caused the injury.

The employer is accountable for satisfying the injured employee’s necessary daily requirements. For example, employers must take care of their worker’s utilities, food, clothes, property taxes, and house rent. It’s not needed to provide internet, phone bills, cable, car payments, and other luxury things since it is not necessary to run households.

Cure includes all the medical bills that they spend for their illness or injury. Examples are doctor bills, hospital bills, surgery bills, scan bills, and transportation charges related to the injury. The employer must provide the above-mentioned medical bills, and it’s their responsibility to pay for all the medical expenses until they return to their work.

The seamen shouldn’t return to their work before they get full recovery. Because if they go to work once again, they can’t get compensation for their injury. Therefore it’s the worker’s responsibility to ensure their health condition before returning to work.

Passenger Personal Injury

The Passenger Personal Injury Act is another type of maritime law, but it was not intended to cover marine employees. If a passenger or visitor is injured or killed while aboard a vessel as a result of the negligence or wrongful conduct of a party other than the vessel owner or crew, the passenger or visitor may have a claim against that party.

Passengers on ships, especially cruise ships, are covered by passenger personal injury insurance if they are injured when they are at sea. The passenger can also file the claim if the ship-owner is at fault or the accident happens because of the ship owner’s negligence.



Maritime laws apply when an accident occurs at sea or employees are injured in the vessel at the time of work. It is challenging and confusing to apply the types of maritime laws in the exact situation. The complexities of suing the owners of foreign-registered cruise ships are familiar to experienced maritime lawyers. Maritime attorneys are ready to help you on a contingency basis. Prepare to provide the attorney with all the evidence that could help to win the lawsuit.

Hope this blog has cleared your doubts about maritime rules and regulations.

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