Fishing Trawler

Maritime law

by Roger Chartier:

Admiralty law

Also called maritime law governs maritime questions and offenses.

Maritime law governs the entities who operate vessels on the oceans. It is a part of private international law.

This to be distinguished from the Law of the Sea which is part of public international law that covers the jurisdiction over coastal waters and international relationships between countries. Law of The Sea also covers navigational and mineral rights.

For the United States, Article 3 section 2 of the US constitution gives original jurisdiction to Federal Courts in the USA concerning admiralty and maritime matters.

Even though this true some lawsuits involving incidents in maritime practice may be brought in state court.

AnchorIn maritime law, the "Savings To Suitors" clause allows that some cases are may be filed in state court. Federal courts in the United States generally provide no right to trial by jury in admiralty cases although Congress has given some limited rights of jury trial in seamen's personal injury actions.
See The Jones Act for greater clarity on this.

Each state, if a trial is brought there, has laws that determine whether or not a jury is allowed.

Due to the great complexity of maritime law it is important to use a lawyer that is well versed in this specialty.

Here are a few interesting points:

If an accident happens due to a circumstance which is beyond the "privity and knowledge" of the ship's owners, the owners can limit their liability to the value of the ship after it sinks following the "Limitation Act".

COGSA (Carriage of goods at sea act) covers damage to goods from "hook to hook" meaning from loading to discharge. There are 17 exceptions including an "Act of God" clause.
Here are some cases explained about COGSA (Carriage Of Goods At Sea)

Maritime law provides a statute of limitations of one year for claims of liability concerning a "package". There is a liability limit of $500.00 per package unless the value of the contents of the package are disclosed and marked on the package.

Inevitably shipping companies like to think of a huge shipping container as a "package" and this has been cause for litigation.

The principle of maintenance and cure, the doctrine of unseaworthiness, and the Jones Act are the three main sources of compensation for seamen injured while aboard a ship.

The principle of maintenance and cure requires

A ship owner, if an injury is due to his negligence, has to pay for an injured seaman's medical treatment until maximum medical recovery is obtained and provide basic living expenses until completion of the voyage, and even if the seaman is no longer aboard ship, unless his injury is due to his own willful gross negligence.

The ship owners negligence means that the ship, or any appliance of the ship, is unseaworthy. Unseaworthy meaning defective in some way.

To be considered a seaman, a worker must generally spend 30% or more of his working hours onboard either a specific vessel or a fleet of vessels under common ownership or control.

Usually, all non-seamen workers injured over navigable waters are covered instead by the Longshore and Harbor Workers Compensation Act.

This is a form of workers compensation.

For any actionable or otherwise information consult an attorney who specializes in Maritime Law.
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