Maritime injury law is unique in the world of civil litigation. Depending on the classification of the injured person, one of a few different laws might apply. Because of the complex nature of these laws, you should not move forward without legal counsel. Experienced attorney Elissa M. Coombs can explain to you the jurisdiction of maritime injury claims in Memphis.
How is Jurisdiction in Maritime Claims Determined?
If an accident on or near the water involves a worker injury, there are several federal statutes that will govern the claim. If the injured person works on the boat itself when it is at sea or on the river, then that worker is likely going to be covered by the Jones Act, which gives the worker the right to sue for negligence against their employer. There is a similar statute for longshoremen, which are shore-based maritime workers, such as dock workers, shipbuilders, and ship repairmen.
General maritime law will provide some remedies for those workers, but it is generally used for recreational boaters who end up filing personal injury claims.
For the vast majority of Memphis maritime injury and wrongful death claims, the plaintiff will be able to choose the jurisdiction and file in either state or federal court. There will sometimes be situations where federal courts have exclusive jurisdiction but otherwise it is up to the injured party.
Laws Involved in Maritime Claims
A work-related maritime injury is going to be covered by the federal statute that is applicable to that worker. They are also entitled to remedies under the general maritime law for other claims as well. For example, if unseaworthiness of the vessel is a cause of their injury, then they can pursue unseaworthiness under the general maritime law. They are also entitled to maintenance and cure under the general maritime law but their primary remedy is the Jones Act, which is a federal statute.
For longshoreman, their primary remedy is the Longshore Act but they can also pursue negligence claims against third parties. For a recreational boater, the law that applies to that person’s injuries or wrongful death claim would be the general maritime law. There is no federal statute for injury of non-seafarers on inland waterways.
Location of the Accident
Because the federal statutes are not state-specific, the same law applies for Jones Act seamen regardless of where the injury takes place. The general maritime law is also nationwide because it applies for all maritime claims. It is not a state-specific topic or jurisdiction. Usually, the only time that state law, and location of injury, can be a factor is when deciding where a case is filed.
If an injury takes place on a Tennessee waterway, then it is likely to be filed in Tennessee—and if it ends up in Tennessee State Court, then there will be some state procedural rules that will come into play. The actual substantive law will still be governed by either the general maritime law or the relevant federal statute.
For recreationists, however, state law usually does come into play, supplementing the general maritime law. This usually affects which damages are recoverable. The general maritime law acts as a floor, meaning that the plaintiff would, at a minimum, be able to recover what is allowable under the general maritime law. Then, if state law allows for more expansive remedies, then that non-seafarer would be able to recover up to what the state law allows.
For example, if a maritime injury occurs to a recreational boater within Memphis’s borders, then their cause of action would, at a minimum, be brought under the general maritime law; but the laws of Tennessee could allow for a certain class of damages unique to that jurisdiction.
Ask a Memphis Attorney How Jurisdiction Affects Your Maritime Injury Claim
Both geographically and legally, injuries on the water can be difficult to sort out with a lawsuit. Fortunately, the Law Office of David E. Gordon is experienced in handling exactly this type of case. Schedule a consultation with Elissa M. Coombs to learn more about the jurisdiction of maritime injury claims in Memphis.