One of the most important aspects of filing a maritime injury and/or death claim is understanding the statute of limitations. Statute of limitations are mandated deadlines and all maritime personal injury cases must be filed within the allotted time period. In other words, once a certain amount of time has past after your accident and injury, you are usually unable to file for damages.
Jones Act Statute of Limitations
Under the Uniform Statute of Limitations for Maritime Torts, claims filed for maritime personal and actions covered under the Jones Act must be done within three years from the time of the accident and/or three from the time the accident occurred, giving rise to injuries.
Keep in mind, however, that in certain instances, the statute of limitations may be reduced, depending upon the case. For instance, claims against a ship owned or operated by the United States government may need to be filed sooner as the statute of limitations is typically reduced to around two years.
There are several intricate laws surrounding the Jones Act statute of limitations and therefore it’s crucial to seek legal representation beforehand so that you can ensure you legal rights are being met.
Death on High Seas Act Statute of Limitations
Under § 763a of the Death on High Seas Act (DOHSA), the family of victims who died while at sea have three years from the date of the death to file a claim. Family is defined as the spouse, parent, child, or dependant relative of the seaman who died.
Longshore Harbor and Workers’ Compensation Act Statute of Limitations
The Longshore Harbor and Workers’ Compensation Act (LHWCA) typically allows maritime workers one year from the time of the accident to file a claim. However, if an employer is paying compensation and medical benefits after the injury, that one-year statute begins when the benefits and compensation stop. In other words, you don’t need to file a claim for benefits while your employer is voluntarily compensating you, but should your employer stop the compensation and benefits, you’ll have one year from the last date of compensation and benefits to file your claim.
In addition, it’s important to mention that before you can file a claim under LHWCA, your employer must complete an official “Employer’s First Report of Injury” form and send it to the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL). If your employer doesn’t send this crucial form in, the one-year statute of limitations is void, and will start only when the form is received. If the form has been received by the DOL, you’ll typically receive a letter stating as such.
Maintenance and Cure Statute of Limitations
Maintenance and cure benefits fall under general maritime law, yet the three-year statute of limitations doesn’t always apply. Maintenance and cure benefits are still governed by latches, meaning that maritime workers may still have time to file a claim even if the statute of limitations has run out. However, if you’re filing for maintenance and cure after the standard three-year statute of limitations, the burden of proof will lie with you, and you must prove what circumstances prevented you from filing your claim in time.
Getting Legal Help
If you’ve let the time elapse without filing your claim, unfortunately there is usually little, if anything, that can be done. However, if you feel you’ve been coerced into not filing a claim or are being coerced into signing away your rights, it’s imperative to seek legal representation immediately. Keep in mind, however, that you need to act as quickly as possible when you’ve been injured.
For more information on what compensation and rights you may be entitled to under general maritime law, refer to our article Maritime Rights and Compensation.