Statute of Limitations

The majority of legal claims include what’s known as a “statute of limitations”. A statute of limitations is a period of time within which a claim may be filed after an event such as an accident, an injury, or the diagnosis of an illness.

In the world of maritime law, the Jones Act defines the statute of limitation on maritime torts as three years after the date of an injury or when you first became aware of an occupational injury or illness and its cause. If you suffer a maritime injury and don’t file your claim within three years of the event, your employer may not be held liable as the claim was not filed within the Statute of Limitations.

Maritime Law Statute of Limitations FAQs

What is the statute of limitations for maritime injury claims?

Typically, under American maritime law, the statute of limitations for injury claims is three years after the date of an injury, or when you first became aware of the effects of the injury or illness. 

This three-year period is defined by the Jones Act. If a claim is not filed within these three years, your employer may not be held liable due to the claim being outside the statute of limitations. 

What claims fall under the statute of limitations?

Any maritime law claim made regarding an illness or injury suffered while working in service of a vessel would fall under the statute of limitations. If the injury was suffered during employment, or if the source of the illness can be traced back to conditions experienced while working on a vessel, the statute of limitations would dictate when a claim can be filed.

When does the statute of limitations begin for maritime claims?

The statute of limitations affects all maritime injury or illness claims, no matter when or where they are filed. When the statute of limitations takes effect, however, can vary from claim to claim. 

For injuries suffered during maritime employment, the statute typically means three years from the date the injury occured. For many illnesses, and certain injuries with long-term repercussions, the statute of limitations may come into effect three years from when you were first aware of an injury, or when the effects of the illness first manifested. These circumstances can vary from claim to claim, and filing your maritime claim as soon as possible is the easiest way to ensure you don’t fall outside of the statute.

What is the purpose of the statute of limitations?

The statute of limitations provides a reasonable time frame under which evidence can be discovered and the facts behind a case can be brought to light. The longer you wait to file a case, the more difficult it will be to prove the circumstances behind your claim, and the less likely you are for a favorable outcome. The statute of limitations also aims to provide the defendant the ability to operate with what is known as minimal undue interference, meaning they can operate as normal without having to wait for your claim. 

How can the statute of limitations affect my maritime claim?

If you are unable or unwilling to comply with the statute of limitations, your claim will at best be far more difficult to prove and reach the outcome you desire, and at worst will be dismissed and/or barred from any kind of recovery due to the amount of time you took to file the claim.

Provided your claim is filed and discovery can begin within the three-year period, the statute of limitations should not have any effect on your claim.

How Can I File My Claim As Quickly As Possible?

If you have become injured while working on the water, or develop an illness or condition you believe may be linked to your employment, don’t wait another second. Contact the experienced Jones Act attorneys of O’Bryan Law today and let us fight for you. We’ll review all of the facts of your case and determine what can be done to get you the justice you deserve – even if you’re near the end of your statute of limitations.