Maritime law, otherwise known more formally as admiralty law, references those specific laws of both international and national jurisdiction, including those relevant to bilateral relations among nations, as they relate to navigable waters. In practice, modern maritime law addresses a number of sub-specialty areas draw from traditional legal fields, but applies appropriate and applicable admiralty laws to a given case or claim. These areas of maritime law are frequently practiced as sub-practice specializations for maritime or admiralty law counsel, including:
In its most universal sense, maritime law governs any transaction or engagement within the jurisdiction of the sea, as well as navigable domestic waterways. Given the geographic scope of the law, variations amongst nations do occur, however, most nations have agreed to a number of international conventions and treaties on the appropriate use and shared use of the high seas. In the case of international maritime law, and as well as US domestic maritime law, transactions such as overseas shipping, trans-ocean navigation, international commerce, recreational boating, crimes upon the high seas, environmental regulatory compliance consultation, and seaman’s compensation claims are frequent areas of practice in contemporary maritime law.
Though not universally, per Constitutional language, admiralty law is the domain of the federal judiciary, or in short, the majority of maritime law cases are filed in federal district court jurisdiction, with a few possible state-specific exceptions. Depending on the maritime law case and jurisdiction, most federal admiralty cases do not permit for decision by jury. Moreover, a large body of maritime and admiralty law revolves around resolving seaman personal injury complaints against employers via a process established under the Jones Act, which may also restrict the opportunity to a jury trial for claimants.
Moreover, maritime law is highly subject to the codified and uncodified rules of the high seas, per numerous international treaties and norms. In this sense, preparing and filing any action under maritime law should involve an attorney with ample knowledge of both historical and contemporary maritime international law agreements as well.
If you have any questions or concerns in regards to an injury that happened on navigable waters, speaking with an attorney who specifically handles maritime or admiralty laws may be best option for accurately understanding your rights under maritime law.