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Offshore Glossary

Administrative Claim - Administrative claims are claims that are pursued through administrative means, as opposed to the courts. Administrative claims are usually submitted to the appropriate government agency for action. For example, a workers' compensation claim is an administrative claim governed by state law and is overseen by the particular state agency charged with handling those claims. Also, any claim for injury or illness filed under the Longshore and Harbor Workers' Compensation Act (LHWCA) is an administrative claim that must be handled by the United States Department of Labor. Administrative Law Judges (ALJ) often preside over these governmental agency proceedings.

Admiralty - Admiralty is a term of art used in reference to maritime law and the courts that have jurisdiction over those specific issues and proceedings.

Agent - An agent is an individual acting on behalf of and at the request of another individual or company, known as the principal. The actions of an agent are binding on his Jones Act employer, even if those actions result in the death or personal injury of another.

Apportionment - Apportionment is the term used to describe the process of determining a defendant's proportional share of liability in a maritime claim.

Arbitration - Arbitration is one of two alternative forms of dispute resolution, the other being mediation, that does not involve the courts. During this process, evidence in support of the claim is presented to one or more arbitrators who then determine the outcome. This decision is binding on all parties involved. It is becoming more and more common for maritime employers to insert arbitration clauses in seamen's contracts.

Barge - A barge is a large boat with a flat bottom that is used to transport material along rivers, canals or any other navigable inland waterways. Barges are usually moved along waterways by a tug or towboat because most do not have their own means of propulsion.

Claimant - The claimant in a Jones Act case is usually the injured seaman. In case of death, the seaman's personal or estate representative could stand in the shoes of the decedent as claimant.

Contributory Negligence - Contributory negligence refers to the percentage of fault attributed to an injured seaman, if any at all, for his own negligent acts or omissions which contributed to his injury. Accordingly, if the seaman is found to be partially at fault, his final recovery will be reduced by the percentage of his contributory negligence.

Featherweight Burden of Proof - The featherweight burden of proof refers to the fact that a seaman need only prove negligence in the slightest on the part of his employer in causing his injury in order to recover under the Jones Act.

Joint and Several Liability - Joint and several liability describes the apportionment of the concurrent liability of multiple parties regarding the same specific incident. Essentially, if more than one party has contributed to the injury of a seaman, the defendants may be found jointly responsible for the injury and jointly liable for compensation to the injured seaman. Each defendant would be liable for the entire settlement amount. In order to be compensated, the defendant who is forced to pay the judgment must then seek reimbursement or contribution from the other jointly and severally liable parties.

Jones Act - The Jones Act is a federal statute that extends the Federal Employers' Liability Act (FELA), protections created to benefit railway workers, to include seamen. Through the Act, a seaman may bring suit against his employer for negligence. This includes the negligent acts or omissions of the employer himself or of any fellow crewman.

Maintenance and Cure - Maintenance and cure are guaranteed to injured seamen under the Jones Act. Essentially, the ship-owner must, for any injured seaman, provide for reasonable living expenses during recovery and medical costs related to the injury.

Navigable Waters - Navigable waters refer to any interstate or international waters usable for the transport of commercial goods. In order to be covered under the Jones Act, a seaman must be assigned to a vessel in navigation on a navigable waterway.

Negligence - Negligence refers to an act or failure to act that was unreasonable and led to an injury. In order to recover under the Jones Act, a seaman must prove negligence either against his employer or one of his fellow crewmen. If that negligence played even the slightest role in producing the injury or loss of life, the seaman may recover. This is known as the "featherweight burden".

Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) - The Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) refers to any submerged lands lying beyond state coastal waters, more than three miles offshore, which are under United States jurisdiction. This area is often the site of extensive petroleum exploration and production. The Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act (OCSLA) controls any injury that occurs on any structure attached, temporarily, to the seabed on the OCS. The Longshore and Harbor Workers' Compensation Act (LHWCA) governs any injury to a non-seaman that occurs on the OCS.

Seaman - A seaman is a member of a ship's crew. Under the Jones Act, a seaman is a member of a ship's crew who contributes to the overall purpose of the vessel.

Settlement - A settlement is a means of resolving a claim without a verdict from the court. In a settlement, the parties from each side reach an agreement over liability and damages before a court can rule. Many Jones Act cases end in settlement.

Statute of Limitations - The statute of limitations refers to the deadline for filing a claim in a court of law. The statute of limitations for Jones Act claims, as well as for general maritime claims, is three (3) years from the date of the injury. However, there are some instances where even less time is allowed.

Tanker - A tanker is a ship designed to transport large amounts of liquid, often petroleum, in its cargo hold.

Territorial Waters - A state's territorial waters extend out three (3) nautical miles from the coastline of that state. These waters are considered sovereign territory of the state.

Unseaworthiness - A ship's unseaworthiness means it is unsuitable for its intended purpose, that of going to sea. Under the Jones Act and general maritime law, a vessel owner has a duty to provide a ship, along with related equipment, that is fit to go to sea. In addition, a vessel must be properly manned and outfitted for the task it is meant to perform. If this duty of providing a seaworthy ship is breached, the vessel owner can be held liable for any resulting injury.

Venue - Venue refers to the specific judicial district where a claim is filed. In a Jones Act case, the proper venue is generally the judicial district where the defendant company resides or has its principal place of business.

Vessel - The term vessel can refer to either traditional vessels (ships, barges etc.) or non-traditional vessels (jack-up rigs, semi-submersible rigs, etc.). Essentially, anything used as a means of transportation on water can meet the definition of a vessel. Even offshore drilling units that can be moved or towed to a new location to resume operation, as long as they are capable of carrying goods or people, are usually considered vessels for Jones Act purposes.

Vicarious Liability - Vicarious liability occurs when a company is held liable for the acts of its agents or employees. For example, if an employee causes an injury while acting on behalf of his employer, that employer may be held liable for those damages.

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