Knowing your rights when you’ve been injured in a maritime accident can be difficult given all the complex laws that are involved. But just because the rules are convoluted does not mean that you do not deserve justice and compensation for your injury.

If you or someone you love been injured — or lost their life — in a maritime accident out at sea, the Gulf Coast maritime lawyers Keith and Christopher of Lapeze & Johns have the knowledge and experience to give you a fighting chance to recover the damages you need to begin building your life back up.

In today’s blog, we are discussing the differences between maritime law and the Law of the Sea in order to see which one may apply to your particular case.

What is Maritime Law?

Maritime law usually applies to private entities like ship owners, their employees, and any clients that they may have on board. Many of these laws have been around for years, developing from various sets of rules and customs.

Currently, much of the United States’ maritime law has derived from those older traditions and codified into the following statutes:

  • The Merchant Marine Act of 1928 – This law protects injured seamen by giving them the right to file a lawsuit if their employer acted negligently, ensuring that adequate compensation is received to cover past and future medical costs, as well as a number of other damages. This act, also known as the Jones Act, also mandates that American ships and crews can transport passengers and goods between U.S. ports.
  • The Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act (LHWCA) – This piece of legislation is a federal workers’ compensation law that enables most dockside workers the right to sue for disability payments and compensation for medical bills.
  • The Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act – As the name suggests, this particular act ensures fair compensation for injuries that are sustained while working on the outer continental shelf. It usually covers crew members who man oil rigs, natural gas exploration platforms, and others that may be working at this distance from shore.
  • Death on the High Seas Act (DOHSA) When a sailor perishes over three nautical miles away from shore, this act enables relatives of the deceased to file a lawsuit against the employer in an effort to acquire compensation to cover for funeral expenses, lost financial support, and lost care and emotional support.

While maritime laws are complex, having the experienced Gulf Coast maritime lawyers of Lapeze & Johns on your side is your best bet to earning the compensation you need to recover.

What is the Law of the Sea?

The Law of the Sea, on the other hand, is a little more complex, only because it involves how nations act with other countries concerning maritime issues. Like maritime law, it stems from many other rules and customs, but unlike maritime law, the Law of the Sea was codified in 1994’s United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS)

Even though the United States never ratified UNCLOS, it is still recognized as a customary international law with rules that are still followed to this day. The Law of the Sea usually deals with:

  • Navigational Rights – This grants other nations the right to pass through territorial waters, even military vessels. The exception, however, is that they are only allowed to go so far as to reach their destination. The doctrine of “innocent passage” ultimately mandates that foreign vessels mustn’t cause any harm or break any laws of the nation whose territorial waters they are traveling in.
  • Jurisdiction Over Coastal Waters – Under UNCLOS, territorial waters were extended from three nautical miles to 12 nautical miles. An adjacent zone was implemented, covering 24 nautical miles where nations could still enforce their particular laws regarding customs, pollution, taxation, and immigration.
  • Ownership of Natural Resources – This sets an exclusive economic zone (EEZ) for each nation, allowing up to 200 nautical miles from the baseline or 350 nautical miles if their continental shelf extends that far. Operating inside of the EEZ, each nation is allowed to exploit natural resources like fisheries, seafloor deposits like oil and natural gas, and mineral resources.

It is important to note, however, that above all else, mare liberum applies (i.e. the seas are free to everyone but belong to no one).

Injured in a Maritime Accident and Need Legal Representation? Call Lapeze & Johns Now

Given the complexities of maritime law, finding a resolution to pay off all your mounting bills and dealing with a host of health issues can seem nearly impossible. Couple this with the healing and rehabilitation process, and returning to normalcy seems all the more distant.

This is why hiring an attorney right after a maritime accident is so crucial. Having knowledgeable Houston maritime lawyers like the ones at Lapeze & Johns can clear the fogginess of the situation with the experience you need from years of service in helping victims that have suffered injury through no fault of their own.

Time is of the essence. If you were involved in a maritime accident, you have three years to file a claim from the time it happened.


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About Christopher Johns

Christopher Johns co-founded Lapeze & Johns with one thing in mind: civil justice for victims of negligence. Mr. Johns is an experienced trial lawyer who has tried over 50 cases to verdict and judgment throughout Texas, the Gulf Coast, and around the United States with a 98% success rate. His efforts throughout his time at the University of Houston Law Center and as a lawyer have garnered him many accolades, a 10.0 rating from AVVO, and Super Lawyer in Plaintiff’s Personal Injury Litigation every year since 2004. Read more about Christopher Johns here.

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