Maritime Injuries 101: Understanding Personal Injury & Compensation Laws for US Victims

According to statistics released by the US Coast Guard, in the year 2018 alone, boat accidents caused 2,511 injuries, 633 deaths, and roughly $46 million in damage to property. 

If you have been involved in a boating accident, you will want to know about the applicable compensation laws for US victims. 

In some cases, boating accidents are nobody’s fault. In instances, a boating accident may be due to direct negligence or could have been prevented if all precautionary measures were taken. 

Read on to find out more about maritime injuries, whether you may have a claim or not, and how to prepare to file for a maritime injury suit. 

What Injuries Are Classified as Maritime Injuries?

Maritime injuries are defined as those which occur in US waters. Maritime law deals with personal injury cases that occur at sea, offenses occurring in open water, piracy, maintenance and cure, and private maritime business, and more. Maritime law is also known as admiralty law. 

Maritime law falls under federal law, and therefore any legal claims need to be handled by a federal court. 

Some examples of maritime injuries are:

  • Slips and falls
  • Injuries incurred in boat collisions
  • Head injuries
  • Broken limbs
  • Pier and dock accidents
  • Injuries from repetitive work
  • Chemical burns

Many of the personal injuries that maritime law deals with pertains to maritime workers, such as cargo ship crew and oil rig workers. However, maritime law also deals with injuries occurring on pleasure craft. 

The Laws Governing Boat Accidents in Non-US Waters

It is important to note that offshore injuries that happen outside of US waters do not generally fall under maritime law. If an injury occurs in international waters, compensation for the boating accident may need to be sought under the set of laws known as the Athens Convention. 

If a maritime injury takes place in the waters of a foreign jurisdiction, the maritime laws of that country generally apply and claimants will need to seek compensation for maritime injury within that jurisdiction. 

In some cases, the flag under which the vessel in question is registered will also influence which jurisdiction’s laws are applicable.

Accidents occurring in foreign or international waters can often fall into a grey area jurisdiction wise. If you experience an offshore injury out of US waters, it is vital that you seek guidance from a specialized attorney. 

Who Can Claim Under Maritime Law?

As mentioned above, any US citizen that suffers a personal injury in US waters can carry out a claim providing they have grounds to do so. This includes seamen, fishermen, cruise ship passengers, and those on board other pleasure craft.

Foreigners to the US may in some cases lodge a claim if they experienced a personal injury while aboard a US craft. 

The Available Benefits for Maritime Injury Claims

Benefits for maritime injuries vary depending on their severity. Claims amounts are meant to cover expenses incurred, as well as financial and emotional losses. 

These include:

  • Medical expenses incurred for treatment
  • Pain and suffering
  • Loss of income

If you have suffered a personal injury while at sea—and would like to get an idea of what you claim would be—take a look at our claim calculator.

Determining Liability

Any person who is a non-seaman needs to determine liability against the owner of the ship or boat they were on when the injury took place. In the case of a collision, if the other party is in the wrong, liability would need to be proved against either the operator of that vessel or the owner of it, if the collision was due to a fault on the vessel.

On the other hand, if a seaman experiences a personal injury, they must prove their employment and that they were injured while on the job.

Common occurrences of liability include when a boat owner fails to properly maintain their vessel. If improper maintenance results in a boating accident, they will be liable in most cases. Another example of a liability is when the person operating a boat does so irresponsibly.

Driving too fast, or operating a boat under the influence of alcohol are both instances of negligence. Incidentally, the US Coast Guard has determined that alcohol is the leading factor behind deaths related to boating accidents. 

How to Prepare a Personal Injury Claim for a Boating Accident

Preparing to lodge a claim for a maritime injury is very much the same as preparing for any personal injury claim. 

The first step is preserving evidence for your personal injury claim. Ideally, you should take photos at the time of the accident to document your injury and the accident itself. You should also prepare a list of witnesses, and keep all medical proof of your injuries. 

To successfully claim for all expenses incurred, you must keep all medical and other bills related to the accident. If you have been deemed unfit to work, you will also need to have evidence of this. 

In addition to compiling evidence, you must seek out an experienced attorney to carry out your case. If you are considering handling a case yourself, be aware that filing a suit without a lawyer can be extremely tough. If you aren’t very familiar with the legal process and maritime law itself, you will severely compromise your case by not engaging an attorney.  

Hiring an experienced attorney will load the odds in your favor, and give you the best chance of winning your claim. 

Do You Need an Attorney to Handle Your Boat Accident Injury Claim?

Boat accidents are common, and if you have suffered one thanks to negligence on the part of someone else, it is important that you file an injury claim. 

Now that you know the basics of maritime law and how compensation for a boating accident works, you will need to locate a reliable attorney that can help you with your case. A good attorney will help you prepare, file, and present your claim, giving you the best odds of success. 

Do you need help locating an attorney who specializes in accident claims? If so, we can help.

To find the best accident lawyer for your claim, take advantage of our attorney matching engine. Simply enter the applicable information, and our algorithm will match you with the most qualified attorneys for your case in your area. 

Feel free to contact us if you have any questions about the process.


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