Admiralty Law

Described by legal experts as a “distinct body of law (both substantive and procedural) governing navigation and shipping,” admiralty law has existed in the U.S. for centuries. Dating to the late 1700s, it has evolved over time to address questions of jurisdiction and authority. Today, admiralty law has been extended (the 1920s Jones Act and 1948s Admiralty Jurisdiction Extension Act, among others), and it covers everything from navigation and waters to commerce and shipping. It also touches on land-based matters such as wharves, docks and piers as well as bridges. Insurances and maritime liens as well as seamen all fall under the auspices of admiralty law.

Naturally, admiralty law does not always supersede state or federal laws, and if those laws fall short, the courts can elect to apply admiralty law.

Modern Matters

When speaking about admiralty law it can be altogether too easy to limit your view of it as applying to ships that transport cargo or sea-going vessels. However, it is a set of laws that applies to oil rigs, tugboats, barges, diving boats, commercial fishing boats, ferries, and even to cruise ships. The ferry that transports passengers and cars to an offshore island has maritime and admiralty laws applying to it just as much as the cargo vessel being unloaded by workers at a massive pier.

Of course, as already indicated, it is complex and has expanded over time. It includes statutes from the 1948 extension of jurisdiction but also the Longshore and Harbor Workers Compensation Act, the Public Vessels Act, the Death on the High Seas Act, and more. It is not something that a lay person should attempt to navigate on their own when they have a legal matter relating to a maritime issue.

Specialized Help

If you are someone who has a concern or has suffered some sort of loss or injury relating to a maritime trade or industry, it is best to meet with a maritime attorney to discuss your options.

It is only with the kind of specialized knowledge and experiences of such complex law that you will enjoy the best outcome. After all, it is an assortment of federal and common laws that can require an attorney familiar with specific court decisions to best argue a case.

As the most basic example, let us say that you were on a recreational boat and because of an accident, you were gravely injured. Federal rules and laws may prevent you from being able to pursue the matter through the courts, but a maritime lawyer may be able to help you build a case through the existing maritime laws. While the laws were not created specifically for recreational matters, they still apply. Of course, those who work in the maritime industry are the most likely to find them helpful in resolving their specific legal matters. For instance, if someone works on a pier and is gravely injured while loading cargo, the maritime laws will offer them the appropriate channel to pursue.

The point is to work with someone who has extensive background in these matters. Just as in other areas of specialized law, it is knowledge of court rulings and previous cases that can often be as helpful as clear knowledge of the specific laws themselves. Only an attorney can provide that insight.

Don’t leave your case up to chance, and don’t ask someone unfamiliar with admiralty law to help you in a maritime matter. Go to an expert and get results.


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