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Maritime Law Glossary

At Pepper & Odom, P.C., our maritime injury lawyers believe that when clients are armed with the right knowledge, it can be easier for them to understand the laws and processes involved when filing a claim. This maritime law glossary provides straightforward definitions that are easy to understand. 

Administrative claim – This type of claim is filed through administrative channels instead of the court system and is usually overseen by a board or governmental agency. For example, workers’ comp claims and claims filed under Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act go through an administrative claims process.


Admiralty – This term refers to maritime law issues and the courts that have jurisdiction over them. Jones Act claims may be designated as being filed in admiralty, which enables injured seamen to bring their case before a judge instead of a jury.


Agent – A person who is authorized to act on behalf of an individual, organization, or business entity.


Arbitration – Alternative dispute resolution that happens outside of the court system. Evidence is presented to one or more arbitrators, who then determine the outcome of the claim. Parties involved in arbitration are typically bound by the decision of the arbitrator.


Certificate of Inspection – A certificate issued by the Coast Guard if a vessel is found to be in compliance with all applicable laws after periodic inspection. It must be framed and displayed on the vessel.


Claimant – The injured person filing a claim. If a seaman is incapacitated or deceased, their representative or estate may act as claimant.


Contributory Negligence – The portion of fault assigned to a seaman for their own negligence that may have contributed to an injury.


Crewmember – Members of the deck department or those who contribute to the navigation of a vessel. In Jones Act Claims, the term crewmember includes any person who furthers the function of the vessel.


Defense Base Act – An extension of the LHWCA that provides workers’ compensation coverage to civilian workers working outside the United States on military bases or under a contract with the U.S. government for national defense or public works.


Joint and several liability – Multiple defendants may be found jointly negligent and liable for contributing to the injury of a seaman. However, each defendant is fully responsible for any judgment and it may be recovered in full from any one defendant.


Jones Act – A federal statute that extends protections to seamen previously provided to rail workers under FELA. The Jones Act enables injured seamen to bring lawsuits against employers for negligent acts or the negligent acts of other crewmembers.


Judgment – An order issued by the court to resolve a lawsuit. It may be granted according to the court’s verdict or the outcome of parties stipulating to the terms of the judgment.


Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act (LHWCA) – The LHWCA is a federal law that provides benefits similar to workers’ compensation to employees who are injured on the navigable waters of the United States, or in adjoining areas, including docks, terminals, piers, wharves, and areas in which vessels are loaded or unloaded. The LHWCA covers employees in maritime occupations such as longshoremen, shipbuilders or ship-breakers, repairmen, and harbor construction workers. The LHWCA does not cover seamen.


Navigable Waters – Interstate or international waters that can be used for commercial transportation. Lakes that are wholly intrastate but are connected to interstate or international waters by navigable canals, streams, or rivers may be considered navigable waters for the purposes of the Jones Act.


Negligence – A failure to act in a reasonably safe and cautious manner with regard to injury.


Operator – The company or agency responsible for the daily operations of a vessel. In some instances, the owner of the vessel contracts with the operator to maintain the operations of the vessel.


Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act (OCSLA) – The OCSLA was passed in 1954 to govern activity related to the outer Continental Shelf (OCS), which consists of submerged lands, subsoil, and seabed that lie seaward of state coastal waters. This is an area of lucrative oil and gas exploration, production, and development. The OCSLA extends coverage of LHWCA to non-seamen workers injured or killed while working on the OCS in relation to the exploration, development, removal, or transportation of natural resources.


Public Vessels Act – This statute enables the U.S. government to be named as a defendant for damages caused by public vessels owned or operated by and for the public service of federal, state, and local governments.


Remedy – The legal means by which an employer or responsible third party is held liable for the loss suffered by an injured worker.


Seaman – Any member of a crew or worker contributing to the overall purpose and function of a vessel.


Settlement – When the parties to a claim reach an agreement as to liability and damages without a court verdict. Most personal injury cases are settled out of court.


Statute of limitations – The time limit for filing a legal claim. IN most situations, the limit on filing Jones and other maritime claims is three years from the date of the incident or injury. However, exceptions do apply so it’s critical to contact a maritime law firm as soon as possible following an injury.


Unseaworthy – A term that refers to any unsafe condition occurring on a vessel that causes an injury. The duty to provide a seaworthy vessel is a standard of general maritime law. A vessel may be considered unseaworthy due to a number of circumstances, including improperly designed or maintained surfaces and equipment, defective gear, or an unfit crew.

Vessel – Although many people think of a vessel as a boat or ship, anything that can be moved to a different location at the end of a job and is capable of transporting goods or personnel is usually classified as a vessel. Jack-up rigs, semi-submersible rigs, and mobile offshore drilling units are also considered vessels under maritime law.


Contact Our Maritime Law Firm Today


Our attorneys at Pepper & Odom, P.C. are happy to answer any questions you may have and offer free case evaluations for maritime injury claims. Call our Birmingham, Alabama office at 205-250-1107 or call 601-202-1111 in Jackson, Mississippi, or contact us online. Our maritime injury attorneys represent clients nationwide, utilizing local counsel.