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Maritime Law and Injuries on the Water

Welcome back FM Talk 106.5 and Mobile Mornings, Dalton Orwig here and I’m joined once again by Desi Tobias with Tobias & Comer Law. Desi, it's been a while. Glad to see you come in.

It's been a while, Dalton but always good to see you and enjoy talking with you.

Well, we're here it’s summertime and we've had already so many hot temperature days this year and there's one thing think about often on those days and that's getting out on the water and know I’m not alone lots of people getting out for pleasure and a lot of people work out there on the water we have a lot of jobs out there and know at Tobias & Comer Law with you guys being right here in Mobile you've worked plenty of cases regarding both.

We have. Maritime Law is something different it applies when something happens on navigable water. A lot of people's employment is centered on the waterways whether tug boats or out on the rigs or whatever and so that's a certain set of laws that apply as opposed to the state worker compensation law. You have the maritime law, the Jones Act or unseaworthiness. It's very favorable for an injured worker. Also, the maritime law applies to what happens on a pleasure boat or a jet ski. There are certain things that are unique to the maritime law whereas in if you get hit in a car and you're one percent at fault that's called contributory negligence. That does not apply maritime law has comparative fault so there are tons of boats out there, there is a lot of maritime traffic coming in, commercial traffic very interesting stories about that as well, but things are happening, and we handle those type cases, those injury cases arising from that.

Yeah, and I want to talk about both but let's start with the folks that are out there working there’s some difficult and dangerous jobs out there on the water and I’m sure you've seen some cases of that.

There are they're very difficult and dangerous and it goes back to the law the King of England, they got tired of the companies, the Hudson Bay company bringing back these injured people for the king to take care of after these long voyages so there's law out there that's again favorable and it can be anything. They're often bad injuries but a lawyer who knows that law and something I’ve practiced for many years can consult or assist on those type things.

It's called the admiralty law and the general maritime law which the United States adopted and so it's law that has been not just made in the state of Alabama that it's a federal type of law that applies everywhere and so that's where you got to look to as opposed to simply what a state says the law is. Yeah, there's just been this general body of law that has developed through the years that's unique and different and is applicable to all these type instances, again whether it's a work accident where someone's working on a tugboat or tow boat, or anything that's in navigable water, which is water that'll get you to the ocean.

I know you've had some stories about some of those cases that are just absolutely crazy that you've worked, but someone who works out on the water or an employer they might know a little bit more about maritime law that someone who's just a weekender that likes to get the boat out there and go out for maybe half a day or a day, but maritime law also applies for pleasure boating.

Maritime law does apply for pleasure boating and what we see, people think about getting into a car and you don't think about spending a day out drinking in your car, but often that happens in boats. The commerce down there at the beaches and Orange Beach and that area a lot of that has people out recreating and sometimes they're just not careful, sometimes they're impaired, but an injury can occur there and we all know of instances where it does occur, and that law is different too, it's somewhat similar to the state laws that would apply to a motor vehicle accident but there are some distinctions.

Yeah, and you mentioned one of those distinctions and want to hear a little bit more about this because it had me interested. So, in a vehicle accident on land you said there's one one way that's ruled if it's one percent at fault?

It's called contributory negligence and an accident that occurs in a vehicle perhaps you were going a little bit above the speed limit and the accident happened because somebody ran the red light. But if you were going too fast or whatever, if a jury determines that you're one percent at fault, you lose your entire recovery. Whereas, what's called comparative fault applies to maritime incidents and accidents and a jury would be able to consider, well they were a little bit at fault I’m going to give them 20 percent and the reduction from the award would be made. So if you are awarded a hundred thousand and there's a 20 fault allocation you only get 80. But it's an important distinction.

Many distinctions exist and differences between the two different forms of law. And if this does happen to someone whether they're injured out at work or injured while out on the boat having a good time are there different processes for when you should call a lawyer?

It would be the same because anything involves the investigation of evidence. Evidence will disappear or not be there just like in a land-based thing you want to get out and see the skid marks or whatever, you still want to see the evidence on land or with a maritime injury so call a lawyer call somebody who knows, and we do that. Call somebody who knows about the rules and the regulations on some of the more serious accidents. The coast guard does their own investigation and they'll be contacting witnesses and I often have interacted with the coast guard in cases where have clients that were injured to assist as part of the investigation but all of that is something where you would want legal help and that's what we do at Tobias & Comer Law.

It would be helpful to go ahead and jot that number down and the website down and keep it in your glove box on land or keep it in your boat when you're out there. What number can people call if they want to get in touch?

251-432-5001 is our phone number and is our website and I’ve been for 26 years at 1203 Dauphin Street an old house built in 1852 right there close to downtown, right next to the Alabama School of Math and Science.

You mentioned the website and I was talking with Bryan about this but you guys have so many great tips and ideas on there and even stuff like boating some good easy ways to remember to follow the law like having life preservers for every single person that's on board eight and under, make sure that they're wearing it at all times and the website it's really good not just for getting information about Tobias & Comer Law but also finding out about a lot of these different things.

Right, we do try to put out information that's helpful just to the general public I believe there's some YouTube videos, you can also like us on Facebook, we are always posting something out there that's informative and trying to let our clients and people in the community know about things like that that are important that promotes safety.

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