Q: In what way(s) does a personal injury case involving maritime law differ from other personal injury cases?
A: Generally speaking, a personal injury (P.I.) case differs from a maritime P.I. case because a maritime P.I. case must involve an incident, involving a vessel, in navigation, on navigable waters, with the potential for impacting maritime commerce. However, a personal injury case involving maritime law is a fairly broad statement, because it covers many circumstances that are vastly different. For example, a typical P.I. case within maritime jurisdiction could be anything from a slip and fall on a cruise ship to a seaman injured by lifting a heavy oil barrel in the course of his work. For each case, who the parties are can make a huge difference in the course of action that needs to be taken.
One of the most important differences between a typical P.I. case and a maritime P.I. case is that the statute of limitations is different. Statute of limitations is the time limit you have to bring your suit before it is time barred by the court. A general P.I. statute of limitations is four years, while maritime P.I. cases generally have a three year limit. All cruise lines that put restrictions on your timing to bring suit; usually a one year limit is written into the contract.
So, how can you be sure that your case is one that falls within maritime jurisdiction? The best advice I can give is that if you or someone you know has been injured in an activity on the water, the safest action to take is seek the assistance of an attorney who is board certified in admiralty and maritime law. There are many legal nuances to maritime cases that are unlike any other area of the law. Failing to seek representation by someone who has experience and knowledge of these special rules could result in getting less than you deserve for your injuries, or even a missed opportunity to file suit.