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Your location can drastically affect which laws govern your actions. Different states and different countries will have their own rules and penalties for the things they consider legal violations. Even whether you’re on land, in the air, or on the water can determine what kind of laws will apply to you at the time.
Maritime laws, or admiralty laws, are the sets of rules and regulations for actions on seas, oceans, and even some interstate lakes and rivers. The laws and legal proceedings for maritime cases are generally subject to the federal courts, though some cases can be handled by state courts.
There are many marine-based activities governed by maritime law. Some of the most common issues tried under admiralty law include:
Maritime law governs commercial activities that take place on navigable waters, that is, waterways that facilitate interstate or international trade and services. Admiralty law dictates seafaring shipping rules and regulations, for example, so ships and barges carrying cargo must adhere to admiralty rules.
Insurance claims for product damages or personal injuries on the open water go through maritime procedures. While workers on land may be eligible for workers’ compensation, these options typically don’t apply to employees at sea. Instead, the Jones Act allows sailors injured within the scope of their employment to potentially sue their employers and crew-mates for personal injuries and negligence.
When it comes to protecting merchandise, the carrier is responsible for safeguarding any cargo on its ship for the journey’s duration. The carrier could therefore be responsible for any thefts or damages.
Because maritime law can make ship owners, crews, and companies liable for many types of damages, having proper insurance policies will be essential for protecting the business’ interests.
Admiralty laws apply to recreational and leisure activities on navigable waters, too. Recreational boating accidents, for example, may be regulated by maritime liability laws. Cruise ships registered and flagged to the U.S. are also held to the rules of federal maritime laws. This includes the same rules for passenger safety, liability, and litigation options from the Jones Act. Negligent amenities or services could make ship owners vulnerable to litigation.
However, cruise ships are generally bound to the laws of whichever country they’re registered in. Some American-based companies register their ships in other countries, which typically may make them liable to the rules of those nations instead.
Maritime laws can govern certain acts related to salvaging. As a general custom, if you help a distressed or deserted ship, you may be entitled to compensation for your efforts. If you don’t receive any award for your assistance, you may have grounds for placing a lien on the salvaged goods through the U.S. government.
There are many particular rules and regulations that apply to salvaging ships or recovering lost or abandoned ships that the owners won’t return for. Wholly abandoned ship wrecks, for example, may automatically belong to the U.S. government if they’re within 3 miles of the country.
Because of the distinct requirements of maritime law, it can be a tough legal field to navigate. Working with knowledgeable admiralty insurance companies and attorneys can help you stay protected from injury, theft, lawsuits, and violation of U.S. federal law.
This article is intended to be helpful and informative. But even common legal matters can become complex and stressful. A qualified maritime lawyer can address your particular legal needs, explain the law, and represent you in court. Take the first step now and contact a local maritime attorney to discuss your specific legal situation.