Maritime Injury Topics

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Maritime Law Overview


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Glossary of Legal Terms N - S

Navigable Waters

any body of water that is deep enough, wide enough and safe enough for a vessel to operate safely. It can include rivers, canals, harbors and the high seas. Some statutes include international waters in the definition of navigable waters and in other statutes the term only applies to the waters of the United States.


failure to act in the same manner as that which a reasonably prudent person would under the same circumstances. If an employer or colleague is negligent then a seamen is entitled to damages under federal law. Damages can include financial compensation for medical treatment, lodging, food and pain and suffering depending on the statute that applies.

Oil Tanker

vessels that are specially designed to transport large quantities of oil. There are two types of oil tankers. The crude tanker carries unrefined crude oil and the product tankers which carry refined oil from refineries to locations near the marketplace. Crude tankers are larger than product tankers.

Offshore Oil Rig

a platform that is completely surrounded by water that is designed for workers to drill for oil, process it and prepare it for shipping back to shore. Most oil rigs contain living quarters for workers as well. An oil rig can be floating or attached to the ocean floor.

Offshore Vessels

oil and gas vessels that work in finding and obtaining oil and gas. Often, these vessels work in conjunction with an offshore oil rig to drill for oil. Various types of offshore vessels exist and each is designed for specific purposes and conditions.

Open and Obvious Danger

the doctrine that makes a plaintiff at least partly responsible for his or her injuries if the danger that caused the injury was open and obvious and the plaintiff failed to exercise reasonable care in the face of that open and obvious danger.

Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act

this Act makes the Secretary of Interior responsible for mineral exploration and development of the outer continental shelf. The outer continental shelf is submerged lands that are in US territorial waters but not within any individual state's territorial waters. Oil, gas and other important minerals can be found on the outer continental shelf.


a person who is riding on a vessel who is in no way responsible for the vessel's operation. It excludes a vessel's captain and crew, for example. It would include vacationers on a cruise ship, commuters on a ferry or friends and family on a recreational vehicle who are in no way responsible for operating the vessel.

Pennsylvania Rule

a rule set forth by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1874. The rule makes clear that if a ship is in violation of any applicable statute at the time an injury or collision occurs then that violation is at least a contributory cause to the injury or collision.


the act of hijacking or overtaking a ship on the high seas. Pirates take control of the vessel away from those who rightfully have it and take control of the vessel themselves. Force is often used when a ship is hijacked.

Private Carriage

transport of goods by a carrier who is under contract to transport those goods by vessel. Private carriage differs from public carriage where people simply pay for the right to use the vessel and do not enter private contracts for use of the vessel.

Private International Law

also known as conflict of laws. It regulates those disputes where the choice of which nation's or state's laws to apply could influence the outcome of the case. In the United States, the term conflict of laws is more commonly used because it can apply to different state laws as well as international law.


this term has ancient origins and refers to an attorney who specializes in admiralty and maritime law. The designation is currently granted by the Maritime Law Association of the United States and is recognized by the American Bar Association in the Model Rules of Ethics.

Proportionate Fault

the doctrine that attributes a percentage to fault to different parties, if more than one party's negligence is found to have caused property damage, personal injuries or fatalities. The responsibility to pay damages is based on the findings of proportionate fault.

Public Vessel

a vessel that is owned and operated by the United States, a state or a foreign country. Public vessels are not engaged in commerce but may be involved in the defense and protection of the people of a country, state or political subdivision.

Recreational Vessel

a boat that is used solely for pleasure, recreation or sport and is not engaged in commerce. In order to be considered a recreational vessel, a boat may not be hired nor may an owner accept money for a voyage.


one who rescues a ship, its cargo or its crew from danger. Salvors are entitled to rewards for their efforts regardless of whether their actions resulted in the rescue of a ship, its cargo or its crew. One who moves a ship out of harm's way or repairs a ship that has been harmed.

Saving to Suitors

this clause which is found in Title 28, Section 1333(1) of the United States Code allows a plaintiff to sue in state court for a maritime cause of action if the state law provides a remedy for the plaintiff's cause of action.

Seagoing Vessels

ships, boats or other vessels that operate in the oceans or seas. A vessel that is permanently docked and not intended for travel is not a seagoing vessel. Different laws may apply depending on whether a vessel is seagoing or not.


a mariner or a sailor who operates or works on a vessel. A seaman is employed by the ship's owner or operator to assist in the operation of the vessel. The captain and crew would, for example, be considered seamen.


a concept that refers to a vessel and its crew and whether that vessel and crew are able to safely be at sea. The vessel's owner and carrier must act reasonably and with due diligence to ensure the vessel's safety.

Ship's Manifest

a detailed list of everything that is contained in the ship's cargo. This written document is usually signed by the captain or master of the ship and provided to the owner of the cargo as a form of receipt that acknowledges acceptance of the cargo goods. See also: Bill of Lading.

Statute of Limitations

the amount of time in which a party can file a lawsuit, or arbitration, after an injury, illness or other event occurs. Many maritime statutes contain specific statutes of limitations and determine the exact time frame that a person may file his or her claim.

Longshore & Harbor Workers Compensation Act (LHWCA)

Free PDF overview from 888-GO-LONGY regarding Longshore & Harbor Workers Compensation Act (LHWCA)

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Defense Base Act
The Frequently Asked Questions

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Injured seaman must file a claim within three years of the injury. More on Employees Rights...