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Maritime work is demanding, strenuous, and often dangerous. For maritime workers, the most common cause of injuries is often negligence that could have been prevented by following common safety practices. Unsecured cargo, wet stairs, faulty equipment, and other hazardous conditions can lead to severe injuries and illnesses, and even death.

As a second-generation merchant marine, experienced maritime injury attorney Karl Truman is passionate about protecting the rights and wellbeing of all maritime workers. He knows firsthand the hardships you may be facing and he is committed to helping you recover the maximum compensation you need to get your life back on track.

If you’ve been hurt while working on the Ohio River, contact the Karl Truman Law Office today online or at (502) 222-2222 to discuss your case for free. We proudly serve injured workers from the Louisville, Kentucky, and Jeffersonville, Indiana, areas.

What Is Maritime Law?

Also referred to as admiralty law, maritime law regulates commerce, navigation, shipping, towage, piracy, and recreational boating on domestic and international waters. It covers “navigable” waters, both natural and man-made, such as rivers and canals. It covers contracts related to maritime activities, such as maritime liens and shipping insurance contracts.

The law also protects the rights of maritime workers and provides financial compensation for injuries and illnesses suffered while working on the water.

Maritime law can be extremely complex. It is a unique area of law that requires specific knowledge and skillsets beyond those of typical personal injury attorneys.

Who Controls Maritime Law?

Maritime and admiralty jurisdiction can be a complex topic to understand. At one time, only the Supreme Court was allowed to hear admiralty cases, as stipulated under the United States Constitution. Now, however, both state and federal courts can hear certain maritime cases. 

In the United States, maritime jurisdiction has expanded from exclusively American tidal waters to include any waters navigable within the U.S. for foreign or interstate commerce. This means that maritime jurisdiction includes a broad array of admiralty matters, even those that do not specifically involve interstate commerce, such as recreational boating.

When Does Maritime Law Apply?

Generally, any incidents that occur on navigable waters are subject to maritime and admiralty jurisdiction. If an inland body of water can support maritime commerce and either goes between two states or empties into the ocean, it will generally qualify as being navigable. So whether an incident occurs on the Ohio River, the Mississippi River, or the Gulf of Mexico, it likely falls under the jurisdiction of maritime law.

Lawsuits Against Third Parties

Vessel owners and employers aren’t the only entities that can be held liable for injuries. Under general maritime law, you may also be able to pursue damages from a third party who is at fault for your losses. For example, depending on the details of your case, you may be able to file a negligence claim against third parties such as:

  • Maintenance and repair companies
  • Equipment distributors or suppliers
  • Equipment or product manufacturers
  • Other contractors on board a ship or offshore platform

What Is the Jones Act?

The Jones Act is a piece of legislation passed in 1920 to protect workers involved in maritime labor. Officially known as the Merchant Marine Act of 1920, the Jones Act provides protection for those who spend at least 30 percent of their time in active service on a water vessel, which is a broad term that includes:

  • Barges
  • Tug boats
  • Crew boats
  • Riverboat casinos
  • Other types of watercraft

Those whose work contributes to the operation of vessels are often covered under the Jones Act as well. This may include dock workers, maintenance personnel, and cargo loaders. Some maritime workers do not qualify and may need to seek benefits under the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act.

What Benefits Are Available Under The Jones Act?

If you live in the greater Louisville, Kentucky, or Jeffersonville, Indiana, areas and were hurt while working for a vessel on the Ohio River, the Louisville workplace injury attorneys at the Karl Truman Law Office may be able to help you recover the Jones Act benefits you need.

The Jones Act shares some similarities with workers’ compensation, and it is intended to provide maritime workers with compensation for:

  • Injury-related medical and rehabilitation expenses
  • Lost wages during the recovery period

However, the Jones Act may also provide compensation for vocational training in cases in which a catastrophic injury prohibits a worker from returning to his or her previous job. Due to the complexities of Jones Act claims, it is advisable to work with a knowledgeable maritime injury lawyer to ensure your best chances for timely approval of full benefits.

What is the Jones Act Statute of Limitations?

Under the Jones Act, injured seamen have the right to sue their employers for negligence within three years of the date of the injury. There are, however, exceptions to this rule. For example, if you are a seaman who is assigned to a vessel that is owned, operated, or contracted by the United States Government, you may have a shorter amount of time in which to file your case. Conversely, if you were exposed to benzene or asbestos dust and were not aware of your injury until a later date, the statute of limitations is extended to three years after the date you first became aware of your injury or illness.

What Is a “Seaman?”

The Jones Act’s key provisions apply to a specific class of workers called seamen. This legal distinction is crucial to understand when filing an injury claim. However, there is no binding definition of who exactly qualifies as a seaman anywhere in the Merchant Marine Act or the Jones Act.

Simply being employed on a vessel does not in itself qualify as being a seaman. Maritime attorneys on both sides must review prior cases to determine if plaintiffs qualify as seamen.

In lieu of a legal definition, most judges and maritime lawyers usually agree that a seaman is an individual employed or engaged in any capacity on board a vessel, with the exception of sailing school students or instructors, or scientific personnel. Over the years, this general definition has undergone change and is still subject to revision.

What If I Do Not Qualify as a Seaman?

If you are a worker who does not qualify as a seaman, you can still pursue damages under the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act (LWHCA). This federal law covers harbor construction workers, shipbuilders, and dock workers who are hurt in the wharf area of a harbor. LWHCA provisions are different than standard workers’ compensation laws and can often provide better compensation.

Common Ohio River Barge Accidents

As one of the nation’s busiest waterways, the Ohio River is used extensively for transport throughout the year. The thousands of barge, tugboat, or other workers who are employed in any capacity in river transport deserve a safe working environment. Maritime and transport companies have a duty to properly train their employees on safety practices and, above all, they are required to create a safe working environment for their employees.

On-Deck Accidents

The majority of river work-related injuries happen during the day, during regular working hours. On-deck river accidents are often caused by:

  • Unsecured cargo
  • Unsecured swinging cables
  • Tripping on objects
  • Falls on unsecured ladders
  • Slipping on wet catwalks and stairs
  • Overboard accidents

Fires and Explosions

Fires and explosions on water vessels can result in catastrophic burn injuries. These devastating events can be caused by a number of factors, such as:

  • Tank leaks
  • Combustible materials on deck
  • Defective fuel lines
  • Improperly stored fuel 

Dock Accidents

Not all accidents occur on vessels. Dock accidents can happen during the maintenance or cleaning of a boat, or during loading or unloading. It’s important to remember that any injured worker on a vessel, whether on the water or docked, may be eligible for compensation if he or she is hurt in a preventable accident.

Dam and Lock Accidents

Both boat crews and dock workers can suffer serious injuries from malfunctioning dams and locks. Proper operation of dams and locks is crucial to ensuring a safe river working environment. Any operational failure in these systems can result in severe injury or death.

What Causes Barge Accidents on the Ohio River?

Employers of Ohio River transport workers may be liable for the harm inflicted on their employees if the workers’ injuries were the result of:

  • Negligence: One of the most common causes of river transport accidents is employer negligence. It is the responsibility of employers to ensure their employees are able to operate in a safe environment.
  • Defective equipment: Defective cranes, hoists, lines, cables, safety features, and other equipment can lead to serious injuries and death. Whether due to defective design, manufacturing, or negligent maintenance, injuries caused by defective products can have devastating, life-altering consequences.

Why Choose Karl Truman for Your Case?

Experienced attorney Karl Truman has dedicated his life to serving others. From a young age, the two careers he wanted most to pursue were being an officer in the United States Army and a lawyer. He was able to fulfill both dreams. 

He began his military career in 1981 and enrolled in Army ROTC at the University of Kentucky, where, in 1983, he was commissioned a Second Lieutenant. After 28 years of distinguished service, he retired as a Lieutenant Colonel in 2009. In 2021, he received his Merchant Marine credential from the United States Coast Guard. This achievement was particularly meaningful as his father was also a Merchant Marine in World War II.

Today, Karl Truman is an accomplished attorney who has helped many clients throughout Kentucky and Indiana. He has built a reputation for excellence in the field of personal injury law and is committed to helping injury victims recover the full and fair compensation to which they are entitled under the law. His vast experience as both an attorney and merchant marine gives you a distinct advantage in your maritime injury case.

During your initial consultation, we will listen to the details of your story, assess the merits of your claim, and explain your rights and legal options.

Contact an Admiralty and Maritime Attorney Today

Maritime law is very complex and encompasses numerous rules, agreements, and statutes. Some cases may be tried in state courts, while others may fall under federal court jurisdiction.

Due to these complexities, it is critical to choose a maritime law attorney with the experience, knowledge, and resources necessary to effectively handle every aspect of your case. Karl Truman has extensive experience in these complex matters. He can help you pursue the justice and compensation you deserve for your injuries with professionalism and compassion.

If you suffered a work-related maritime injury, please contact the Karl Truman Law Office today by calling (502) 222-2222 or scheduling your free consultation online. Our lawyers welcome injured workers from the Louisville, Kentucky, and Jeffersonville, Indiana, areas.