Jurisdiction in Maritime Matters Between States
When an injury occurs at sea, offshore workers have legal rights and the ability to seek compensation under the Jones Act. However, it may be difficult to determine where to file a claim after an incident. Although the Jones Act itself is a federal statute, a Jones Act claim can be filed in either state or federal court. For injured seamen, they can benefit from the "savings to suitors clause," which makes it so that they can file a claim in a state court so long as that court recognizes federal claims made under the Jones Act.
Often, the seaman has several options for where they can file their lawsuit. Therefore, the locations of these potential courthouses that can preside over these suits can vary greatly between different cases. For claims that are filed federally, it can be heard by any federal court in the country; however, the rule of "forum non conveniens" does apply, which means that the presiding court must be located near some necessary action. Such an action may be the location of the initial accident, the location of the treating physician, or the location of key witnesses. For claim filed in state court, some of these same location requirements may still apply; however, they can generally be satisfied if the defendant company is located nearby.
Selecting a Trial by Jury for a Jones Act Lawsuit
When a seaman elects to sue his employer for negligence and/or unseaworthiness in state court under the Jones Act, the defendant may elect to have a trial by jury even if the plaintiff does not. In addition, if a claim is filed in federal court, the plaintiff has the ability to select either a bench or jury trial. This distinction is something a skilled attorney will consider prior to filing.
The statute of limitations in a Jones Act case is limited to three (3) years from the date of the injury. In the event that the injury was on a vessel owned federally by the United States or by an individual state, or on the Outer Continental Shelf, the injured worker may only have 22 months to give notice of a claim and 2 years to file suit. If a claim for compensation is made outside of the limitations time period, the claim will be denied.
If you or a loved one have been injured in a maritime incident, it is imperative to seek counsel well before the statute of limitations period ends. Additionally, seeking guidance from an attorney experienced in maritime law is imperative, as the nuances of this area can be very complex. The lawyers of Arnold & Itkin have helped guide hundreds of mariners, dockworkers, and other seamen through every step of the offshore litigation process when seeking out compensation for their injuries. Contact us today for a free case evaluation.