Written by attorney George T. Fishback

Admiralty and Maritime Law -- Frequently Asked Questions

Admiralty/Maritime Law 1. What is Admiralty/Maritime law? Admiralty/Maritime law is Federal law that applies to accidents that occur on “navigable waters." 2. What are “Navigable Waters," and how do I know if I have an Admiralty/Maritime claim? In Michigan, navigable waters include all of the Great Lakes and all of the major rivers connecting to the Great Lakes. If the accident or injury occurs on any of the Great Lakes or major rivers, then you are probably covered by Admiralty/Maritime law. If the lake, river or other body of water is an “inland lake" or totally “land-locked," then Admiralty/Maritime law probably does not apply. 3. What are the benefits of Admiralty/Maritime law? Admiralty/Maritime law is typically more favorable to the victim than Michigan State law, which contains many recent provisions that limit victim’s rights. Admiralty/Maritime law “pre-empts" state law, which means that Federal law controls, whenever the claim is filed as an Admiralty/Maritime case. 4. What type of accidents are included under Admiralty/Maritime law? Typically, these cases involve boating accidents, jet ski and/or personal watercraft accidents, or any other injury that occurs on the Great Lakes or major rivers. 5. Do accidents that occur on cruise ships involve Admiralty/Maritime law? Yes, however, you must be very careful to pay attention to all of the “small print" on the cruise ship ticket or contract. The small print frequently has provisions that require claims to be made within six (6) months and which require that the claims be filed in certain locations, such as Southern Florida, etc. Jones Act 1. What is the Jones Act? The Jones Act is a Federal law that allows injured seaman to obtain compensation for on-the-job injuries. 2 How do I know if I am covered by the Jones Act? Typically, the Jones Act covers all seaman, merchant mariners, sailors or any other persons who work aboard boats, freighters, or other commercial sailing vessels. 3. What is a Jones Act seaman? Typically, a Jones Act seaman is a member of the crew of a vessel that assists in the operation of the vessel. The crewman can be the Master or Captain down to a ordinary seaman, deckhand, or wiper. 4. How do I know if I have a Jones Act claim? The Jones Act requires all Maritime employers to provide seaman with a safe place to work. Any unsafe condition or dangerous situation can be the basis of a Jones Act claim. 5. What is an unseaworthiness claim? A claim based on unseaworthiness is similar to, but slightly different than a Jones Act claim. A vessel is unseaworthy if it or any of its equipment is not fit for the intended purpose, or not suitable for use under the conditions then and there existing. 6. What are “maintenance and cure" benefits? Maintenance and cure benefits are provided to all injured or ill seaman, regardless of fault. Maintenance and cure benefits should be paid when a seaman is injured, becomes ill, or otherwise requires medical attention, while working aboard a vessel. The benefits include a daily or weekly stipend or amount for the support of the injured worker, as well as reimbursement of all reasonable and necessary medical expenses. 7. To what extent can I rely on the answers to the questions listed above, to decide whether or not I have a case? The entire area of Admiralty/Maritime law, the Jones Act, unseaworthiness, and maintenance and cure claims is very complex and there is frequently no clear-cut answer whether any particular case is valid. It is strongly suggested that you get competent legal counsel and advice if you have any question about a claim in this area.

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