Maritime/Admirality Law in Florida
Maritime law is a complicated area that few people—other than admirality law attorneys and maritime law enforcement officials—seem to fully understand. Even those people who own boats or work at sea often don’t entirely understand their rights. It’s a legal area that Floridians should pay more attention to, though, considering our easy access to the coast and our love of boating (our state had 914,535 registered boats as of 2010 and was number one in terms of money spent, with over 1 billion – yes, with a “b”– devoted to boating).
Admirality law was established by the federal government in order to have a universal body of law governing national and international overseas commerce and is considered a separate entity from civil law. Although maritime laws were originally developed with commerce in mind, they also extend to recreational boats, and those boats don’t need to be sailing the high seas to be subject to maritime law—any accidents that occur on inland, coastal, and ocean navigable waterways are subject to this branch of law. Whether you’re riding a ferry, going on a cruise, or working on an oil rig, you are subject to admirality law.
Victims of Maritime Accidents
Sometimes people who are victims of accidents at sea are not even aware that their case falls under this unique area of law. You might be surprised to learn that maritime cases can include:
- Airplane passengers
- Cruise ship passengers
- Yacht guests
- Ferry passengers
- Recreational boaters
- Commercial fishermen
- Merchant Marines
- Crew members on any kind of commercial vessel
- Ship workers
- Offshore oil rig workers
- Dock workers
- Harbor workers
There are also a wide range of maritime accidents that can result in injury or death, including:
- Slip and fall accidents on wet surfaces
- Mechanical malfunctions
- Collisions with other vessels or solid objects
- Recreational boats that flip over
- Machinery malfunction on an oil rig
- Negligent ship workers
- Explosions on cargo tankers
- Boats running aground
- Boats sinking
There’s a lot that can go wrong while on the water, and oftentimes people who get sick or are injured are not able to get the medical attention that they need in time, making matters worse for them.
Common Types of Maritime Law Claims in Florida
There are a number of different personal injury claims that fall under maritime jurisdiction. If you suffer an injury while on a water vessel, it’s important that you work closely with an experienced admirality law attorney who can help you determine exactly what kind of case you have.
Boating accidents. Florida leads the nation for number of recreational boats, and we also lead the nation for most boating accidents, with 61 fatalities and 386 recorded injuries in 2012 alone. Boating accidents may be caused when careless or inexperienced drivers speed, flip the boat, or even collide with another water vessel. Boat drivers who are impaired by alcohol also pose a serious threat to the people who share the waterways with them. If you or a loved one is injured by the recklessness or negligence of another boater, your case may fall under the category of maritime law.
Cruise ship injuries. Normally if you are injured on someone else’s property due to the neglect or recklessness of the owner, you would be dealing with a basic premises liability case. However, cruise ship injuries are different because they fall under maritime law. To make matters even more complicated, cruises often include provisions that passengers might not read carefully but that require them to file suit within a year or forfeit their right to damages. If you’re injured or become sick and do not receive proper medical attention on a cruise ship, it’s essential that you contact an admirality lawyer as soon as possible in order to get the compensation you deserve.
Injuries while working at sea. It is a ship owner’s duty to exercise reasonable safety precautions. If they don’t and injuries to their employees result from this negligence, they need to be held legally responsible. Under the Jones Act, anyone who works on a water vessel, offshore oil rig, or even on a dock or harbor can recover damages if they were injured due to the negligence of their employer. It is up to the injured party to prove that their employer was negligent, however, so this is another situation when it’s especially important to work with an experienced maritime lawyer.
Wrongful death at sea. Losing a loved one is devastating under any circumstances, but it’s particularly heart-wrenching if your loved one dies at sea due to an accident that could have been prevented. This type of unexpected situation often leaves families grieving and struggling to survive financially. If your loved one was working at sea and died due to their employer’s negligence or faults with their vessel, you and your family are eligible for benefits under the Death on the High Seas Act.
This, of course, is just a brief overview of the types of cases that fall under maritime jurisdiction. The best way to fully understand your case and the compensation that you may be entitled to is to schedule a consultation with a qualified maritime lawyer.
Finding a Maritime Law Attorney for You
Finding the right maritime law attorney for your case isn’t as easy as walking into any personal injury law firm. In fact, because maritime law is such a specialized area, the state of Florida requires lawyers to pass a special board certification in order to practice in this field.
Not only should you make sure your attorney is certified to practice maritime law, you should make sure they have ample experience handling these types of cases as well as a track record of success. Maritime law can get very complicated, and you need to have the best possible legal team on your side in order to give yourself the highest chance at winning your case.
To learn more, schedule a free consultation with The Injury Law Firm of South Florida today. If you were injured or lost a loved one in the waters around the Florida coast, we can help you determine the responsible party and get the compensation you need. Call us at 954-764-7377 (Fort Lauderdale), 561-209-2100 (Boca Raton / West Palm Beach), 877-566-8759 (toll-free), or fill out this case evaluation form. We care about the wellbeing of our clients and work on a contingency basis, meaning you won’t have to pay anything until we win compensation for your injuries.