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Maritime Law

Maritime law, also referred to as admiralty law, is the body of law that governs navigation and shipping. In the U.S., maritime law derived from the British admiralty courts that were present in the majority of U.S. colonies. A different and unique area of law, maritime law differs from common law.

Maritime Law Applied Nationally and Internationally

Both the courts and Congress apply a uniform body of maritime law nationally and internationally to facilitate commerce. In the past, maritime law in the U.S. only applied to American tidal waters but now extends to all waters navigable within the United States for interstate or foreign commerce. Maritime law can include shipping, waters, commerce, seamen, navigation, towage, wharves, docks, piers, insurance, maritime liens, canals, recreation, as well as piracy.

Maritime AttorneyA maritime lawyer will most often deal with maritime law that includes injuries. Differing from workers compensation laws, maritime law is specific to workers in the seas. Employers are required to maintain a reasonably safe working condition and are liable for the negligence of any of its unsafe conditions, officers, agents or employees.

Law for Maritime Accidents

Maritime laws provide a legal framework for issues and accidents that take place on domestic, territorial and international waters. Such laws have developed over hundreds of years at many locations around the world, and the maritime laws in existence today are a complicated web of both domestic and international statutes.

The Complexity of Maritime Laws

In light of the complexity of maritime laws, most law firms and attorneys do not handle maritime claims. It's in the best interests of an individual or family with a maritime law problem to seek a law firm with the requisite experience and knowledge of maritime law issues.

Covering a Vast Array of Legal Matters

Maritime laws cover matters such as (but not limited to):

  • ships—whether carrying cargo or people, used for science research, fishing, and all other purposes; i.e., the transportation of people or property by water
  • shipping—domestic and international
  • ocean fishing
  • piracy
  • seamen, ship officers, and the workers who contribute to a voyage, such as shipbuilders and longshoremen
  • recreational boating accidents
  • the use or possession of firearms aboard a vessel
  • maritime personal injuries (i.e., those due to negligence or recklessness)
  • BUI—boating under the influence of alcohol or drugs
  • unseaworthy vessels
  • maritime accidents such as explosions, collisions, electrocution, exposure to toxins, and much more

The Maritime Law Association

The mission statement of the Maritime Law Association of the United States, founded in 1899, includes the objectives to:

  • advance reforms in the maritime laws of the U.S.
  • facilitate justice in the administration of these laws
  • promote uniformity in their enactment, enforcement and interpretation
  • participate as a member of the International Maritime Committee, and
  • help bring about greater harmony in the shipping laws and practices of different nations

However, it is not the Maritime Law Association that makes maritime laws; this is the role of admiralty courts and international conventions.

Maritime Law Firms

In the U.S., maritime law firms are comprised of attorneys who spend all or most of their legal practice dealing with matters covered by maritime law. Many of these attorneys attended a maritime law academy (there are only about a dozen such schools in the world). They have the in-depth knowledge to ensure complete representation of their clients' rights and interests.

For more information about maritime laws or to schedule a private consultation with an experienced maritime attorney, contact us at (800) 773-6770.


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