Maritime Law

maritime law

Maritime law, also known as admiralty law, governs shipping, navigation, commerce, towage, recreational boating and piracy by private entities on domestic and international waters. This specialized area of law also covers persons and contracts associated with the sea, including seamen, shipping insurance policies and maritime liens. Unlike general negligence laws, maritime law is often federal rather than state based. Therefore, if you or your business run afoul of maritime law, the rules of procedure and evidence may differ significantly from what is normally required in state court matters. Having an attorney with experience in this area of the law is essential to your success.

The United States, like many other countries, inherited a legal regime that defines the “high seas” as unenclosed waters beginning at low-water mark. However, recent advances in science and technology have reduced the portion of the world’s oceans that are not subject to the jurisdiction of coastal States. The international rules that regulate these areas are framed by the International Maritime Organization, which administers registrations, licensing, regulations, conventions and crimes (cases dealing with maritime issues generally fall under Port State Control). Disputes that involve maritime law enforcement or engage Article 2(4) of UNCLOS are usually heard by national courts or tribunals, although some cases are resolved through arbitration at the International Court of Arbitration in Hamburg.

Most maritime law suits are filed in the United States federal court system, although under the Savings to Suitors clause state courts maintain concurrent jurisdiction with federal courts in cases involving cargo damage, seaman injuries and vessel collisions, among other things. A successful suit under maritime law often results in not only the recovery of damages for property loss or injury, but the awarding of costs including lawyer fees.

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