A lot of maritime attorneys like defending the big guys. They like defending the big cruise line, the big conglomerate and the big insurer. Sure, everyone needs a defense but I don't have the disposition for that work. Me? I like helping the maritime worker and the seaman in pursuit of their rights. When a maritime worker or seaman is hurt, or a vessel owner's insurer won't cover a claim, or a maritime business is shorted in a deal, I like righting that wrong. I like chasing that claim.
When it comes to crewmembers, I like sharing general information about admiralty law in order to help them spot a legal issue here and there. For instance, did you know there's a federal law called the “Seaman's Protection Act” that is subtitled “Protection of seaman against discrimination”?
This federal law protects a seaman from discrimination or discharge for doing the right thing. This federal law could provide you with protection if you accurately report your hours or if you refuse to perform your duties because of a reasonable belief of injury. It also can protect you if in good faith you report or are about to report to the Coast Guard a maritime safety violation.
If you have a basis for a claim, you may be able to seek, among other things, past wages and even punitive damages! Beware though, like everything in the law, wrinkles abound. The time to make a claim is pretty short (compared to other statutes of limitation) so speak to an admiralty attorney to understand your rights and remedies.
I see myself as helping maritime folks find shelter from the storm and the Seaman's Protection Act (46 U.S.C. § 2114) is what I'd call a hurricane hole.
Underway and making way.
By: John K. Fulweiler, Esq.