Maritime law is the branch of law that deals with issues associated with shipping and maritime commerce. Its jurisdiction includes injuries incurred by passengers aboard commercial ships, cargo damage caused by vessels, and maritime pollution. Those injured by the negligence of shipowners, companies that operate ships, and their employees are entitled to compensation.
Like other areas of law, maritime cases are governed by statutes of limitations. For personal injury and wrongful death claims, the statute of limitations is three years. Cargo claims are subject to a two-year limitation period.
The 1920 Jones Act grants seamen the right to a jury trial when they sue their employers. This is important because a jury can be a powerful tool in proving liability for negligence. It is also worth mentioning that there are certain admiralty laws which do not allow for the opportunity to have a jury trial. This is why it is important for those who are involved in a case that involves maritime law to seek legal representation from experienced lawyers.
Maritime law has its roots in both domestic and international law. Domestically, the most significant development occurred in a judicially originated decision in the United States, Southern Pacific Co. v. Jensen. This decision held that the law of the sea, while originating from international sources, is operative in the domestic jurisdiction of the United States only to the extent it has been incorporated under Article III of the Constitution. In other words, maritime law is subject to modification by Congress.