Maritime law is a body of law that governs private entities on domestic and international waters. It deals with a variety of factual scenarios, such as ship charters, insurance contracts, towage agreements, and maritime liens.
The Code de Commerce, adopted by the French government in 1807, established maritime law as a branch of commercial law. It diminished the weight given to custom and usage.
There are two main types of maritime law: general maritime law and admiralty law. General maritime law covers incidents in which an individual is injured offshore. In these cases, compensation is often provided by the vessel owner.
Admiralty law is used to resolve disputes involving salvage awards. Salvage involves the recovery of a vessel from the bottom of the ocean. If the vessel is not registered, the admiralty court assumes jurisdiction.
Generally, maritime actions can be filed in state or federal courts. Depending on the nature of the case, some must be filed in the federal courts. For instance, claims of unseaworthiness are generally filed in federal courts.
Generally, there is a three-year statute of limitations in maritime law. Some claims have fine print that dramatically shortens this period.
An injured crew member may be entitled to receive compensation for lost earnings, medical expenses, and pain and suffering. He or she will also be entitled to receive a jury trial.
Seamen who are not eligible for compensation through their employer can also sue for maintenance. This law requires the company to pay for their expenses while they are in the service of the vessel.