Frequently Asked Questions About Maritime Law

The answers are general in nature and are not intended to apply to every maritime and admiralty situation. Each case is different and carries its own set of circumstances. To receive a personal consultation regarding your specific maritime and admiralty claim, please contact Tabak Mellusi & Shisha at 800-781-8419 or 212-962-1590 or through our online form. With an office in New York City, we represent clients nationwide.

Who is covered by the Jones Act?

The Jones Act covers those who meet the law's definition of "seaman." If you work on a vessel on the navigable waters of the United States, you are likely covered under the Jones Act. Your job must be tied to the overall mission of the vessel, but you do not have to be a deckhand or officer. For example, a cook onboard a ship could also be covered.

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What financial compensation can I recover in a maritime law claim?

Generally speaking, the financial compensation in a maritime and admiralty claim is similar to a corresponding claim for a shore-based claim. For example, accident victims are entitled to recover monetary damages for all losses and expenses suffered from the accident. Under the Jones Act, injured seamen are entitled to maintenance and cure benefits, which cover both a daily stipend for living expenses (maintenance) and compensation for medical expenses (cure). Depending on the particular circumstances of your case, your damages may also include recovery for any of the following:

  • Medical bills
  • Lost wages and loss of earning potential, including pension and fringe benefits
  • Physical and mental pain and suffering
  • Physical disability
  • Disfigurement
  • Emotional trauma

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What is a wrongful death claim?

Wrongful death law provides financial compensation to the family of a person whose death was caused by the negligent, willful or wrongful act of another. When a wrongful death occurs aboard a watercraft or vessel on navigable waters, the case is filed under the provisions of applicable maritime and admiralty law.

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Who can file a wrongful death lawsuit?

The right to file a wrongful death claim requires a grant of authority from a probate court, appointing one as administrator of an estate. The administrator may then file the claim on behalf of the surviving spouse, children and other people who suffered pecuniary losses.

Pecuniary losses include the loss of support, loss of services, loss of the prospect of inheritance and funeral expenses. Punitive damages may also be awarded in cases of serious or malicious wrongdoing to punish the wrongdoer and/or deter others from behaving similarly. Punitive damages are not recoverable in seamen's cases filed under the Jones Act.

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How do I know if I need a lawyer?

Because of the complexities of admiralty and maritime Law, virtually all situations involving bodily injury and death require a timely consultation with experienced maritime counsel.

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What is the time frame to file a suit under the Jones Act?

A suit must be filed within three years of the accident or incident causing injury. The only exception is for toxic tort claims such as mesothelioma, asbestosis, chemically induced respiratory illnesses, etc. In such cases, the three-year period begins to run not from the date of initial exposure, but from the date of discovery of the injury by the plaintiff or from the date when through the exercise of reasonable diligence, such injury should have been discovered by the plaintiff, whichever is earlier. Thus, even if it takes decades after exposure to the chemical to discover the injury, a lawsuit could still be brought within three years after that discovery. The issue of when a plaintiff "should have known" is generally a question of fact, and the statute is construed liberally in a plaintiff's favor.

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What is a statute of limitations and how does it affect my rights?

A statute of limitations is a deadline or "bar" date to file suit and is set by federal or state law. Once this date has passed, the right to file suit is "barred" — i.e., lost forever, no matter how serious the injuries or how devastating the financial consequences of a death. The law does allow limited excuses for nonfiling that may allow the case to go forward, which is another reason to contact an experienced maritime accident attorney.

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How are attorney fees determined?

At Tabak Mellusi & Shisha, there is never any charge for an initial consultation whether by phone or in person. If we determine that your case is meritorious, we will accept it exclusively on a written contingent fee agreement. Our fee is a percentage of the sum recovered. The percentage is set by the law of the state where the claim is filed. In all cases, however, if there is no recovery, we receive no fee.

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