Maritime law is a wide-ranging area of litigation which includes shipping accidents, injuries to seamen and passengers, towage contracts, marine pollution and liens and mortgages on ships. The sheer variety of maritime matters and the complex issues involved in these cases requires experienced legal guidance.
In the United States admiralty courts maintain primary jurisdiction over most maritime claims but federal and state courts have concurrent jurisdiction in many maritime cases as well. For example, a claim for cargo damage or an injury to a seaman can be filed in either admiralty or tort court. A ship’s value can be put into question in a petitory action, the title of a vessel may be subject to dispute in a limitation action and liens and mortgages are enforced by arrest proceedings.
A key issue in admiralty law is the extent to which a flag State can exert enforcement authority over vessels that do not fly its flag. This principle, which is based on centuries of historical precedent, has become codified in the Law of the Sea treaty.
Other key maritime laws include the Jones Act, which gives seamen (or their families) the right to sue for injuries suffered on board a ship, and the Death on the High Seas Act, which provides damages to families of workers killed outside the three-mile territorial limit of a country. Additionally, Congress has enacted laws such as the Longshore & Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act and the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act which cover offshore and other maritime occupations.