Maritime Law

Maritime law covers judicial matters associated with injuries, accidents, torts, contracts, shipping, cargo and other maritime matters. It also regulates private maritime quests, disputes, insurance claims, criminal cases and death relating to activities on the high seas or navigable waters.

In the United States, admiralty courts are a distinct jurisdiction from general district court jurisdiction. Generally, the courts do not allow for jury trials in maritime cases. The courts hear claims involving maritime collisions, salvage, maritime liens, marine trespasses and other matters of interest to the commercial community.

The United States is a signatory to the International Convention on the Law of the Sea and accordingly, its law applies within the territory. However, the United States has its own domestic laws that govern issues such as maritime accident, injury and wrongful death.

For example, seamen (and their families) are entitled to maintenance and cure. These payments are made on a no-fault basis and cover medical expenses, wages lost from work-related injuries, and any other economic losses related to an injury. In addition, surviving loved ones of those who die from unreported injuries or negligence/unseaworthiness may be entitled to compensation under the Jones Act.

Another important area of maritime law is the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act. It is often misunderstood that only sailors are covered by this statute, but in fact it provides federal compensation protection to a broad range of workers who work in ports, harbors and shipyards.

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