If you’re injured by another person’s negligence – for example, in a traffic collision – you can file a personal injury claim and probably be compensated for your medical bills, lost wages, and related losses. Personal injury cases are routinely handled by the courts in all fifty states.

But what happens if you’re injured by someone else’s negligence, and you’re not in any of the fifty states? In other words, what if the incident happens in international waters?

If you’ll keep reading, you’ll learn what your rights are if you are injured by negligence in international waters, and you’ll also learn what steps to take after you’ve been injured.

AFTER A PERSONAL INJURY IN INTERNATIONAL WATERS, WHO CAN HELP?

Each personal injury claim arising from an incident on international waters is unique. This is an introduction to personal injury law as it applies in international waters, but if you’re the injury victim, you’ll need personalized advice from a reliable Louisiana injury lawyer.

“Maritime” law or “admiralty” law is the combination of international and U.S. laws regulating all contracts, torts, and personal injuries that happen on water. Maritime laws are primarily international, so the jurisdiction questions may be complicated in some personal injury cases.

If you are injured by negligence on international waters, can the negligent party be held liable? Can your rights be enforced? You’ll need to have a personal injury lawyer review the case, determine if you have grounds for legal action, and verify which nation or state has jurisdiction.

With a few rare exceptions, the personal injuries that happen in the international waters closest to the United States fall into two categories: work-related injuries and personal injuries sustained on cruise ships. Here’s a brief look at what the law provides in these situations.

HOW ARE WORKING PEOPLE PROTECTED ON INTERNATIONAL WATERS?

The Merchant Marine Act of 1920, known also as the “Jones Act,” is the federal law that establishes the right of maritime workers to receive compensation for job-related injuries arising from negligence.

It’s not worker’s compensation. The law allows U.S. maritime workers to bring personal injury actions against ship owners and other employers based on claims of negligence. However, the Jones Act doesn’t cover everyone who works on a boat or a ship.

WHO AND WHAT IS COVERED BY THE JONES ACT?

To bring a personal injury lawsuit under the Jones Act, at least thirty percent of your employment hours must be on a vessel at sea. The Jones Act covers:

  1. slip-and-fall injuries linked to gas or oil
  2. injuries caused by poor maintenance of a vessel
  3. injuries caused by defective or negligently maintained equipment
  4. injuries caused by an employer’s failure to provide sufficient training
  5. intentional assaults by coworkers or employers

Personal injury lawsuits under the Jones Act may be brought in a U.S. federal court or in a state court. Defendants typically prefer taking the case to a state court, where a jury can try the case if no out-of-court settlement is available. In a federal court, a judge alone will decide the matter.

IS THERE A TIME LIMIT FOR LEGAL ACTION UNDER THE JONES ACT?

The statute of limitations for filing a personal injury claim under the Jones Act is three years from the date of your personal injury or injuries. After three years, no court will hear your case. That doesn’t mean, however, that you can take your time about seeking legal assistance.

If you’re injured while working on a ship, and if you believe that your injury is covered by the Jones Act, speak at once with a New Orleans personal injury attorney who has experience with Jones Act cases.

Don’t wait three years – or even three weeks – to begin seeking the compensation you need.

WHAT IF YOU’RE INJURED ON A CRUISE SHIP?

A personal injury case arising from an accident on a cruise ship is going to have legal complications from the start. Liability for personal injuries on a cruise ship may be restricted by the conditions and terms printed on the ticket.

When you purchase a cruise ticket, you are agreeing to a contract that spells out nearly every detail of a passenger’s relationship with the cruise line, including where you may file a personal injury claim if you are injured on the cruise.

It won’t matter where the ship is registered or even where the injury occurred. A personal injury action against a cruise line must be filed in the court named in the contract. For Royal Caribbean and Carnival Cruise Lines, that location is the Miami Federal Court.

HOW DO INJURIES HAPPEN ON CRUISE SHIPS?

Cruise ship passengers can sustain a variety of injuries. When spilled liquids aren’t cleaned up swiftly, and when walkways are cluttered or lit poorly, passengers are at risk. Injuries can happen when passengers enjoy the water slides and pools. Another risk is food poisoning.

When a cruise ship’s electricity and plumbing fail, every passenger’s health is at risk. If you’re injured as a passenger, take photographs and gather any physical evidence that may be pertinent.

If you fill out an accident report form for the cruise line, make several copies for yourself. That document could become evidence in a personal injury case. If witnesses saw the accident that injured you, find out how to contact those persons. You may need their testimony or statements.

WHEN SHOULD YOU CONTACT AN ATTORNEY?

Then, speak to an experienced New Orleans personal injury attorney as quickly as possible. In fact, if you’re able to speak with the attorney while you’re still on the ship, you’ll probably receive important advice.

If a cruise line or insurance company offers you a quick settlement before you’ve consulted an attorney, don’t accept it. Quick settlement offers are invariably low settlement offers. A Louisiana personal injury lawyer can usually negotiate a much better settlement on your behalf.

Do not accept any settlement offer from a cruise line or from an insurance company until you have been advised by an experienced accident attorney.

WHAT ARE YOUR RIGHTS IF YOU ARE INJURED ON A CRUISE SHIP?

If the cruise line, its owners, or its employees were negligent in a way that directly caused your personal injury or injuries, you have the legal right to be compensated for your medical expenses, lost wages, personal pain and suffering, and all related losses and damages.

If you were injured on a cruise ship, you must contact an injury attorney at once, because federal and state statutes of limitations may not apply. The contract you agreed to with the cruise line – the one printed on your ticket – may restrict the amount of time you have to take legal action.

If you are injured by negligence in an accident that takes place in international waters, and if you are a U.S. citizen or a lawful permanent resident, it’s extremely unlikely that a foreign nation will have jurisdiction. Nevertheless, every case is different, so you’ll need personalized advice.

After an injury caused by negligence, you could find yourself unable to work – at the same time you are dealing with unexpected medical bills. You’ll need to be compensated. A good lawyer’s help is your right, but it is up to you to exercise that right, take the first step, and make the call.