Seamen's Personal Injuries

  • Date: 18/08/2006


Seamen's Personal Injuries Maritime legal resource

Anyone who has ever worked aboard a vessel knows that the marine environment is hazardous. Marine employment requires training, skill, and care. However, even the most careful and experienced seaman cannot always guard against equipment failure or the negligence of others.

If you are a member of a crew of a vessel, whether that vessel is a cargo ship, a ferry, a casino boat, a long-liner, a tug, a jack-up rig, a drilling ship, or any other means of carrying persons or freight across water, you could be a seaman who is entitled to the benefits that Congress and the General Maritime Law provide.

Seamen are not covered by any type of Workers Compensation statutes like those that exist for land-based workers. To compensate seamen and their families for a seaman's personal injuries or death, the Courts and Congress have developed a patchwork of remedies available to seamen who become sick or injured during their employment aboard vessels. Maintenance and Cure, the Jones Act, and the Unseaworthiness doctrine are laws and legal concepts that require specialized knowledge of maritime law.

Seamen can also obtain the protection of maritime law for illnesses developed after their employment for exposure to asbestos or hazardous chemicals.

A seaman is also entitled to damages for the unseaworthiness of a vessel, maintenance and cure, and Jones Act damages. These remedies are only applicable to seamen and do not apply to land-based workers. Most attorneys are not experienced with these laws designed to protect seamen. Our attorneys are fully qualified to help the seaman navigate his way through the patchwork of remedies to insure that the seaman receives proper medical attention and is fully compensated for his injuries. Maritime Legal Resources was founded by Capt. T. Keith Marshall, III, (1957-2003), who sailed at sea for twenty years and held an Unlimited Tonnage Master Mariners License. Our attorneys continue to adhere to the founding principles - a firm founded by seamen, for seamen. We fully understand the unique hazards that a seaman encounters on a daily basis.

Boats and Jet Ski Accidents:

Recreational boating has become so widespread it is inevitable that there will be accidents on, between and around recreational craft of every description. Accidents can range from a boater slipping on a suntan lotion covered deck of a sailboat to a collision between a boat and a jet ski. These accidents can result in personal injuries and boat damage.

The attorney representing you in an accident on the water needs to know more than how to steer a boat. Knowledge of the Nautical Rules of the Road is essential. Knowledge of admiralty and maritime law and how to apply the facts of your case to the law is absolutely crucial. The members of Maritime Legal Resources are experienced mariners and furthermore, qualified maritime attorneys. If you have an accident on the water, you need the team at Maritime Legal Resources.


Asbestos is a substance that occurs naturally in several countries, but the principal commercial source was South Africa. Asbestos has very good insulating properties and was used for decades as insulating material for steam pipes. Unfortunately, asbestos can cause illness and death.

Workers in ships and shipyards during the 1950's, 60's, and 70's were routinely exposed to asbestos. Many of them have already become ill or died. Once the dangers of asbestos became known, manufacturers quit using it on new construction. However, the ships that pre-dated this knowledge are still afloat, and workers can be exposed even today to this injurious substance.

If you have worked aboard ships, you may have a claim against the vessel and/or your employer, whether you worked at sea or in a shipyard or location where asbestos exposure occurred. Further, many individuals signed up to participate in class actions, but never received adequate compensation. If you fall into any of these categories, you should contact Maritime Legal Resources so that we can advise you on how to recover from the responsible party.

Maritime legal resource:


Persons Entitled to Limit

As is well known, the 1976 Convention as amended by the 1996 Protocol regulates the limitation of liability of shipowners. Article 1 sets out the persons entitled to limit liability. They are: the owner, charterer, manager and operator of seagoing ships and salvors. Article 1(4) extends the right to limit to employees and agents of such persons. Article 1(6) extends the benefits to liability insurers of persons entitled to limit.

The MLA further extends the list of persons entitled to limit their liability beyond that allowed in the Convention. Section 25(1)(b) of the MLA extends the right to limit to owners, charterers, managers and operators of all ships and not just "seagoing" ships and further to any person with an interest in or possession of a ship. With these amendments the right to limit applies to pleasure craft on lakes and rivers as well as "seagoing" ships.

Claims Subject to Limitation

Article 2 of the Convention sets out the claims that are subject to limitation of liability. The list of claims in article 2 is very broad and includes: claims for loss of life or personal injury, claims for loss of or damage to property, claims for consequential losses, claims for delay in the carriage of cargo or passengers and various other claims.

Article 3 sets out the claims excepted from limitation. The excepted claims are limited. They are: claims for salvage, claims for oil pollution damage governed by the 1969 Convention on Civil Liability for Oil Pollution, claims for nuclear damage, and claims by employees if the applicable law does not permit limitation.

Conduct Barring Limitation

Article 4 sets out the circumstances under which a person will lose their right to limit. In order to prevent a defendant from limiting his liability the plaintiff must prove that the loss resulted from the personal act or omission of the defendant "committed with the intent to cause such loss, or recklessly and with knowledge that such loss would probably result". This is a very strict test and is often referred to as establishing an "unbreakable limitation". To the knowledge of the author, there has never been a case where Article 4 has successfully been invoked and the shipowner has lost the right to limit.


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