Shipowners frequently insert “arbitration clauses” into their contracts with crew members.
This is especially true for non-U.S. crew members. Usually, these call for arbitration outside the United States under foreign law (i.e., not U.S. general maritime law). Arbitration is the process of having a dispute resolved out of court by one or more persons who are designated as an “arbitrator,” usually at an arbitration hearing. The arbitrator decides your case like a judge, and any award made during the arbitration is legally binding on both sides and enforceable in courts like a judgment. If you are required to arbitrate your claims against your employer, that means you cannot sue them in court. Shipowners use arbitration clauses to avoid the potential for large jury verdicts, thinking an arbitrator (usually a lawyer or retired judge) is more likely to award a lower amount of money.
You need a maritime trial attorney experienced in this area to pursue your claims in arbitration to maximize your compensation. Mase Mebane Seitz has decades of experience in this area and has arbitrated countless crew member claims.
Pre-hearing discovery is much more limited than in a typical civil lawsuit
Since arbitration is a private dispute resolution, it can be expensive. Our firm will advance all necessary costs to pursue your claim. We get paid only if you win. Shipowners frequently require arbitration to occur in far-away places, typically where the ship is “flagged.” We will pursue your claim wherever required. We have arbitrated crew member claims in Panama, the Philippines, Monaco, France, London, and across the United States.
Crew member arbitration clauses are enforced under an international treaty called the Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards. This is also known as the New York Convention. Arbitration is permitted under the New York Convention when:
- There is a written agreement between the parties
- The agreement requires arbitration to occur in a country that is a signatory to the New York Convention
- The agreement arises out of a commercial relationship
- A party to the agreement is not an American citizen, or the relationship has a reasonable relationship with one or more foreign countries
Usually, American-citizen crew members cannot be compelled to arbitrate their claims, but they could be arbitrable if the agreement “envisaged performance aboard.” Maritime crew member personal injury arbitration law is singularly unique, complex, and idiosyncratic. Mase Mebane Seitz has decades of experience handling crew member arbitrations. We will be able to determine whether your claim is subject to arbitration and how best to pursue your legal rights either in court or in arbitration.
Crew member personal injury arbitration is often governed by foreign law based on what is called a “choice-of-law” clause. This governing law is usually where the ship is “flagged” or registered. This means that Panamanian, Filipino, Liberian, Maltese, or Bahamian law (just to name a few) may apply in arbitration. Shipowners use these choice-of-law clauses to try and get around U.S. maritime law. While this may sound confusing, the maritime trial lawyers at Mase Mebane Seitz in Miami, Florida, have decades of experience dealing with crew member arbitration and know how to pursue your claims to their fullest extent—all around the world.Back to Crewmember Accidents