Maritime law covers a broad spectrum of maritime issues. It is governed by a variety of federal and state laws. Most disputes involving maritime property go to federal courts, but some cases are also brought in state courts. For example, some actions seek to partition the ownership of a ship, limit a shipowner’s liability to the value of the ship after a large accident, or arrest a ship to enforce maritime liens. Maritime attorneys have to deal with concurrent jurisdiction and the different rules of the state and federal courts.
Under maritime law, injured crew members have rights to a jury trial, as well as other protections similar to those enjoyed by railroad workers. In addition, surviving family members of an injured crew member can also file a lawsuit against the negligent party. The Jones Act aims to create a fair process for sailors to make negligence claims and receive compensation from their employers.
International maritime law is regulated by several international conventions. The Law of the Sea avoids creating a central enforcement body, which would be costly and logistically inefficient. Instead, member states enforce the conventions that govern their ships and set penalties for violations. Many countries also have jurisdiction over ships that are owned by other countries. Some countries have certificates that indicate the ship has undergone an inspection.
In addition to piracy, maritime law covers many other types of maritime incidents. These include criminal activity, wake damage, and towage contracts. Increasingly, maritime courts have also recognized jurisdiction for recreational boating accidents.