Maritime law, also known as Admiralty Law, is a set of laws with a rich history and very specific procedures, rules, duties, and rights. Maritime law is unique to the "law of the land" and this is particularly true with respect to personal injuries. The rules that apply in ordinary personal injury cases that occur on land do not apply, in most part, to maritime personal injuries cases. Maritime law that responds to personal injuries is designed for specific situations and categories of people. The damages the injured party is able to recover differ based on the circumstances of the injury and which maritime law(s) applies to the case.
In Maryland, personal injuries claims made under Maritime law are many, and that is a reflection of Maryland's dynamic maritime industry. Maryland benefits greatly from a diverse, ever-growing maritime industry. With so much activity happening near and on the waters of Maryland, it's no wonder accidents happen, and when they do, you may have a cause of action.
Maryland's Maritime Industry
Between Maryland's capital Annapolis and its largest bustling city Baltimore, there is significant maritime activity happening in the coastal areas of the state. Overall, Maryland's economy outperforms most other state economies in the U.S. From tech to telecommunications to maritime industries, the economy continues to grow. Maritime industry is leading the country. In 2016, exports from Maryland were valued at $9.7 billion, with trade to Australia, Algeria, and other countries growing more than 100%. Maryland's eastern seaboard is ideal for trade. The Chesapeake Bay and Delaware Canal offer exceptional opportunities. The Port of Baltimore is one of only two Eastern U.S. ports where the main shipping channel reaches a depth of 50 feet, which allows the port to receive the largest container ships in the world. In 2016, the first supersized container ship made its way to the Port of Baltimore all the way from Taiwan.
Additionally, the Port of Baltimore is in a strategic location; cargo that leaves the Port of Baltimore is only an overnight drive to two-thirds of the country's population. Maryland has other advantages, too, that contribute to the growing success of its maritime industry. It is located by the nation's capital, District of Columbia, and by land, is within reach of New York, Philadelphia, and Boston within hours.
Maritime Industry Segments in Maryland
A number of maritime industry segments employ persons in careers on the high seas, and four specific segments of the maritime industry in Maryland are: (1) seagoing; (2) shipbuilding and ship repair; (3) commercial recreational boating; and (4) commercial fishing.
Seagoing is a segment of the industry that generally comprises commercial ships and cargo shipping, which includes oil tankers and container ships. These ships allow goods to flow from place to place, country to country. The industry's purpose is primarily international trade and transportation. In Maryland, this maritime industry segment is growing by the year. Some notable statistics include:
- The first quarter of 2017 was a record-setting one for the Port of Baltimore: 2.56 million tons of general cargo was handled, up from 2.44 million tons handled in the first quarter of 2016.
- In 2016, the Port of Baltimore was ranked second for coal export based on tonnage.
- The Port of Baltimore also set a record for the most loaded containers handled in one month: 37,694 loaded containers in January 2017.
- In 2015, the Port of Baltimore was ranked number one in the nation by the Journal of Commerce for container berth productivity.
- Three of the world's largest container shipping companies operate at the Port of Baltimore: Evergreen, Maersk, and MSC.
Shipbuilding and Ship Repair
Shipbuilding and ship repair is an integral industry in the U.S., but in Maryland, there's less emphasis in this industry segment as there is in the other segments. Shipbuilding and ship repair refers to the operation of shipyards. Shipyards are fixed facilities with dry-docks. Shipyard activities include:
- Ship construction
- Ship repair
- Conversion and alteration
- Production of prefabricated ship and barge sections
- Other specialized services.
Other shipbuilding and ship repair services are available outside of shipyards. These activities include the manufacture of ship parts and, among others, routine maintenance and repair services from floating dry-docks that are not associated with a shipyard. Maryland's direct employment of persons in the shipbuilding and repair industry segment was under 1% of the nation's total. Virginia has 25% of the share, while Louisiana and Mississippi combined make up another 25%. Kentucky, a state not bordered by the sea, directly employs 11% of persons working in shipbuilding and ship repair.
Commercial Recreational Boating
This segment includes cruise ships, tour boats, and ferry boats. The Port of Baltimore has a passenger cruise terminal in addition to its cargo terminals. Passenger cruise terminal allows for year-round trips along the eastern United States and to the Caribbean. Cruise ships include:
- Royal Caribbean's Grandeur of the Seas
- Carnival's Pride
- American Cruise Lines
- Crystal Cruises
- Phoenix Reisen
- Aida Cruises.
Apart from the larger cruise industry, there are multiple tour and ferry boats that are enjoyed throughout Maryland, especially at Port Annapolis Marina.
The Chesapeake Bay is home to a large commercial fishing industry. Blue crabs, clams, and oysters are samples of popular seafood harvested there. In fact, Maryland provides half the country's supply of blue crabs. The seafood industry from the Chesapeake Bay adds more than half a billion dollars to Maryland's economy. An estimate of nearly 5,000 commercial watermen work in the fishing industry throughout Maryland. Commercial fishing has both economic and cultural significance Maryland.
Maryland & the Future of its Maritime Industry
The above maritime industry segments are a large part but not the only part of Maryland's maritime industry. The Coast Guard, the Navy, logistics, and other components contribute to the industry. If 2016 and 2017 are any indication, the future is bright for the maritime industry in Maryland.
In addition to the above industry segments, there is an additional segment currently undergoing construction: offshore wind-farms. This project is expected to be completed and operational by 2022, and when it is, it is expected that Maryland will be home to the country's largest offshore wind-farm. Another potential energy component of Maryland's maritime industry is oil. An Executive Order was issued in early 2017, calling for large portions of the mid-Atlantic to be open to oil and gas exploration.
When this much is happening, it is inevitable that personal injuries will follow. There are big responsibilities, big equipment, and many ways an accident -- whether intentional or negligent -- can happen. Knowing the maritime industry in Maryland and the risks that accompany it are important to prevent and/or identifying personal injuries that are eligible for a cause of action against another party.
Maritime Personal Injury Laws in Maryland
Personal injury claims are generally complex, but maritime ones are even more so. Unique maritime laws govern accidents that happen on the high seas or to persons employed in the maritime industry. Proving a personal injury claim is contingent on the applicable maritime law. A short list of some of the main components of Maritime Law relevant to personal injuries include:
- The Jones Act. Also, known as the Merchant Marine Act of 1920, the Jones Act is a federal law, a supporting pillar of maritime law today. It serves two primary purposes: (1) to oversee that only American built and American-staffed vessels carry cargo and passengers between American ports; and (2) to protect the rights of injured seamen who are entitled to file a claim or lawsuit against an employer for negligence.
- Unseaworthiness. Unseaworthiness is a general maritime common law doctrine that places the responsibility of safe and secure working environments on the owners of the vessels and makes them liable for compensation if they neglect their responsibilities; punitive damages are also available under this doctrine.
- Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act. This Act provides for adequate compensation for workers injured while working on the outer continental shelf.
- Maintenance and Cure. Maintenance and Cure is a legal doctrine rooted in general maritime law that provides assistance specifically to commercial fishermen or merchant seamen covered under the Jones Act and who suffer an injury while on the job.
- Longshore and Harbor Workers' Compensation Act. This federal Act provides federal dockside workers -- whether working in shipyards, piers, wharves, or shipping terminals or other vessel-related activities -- disability coverage and compensation for medical expenses if injured.
- Public Vessels Act. The Public Vessels Act covers injuries that occur while aboard a government-owned vessel.
- Defense Base Act. This Act covers compensation for government contractors injured in a maritime accident.
- Maritime Personal Injury. Under general maritime law, passengers can file negligence claims against vessel owners who owe the same duty of care to both invitees and licensees so long as they have the authorization to be on board the vessel.
Determining the applicable law and compensation that specific law covers is contingent on the identity of the injured party: seaman, dock worker, federal employee, passenger, or other. In basic terms, injured parties are either seafarers or non-seafarers. For some seafarers, there may be means for multiple sources of compensation. For some non-seafarers, there may be no applicable means to compensation under maritime law. Using these laws to your advantage, Gilman & Bedigian maritime injury lawyers will aggressively pursue just and fair compensation.
Maritime Personal Injuries
Maritime accident injuries can happen while at port, on offshore wind farms, on offshore oilfields, on a ship or water vessel, or, among other places or scenarios, by malfunctioning or accidental use of equipment. Typical injuries that most often result from accidents on the harbor or offshore in Maryland include the following:
- Broken bones
- Burn or explosion injuries
- Emotional distress
- Spinal cord injuries
- Traumatic brain injuries
- Wrongful death.
Types of Vessels and Waterways
These types of injuries can happen on almost any vessel or waterway. In Maryland, vessels and waterways include the following:
- U.S. waters
- Port of Baltimore
- Port Annapolis
- Port Covington
- Offshore wind-farm platforms
- Cargo ships
- Bulk Carriers
- Fishing boats
- Cruise ships
- Crew boats
- Navy and Coast Guard vessels.
Maritime Personal Injuries & Damages
Damages are dependent on the person injured and the applicable law(s). Generally speaking, damages are available to non-maritime workers, seamen, longshoremen and other workers.
Most non-maritime workers, passengers or visitors, who are injured can file a claim for negligence that includes any of the following damages, as applicable:
- Past and future medical expenses
- Past and future wage loss
- Pain and suffering
- Emotional distress and mental anguish
- Loss of Enjoyment of Life
- Loss of Family Services
- Loss of Consortium Claims
- Pre-Judgment Interest
- Punitive Damages.
Seamen -- which include dredge workers, fishermen, boat captains, cruise ship workers, among others -- are exposed to unique work-related hazards on a daily basis. If injured, seamen are entitled to bring claims under Jones Act, 46 U.S.C. §§ 30104, et seq. (46 U.S.C. App. 688) and two general maritime law doctrines: (1) maintenance and cure; and (2) unseaworthiness.
Compensation derived from the Jones Act is often broader than compensation from workers' compensation; damages can include the following:
- Past, present and future pain and suffering
- Mental anguish
- Emotional distress
- loss of enjoyment of life
- Future medical expenses
- Future loss of earnings or loss of earning capacity.
Under the Maintenance and Cure doctrine, if a seaman becomes ill or injured --regardless of fault -- during the course of employment, the seaman is entitled to maintenance (reasonable cost of room and board), cure (medical expenses associated with the injury), and unpaid wages.
The Doctrine of Unseaworthiness guarantees compensation when a vessel owner does not provide a vessel that is seaworthy and a seaman sustains personal injuries from a condition of the unseaworthy vessel. An unseaworthiness claim is separate and independent from a claim made under the Jones Act and recovery can be made under both simultaneously if you can prove the injury was caused both by negligence and unseaworthiness.
Longshoremen & Other Workers
There are many employees of the maritime industry that do not qualify as seamen, and as such, their damages are not derived from the Jones Act. These workers, generally longshoremen, dockworkers, etc., if injured and regardless of fault, can seek damages under the Longshore and Harbor Workers' Compensation Act. These damages include:
- Weekly compensation equivalent to two thirds his or her average weekly wage for fifty-two weeks preceding the date of the injury.
- Disability benefits with compensation at different rates depending on if disability is temporary total, temporary partial, permanent total, or permanent partial.
- Lifetime Medical Care, if necessary, and it does not have to be curative in nature.
- Mileage reimbursement for travel to doctor appointments and medical treatments.
- Attorney's fees, if applicable.
Experienced Legal Representation Matters
Because the stakes are so high and the laws so intricate, it is easy to be overwhelmed after a maritime accident occurs. To reduce stress and focus on recovery, you and loved ones need an experienced maritime personal injury lawyer. At Gilman & Bedigian, we offer comprehensive, compassionate representation in our pursuit of a settlement or damages award that is fair and just, and we don't get paid until this outcome is realized.
After we meet with you, we will conduct a thorough investigation into the accident or conditions that caused your injury. When you hire Gilman & Bedigian, you are hiring a team of experienced, collaborative lawyers who will:
- Research the facts surrounding the accident and/or injury.
- Interview relevant witnesses.
- Procure and thoroughly analyze the evidence.
- Consult with or employ the services of specialized professionals, including medical, engineering, accident reconstructionist, life care planning and maritime industry experts.
- Strategically produce a claim or complaint that is solid in its persuasion, relevant facts and legal arguments.
- Prepare for trial while aggressively negotiating a fair, just compensation that benefits you and your family.
By hiring us and letting us serve as your legal representative both in and out of court, we can fight for your legal rights and interests and get you the compensation you need and deserve. Contact Gilman & Bedigian Trial Attorneys online or call our law office at (800) 529-6162 for a free consultation.