Maritime law is the body of law addressing issues involving ocean travel and the work done aboard vessels. It is sometimes referred to as admiralty law, and it grew from the expansion of legal protections for sailors who were affected by the hazards of sea travel or personal injuries caused in the course of their employment at sea. Since these cases can have national importance and affect trade with other nations, it was deemed most appropriate for federal courts to decide such matters.
For instance, under the Jones Act, seamen (or their personal representatives) may sue a shipowner for breach of their obligation to provide maintenance and cure. This obligation covers basic living expenses and any medical expenses incurred in connection with injury while a seaman is recovering. It also provides for attorney’s fees, assuming the claim is successful.
In addition, cases involving a passenger’s wrongful death aboard a vessel are often brought before maritime courts. However, the law varies depending on whether the death occurred less than 3 nautical miles from land. Deaths occurring closer to land are typically resolved under personal injury law.
Other issues arising from maritime commerce and work include choice-of-law clauses in contracts and the interpretation of time-charter parties, seaworthiness certificates, bills of lading, marine insurance, and claims for cargo loss or damage during shipment. The scope of maritime law is vast and can be highly complicated, which is why it’s important for anyone facing a maritime issue to seek out the advice of experienced counsel.