With such easy access to the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico, it is no surprise that a number of Floridians vacation or work at sea (or on another body of water). Florida’s maritime businesses include everything from the largest cruise lines in the world to the smallest beach shacks renting personal watercrafts, and all of these businesses are governed to some extent by maritime law.
Maritime law is a complex mixture of common law, federal law, and state law. It provides different protections for longshoreman, ship crew members, cruise ship passengers, pleasure boat passengers, divers, people who rent out boats and personal watercraft, and (depending on the circumstances) even someone who has been injured on land. Maritime law can be incredibly complex, so if you do suffer an injury while traveling or working on or around water, you will need to work with a well-qualified maritime claims attorney to give yourself the best chance of a positive outcome.
Ben Murphey is a licensed maritime attorney and has been protecting the rights of accident injury victims across Florida since 2006. As a partner at the law firm of Lawlor, White & Murphey and a skilled civil and trial attorney, Mr. Murphey has the resources and experience necessary to help you fight for the compensation you deserve in your maritime claims case.
Just like any other employees, workers on sea vessels are entitled to a form of workers’ compensation if injured on the job. However, sea vessel employees are eligible for compensation under a specific law called the Jones Act. The Jones Act, which has been in place in the US since 1920, allows at-sea employees to sue their employers for workplace injuries caused by the employer’s negligence. The Jones Act protects people who primarily work at sea or on another body of water, including:
Working on a sea vessel comes with a unique set of risks, and there are many different ways an employee can be injured. Some types of accidents that would likely fall under the Jones Act include:
Traditionally, the law gave crew members the greatest protection when they were injured or became sick in the service of a boat or ship. Unfortunately, the courts have lessened those protections over time. Arbitration agreements and a growing tend to treat foreign crew members differently have had a catastrophic effect on many injured seamen. Crew members may be limited to where they can file a lawsuit for an injury or unpaid wages.
If you are a crew member who has been injured, denied treatment for an illness, denied your full wages, or if you are unsure whether your case falls under the Jones Act, contact Ben Murphey to learn more. Mr. Murphey will help ensure that your rights are protected and will fight to recover compensation for lost wages and medical expenses that resulted from your injury.
At-sea employees are not the only people who can file maritime claims. Passengers injured on a cruise ship can also file claims for accidents caused by a cruise line’s negligence, including:
However, cruise ship passengers need to be aware of a few caveats when filing a claim. Cruise lines typically include a carefully-worded contract with ticket purchase that significantly limits their liability. You may be limited in the type of lawsuit you can file and where you can file it. The contract often includes a limited time frame during which passengers can file a suit, as well; for example, plaintiffs filing a suit for injury or wrongful death must typically provide notice of a claim to the cruise line within six months and begin the suit within one year. Many cruise lines also require you to sue them in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida regardless of what port your cruise sailed from, and the rules that apply in federal court are quite different than those in Florida courts.
Despite all these restrictions, it is still possible to recover damages in a cruise ship accident case if you are working with an experienced maritime claims lawyer. Mr. Murphey is licensed to practice in all of the United States District Courts in Florida and has successfully litigated many cruise line cases.
Every day in Florida, people operate pleasure boats in land-locked lakes, inland waterways, and the ocean. If one of these boats experiences an accident, where the incident occurs determines what laws apply to it. For example, the law treats a person injured on a boat in a land-locked lake differently than it does a person injured on a boat in the ocean. To better understand what laws apply to your accident, contact Ben Murphey. Mr. Murphey has represented numerous clients in federal and state court who were injured in pleasure boat incidents.
As previously mentioned, maritime law can be applied to a number of different employees, watercraft passengers, and situations, including:
Longshoreman Injuries: If you are someone who is employed to load and unload ships and you experience an injury on the job, your injury should be covered by the Longshoreman and Harborworkers Compensation Act. However, benefits under the Act must be claimed within one year of the date of injury or the last date benefits were provided, and you must file a formal claim for benefits with the United States Department of Labor’s regional office in Jacksonville. You may also have a claim against a ship or another entity for your injuries, in which case you should work with an experienced attorney to litigate against defendants in civil court.
Rented Watercraft Injuries: Businesses that rent boats, jet skis, wave runners, and water crafts are legally required in Florida to train people on safe operation before allowing them to use one of these rentals. If a business fails to teach their employees and their customers about watercraft safety and someone is injured as a result, their case will fall under a complex mixture of federal and state law. Often times, businesses will have renters sign a document that attempts to release the business from any liability, but in some cases, these waivers may be ineffective. Talk to Ben Murphey to learn what rights you have in this type of case.
Parasailing Injuries: If you or a loved one were injured while parasailing, maritime law may apply, depending on where the injury occurred and what caused the accident. Sometimes, a mixture of maritime law and Florida law will apply to the case. As with watercraft rental businesses, parasailing businesses typically have rider sign a document that attempts to release the business from any liability for injury or death. Even when a release is signed, it may be possible to hold the business responsible when someone is injured or killed in a parasailing incident.
Contracts for Vessel Repairs or Supplies: A business or person who provides services or supplies to a boat cannot always seek payment from the boat’s owner, but under certain circumstances, a creditor can arrest a boat to secure payment. If you have been denied payment for services or supplies provided to a boat, call Mr. Murphey.
Limitation of Liability Actions (LOLA): Pleasure boat owners and businesses that rent watercraft often use LOLA as a tactic to deny an injured person full and fair compensation. If you are a plaintiff in an injury lawsuit and you have been served with a LOLA petition, then you have a limited amount of time to respond. Mr. Murphey has helped injured clients recover damages in cases involving LOLA issues.
Death on the High Seas Act (DOHSA): The DOHSA applies to some deaths that occur beyond three miles from the shore of any state, deaths that occur on land because of a negligent act that occurred beyond three miles from shore, deaths that occur in foreign waters, and deaths due to certain types of aviation crashes. Damages available under the DOHSA are limited, and a DOHSA claim must usually be made within three years of the date of death (or one year for cruise lines that limit the time in a contract).
You only have a limited amount of time to file your maritime accident claim, so do not waste any more of it—contact Ben Murphey today. Although he is based in Fort Lauderdale, Attorney Murphey has represented accident victims across the entire state of Florida, so do not hesitate to reach out to him. You can schedule a free, no-obligation initial consultation by calling 954-587-0873 (South Florida).
Ben Murphey is prepared to help you navigate the complex arena of maritime law and is unafraid to go up against large organizations such as cruise lines in court. Make sure your rights are upheld by getting him on your side.