What is admiralty law? Admiralty law, which is also commonly referred to as maritime law, is a complex combination of international and U.S. laws that govern injuries, contracts or offenses that occur on navigable waters. Traditionally, the laws focused on ocean-related issues; however, this body of law has been expanded to govern just about any public body of water, to include rivers and lakes. Your admiralty lawyer knows that admiralty law generally covers things such as injuries at sea, collisions between ships, a captain’s obligations to passengers and his or her crew members, and the rights of those crew members such as to wages.
Admiralty law regulates things such as navigation, shipping, towage, commerce, ship hijackings that are perpetrated by private entities on both international and domestic waters, and recreational boating.
In short, Admiralty of maritime law will govern any injury claim at sea, whether it be a cruise passenger or cruise ship crew member, as well as a significant majority of maritime workers.
The History of Admiralty Law
Admiralty law literally goes back thousands of years, to as early as the Middle Ages with the Laws of Oleron. In the U.S., the law stemmed primarily from British admiralty courts. Originally, “admiralty” referred to a certain court in England and the American colonies that maintained jurisdiction over contracts and torts on the high seas. Eventually, the Judiciary Act of 1789, as well as Article III, Section 2 of the U.S. Constitution, provided federal courts with exclusive jurisdiction over admiralty law.
Believe it or not, there are still cases from the 1800s that are cited in admiralty and maritime cases today.
Admiralty law in America used to be applicable to “American tidal waters” only; however, the law now extends to any navigable water within the U.S. that are used for purposes of foreign or interstate commerce. Your admiralty lawyer is aware that admiralty jurisdiction will also include certain maritime issues that do not involve interstate commerce, to include recreational boating.
Who Might Be Subject to Admiralty Law?
Generally speaking, individuals who make admiralty claims are either seamen or non-seamen. Seamen are typically professionals who historically enjoyed the highest level of protection with respect to death and personal injury issues. Such individuals are entitled to certain special protections and are often deemed “wards of admiralty” because they are usually away from their homes for long periods of time and subject to dangerous working conditions and abuse. Non-seamen are usually passengers who are onboard a vessel. These individuals are , in most cases, entitled to a ship operator’s duty of ordinary, reasonable care.
There are a variety of cases that can be brought under admiralty law, to include cases that deal with commercial shipping accidents, injured foreign workers, cargo claims under the Carriage of Goods by Sea Act, and many others. What is crucial in these types of cases is discovery and early investigation because a victim’s ability to recover just compensation for his or her injuries often hinges on the sufficiency of the evidence obtained. Companies and owners often start working right away to limit their liability by attempting to destroy crucial evidence and/or change accident scenes. That said, it is imperative for anyone who has suffered harm that may be subject to admiralty law to seek assistance from a knowledgeable attorney who knows the ins and outs of admiralty law.
If you believe that you have a case that may be subject to admiralty laws, contact an admiralty lawyer at Lipcon, Margulies, Alsina & Winkleman, P.A. today.