Maritime Statute of Limitations

A statute of limitation is law pertinent to a specific jurisdiction that limits the period of time the impact of a law remains executable. Admiralty statutes of limitation are those statutes, whether federal or state, that may place a timeframe upon when one’s legal right to file suit will expire. In a maritime law context, statutes of limitation restrict or limit the period of time that an individual or business has to file suit against another entity or individual. Determination of appropriate statutes of limitations applicable in a given case is entirely contingent upon case-specific factors within a known jurisdiction, and in order to ensure at least reserving your legal right to file suit in the future, consulting with a maritime lawyer upon the earliest phases of considering filing suit under admiralty law is advisable.

Especially in the case of maritime law, statutes of limitations seek to restrict to the time in which the injury occurred or from the time of discovery of the injury in question to a specified amount of years depending on the type of claim in order to ensure a reasonably swift progression of the civil or criminal claims process. The purpose of statutes of limitation, whether maritime or otherwise, is also to ensure that a conviction, verdict or judgment is based upon evidence that has not deteriorated with time. Once the time specified in a statute of limitations passes, a claim may no longer be filed. Maritime statute of limitations are no different.

Maritime Statute of Limitations in Wrongful Death and Personal Injury Lawsuits

With maritime injury or death claims, filling a claim or bringing suit before the specified statute of limitation period passes is crucial in seeking compensation or recovery for damages. Ultimately, if your claim is not filed in a timely manner and before the expirations of your specific cases’ applicable statute of limitations period, plaintiffs are typically barred from recovery. Consult with a lawyer to determine if your maritime claim falls within or outside of the statute of limitations today.

It is notable that maritime law proceeds and emanates from totally different bodies of jurisprudence, and as such, several landmark personal injury on the ocean cases or federal laws highlight these now contemporary limit to the dates on filing maritime claims, including:

Death on the High Sea Act Statute of Limitations

In the event of a wrongful death at sea, family members of the deceased, as well as any other applicable real parties of interest, are allotted three (3) years by statute to file any maritime-related wrongful death claims.

The Longshore Harbor and Workers’ Compensation Act Statute of Limitations

Under the Longshore Harbor and Workers’ Compensation Act, a plaintiff has one (1) year from the alleged and documented date of any incidents or accidents incurred during the course of employment to file a claim.

Jones Act Statutes of Limitations

The Jones Act of 1920 is a federal statute that was enacted to set out clear regulations and laws that would protect seamen or crewmembers in a manner in employment context. Per the application and development of the Jones Act in the maritime industry, employers have a strict duty to ensure that their workers are afforded the federally required safety standard of working condition and that their workers are properly trained.

If this strict duty is not upheld per the industry rules codified in the Uniform Statute of Limitations for Maritime tort claims, any actions or personal injury claim that are then filed under the Jones Act must be done within three (3) years from the time of the accident or within three (3) years from the time of discovery of harms presumed to be caused by a prior accident or incident on navigable waters.

Eligibility to File Maritime Lawsuits under the Jones Act

It is important to note that only seamen or actual crewmember can file for personal injury damages under the Jones Act.

To be considered a seamen or actual crewmember, a person must establish that they have spent at least 30% of their working time aboard a U.S. vessel in navigable waters, contribute to the work of the vessel as well as have a connection with the vessel in operation. As with any other statute of limitations, there are exceptions to the standard Jones Act statutes of limitation, such as caveats for delayed discovery of the injury, should observable damages do not immediately present themselves, as well as U.S. government vessel exception. Specifically, the American government vessel exception states that a seamen working aboard a government vessel must first adhere to a two (2) year statute of limitations, while also engaging in a different claims filing process than other Jones Act plaintiffs.