When looking up laws governing bodies of water, it is important to look beyond the statutes passed by state and federal governments. The United States has more than two centuries of litigation involving seafaring vessels and workers that contributes to maritime law. If you were injured while on the water and wish to file a claim, experienced attorney Elissa M. Coombs can provide guidance on general maritime law in Memphis.
A maritime injury case can fall under one of two different categories. There are maritime injury cases for workers on bodies of water (such as on a tow boat or on a dredge) and then there are accidents involving individuals who are referred to as non-seafarers. These are accidents involving pleasure boaters, who are usually on a pontoon, jet ski, or bass boat. In both situations, a claim is valid if there was negligence from another party.
Common claims typically include physical injuries, such as broken bones or lacerations, or could stem from respiratory issue after being underwater for a period of time. River workers can also experience snapped wires that cause amputations if they are struck in a certain way.
Unfortunately, wrongful death is also possible in maritime accidents. If a tow boat or barge tow collides with a pleasure craft, the people in the smaller boat could be sucked underwater and drown if they are not wearing their life vest. Certain situations can also result in death for workers.
General maritime law is case law, meaning it has been informally made by judges in past cases. It is not statutory, rather it is the law that has organically developed over centuries. Maritime commerce was an early industry in the United States and it is constantly evolving. The case law serves as the rules that apply when there is not a federal statute stating otherwise.
An injured party may be covered by both a federal statute and the general maritime law in Memphis. For example, Jones Act seamen can recover under the Jones Act, which is a federal statute for negligence of their employer. They can also recover under the general maritime law if the unseaworthiness of the vessel caused their injury; or they can utilize maintenance and cure to have their medical benefits paid and to receive a daily allowance while they are injured or ill.
The most unique thing about general maritime law is the history of how far it dates back. From a lawyer’s standpoint, a case that is 100 years old has just as much precedential value, and is just as important and persuasive, as a case that is 10 years old.
In most areas of the law, the older a case is and the older an opinion is that supports their case, the less persuasive it is. That does not apply in the general maritime law in Memphis. The body of law is expansive and there are many cases over the decades and centuries that have been decided, appealed, and had written opinions issued that can be relied upon today.
Maritime law is ever-evolving, which makes it unique from other areas of common law. It is unwise to attempt civil litigation by yourself, especially considering all of the case law that must be considered. Schedule a free consultation with Elissa M. Coombs of the Law Office of David E. Gordon to learn more about general maritime law in Memphis.