Maritime and Admiralty Law Overview | Jim Adler & Associates
Jim Adler | The Tough, Smart Lawyer
I. Overview of Maritime & Admiralty Law (Law of the Sea)
Maritime law is a complex area of law that looks at the law of the sea and navigable waters (including some rivers and lakes). In this article, we have briefly tried to briefly answer some of the most frequent questions we get at Adler & Associates about maritime and personal injury law.

Remember, if you were injured or know someone who was injured working on a boat, offshore oil rig or other vessel and you have questions, or think you might have a legal claim, you will need an experienced maritime injury attorney to help you navigate the legal system.

Regardless of whether your accident happened in the Gulf of Mexico, off the Texas coast or any other waterway, you may have a right to legal compensation for your injuries. II. Some of the most common questions we get about maritime law and offshore injures include:

  1. What does admiralty and maritime jurisdiction mean?
  2. What kinds of legal claims does maritime law cover?
  3. Where are maritime law cases heard?
  4. What else should I know about my maritime law accident claim? What are my legal options?
Below, we answer some basic questions about maritime and offshore law.

A. What is maritime law or the Law of the Sea?
Maritime Law, also known as admiralty law, is the law governing disputes that occur on navigable waters. It is a complex practice area that includes US federal law, state law as well as international treaties concerning shipping, navigation and can even include private recreational boating.

B. What kinds of legal claims does maritime law cover?
As we explained above, maritime law is the law of navigable waters. In the US, that includes the Gulf of Mexico, the Atlantic Ocean, as well as rivers and lakes that have access to the ocean, and/or those used for interstate business or transportation.

The territorial waters offshore of a country reach out about 12 nautical miles, and state waters are limited to three nautical miles. There is also something called an ‘exclusive economic zone’, which can cover up to 200 miles and includes the use and enjoyment of the natural resources of a company (for instance fishing, oil exploration or even sunken treasure) in that specific area.

If you ask a good maritime lawyer what types of claims admiralty (maritime) law covers, they will likely tell you, “It depends”. Shipping accidents, oil spills, insurance issues, injured seamen (maintenance and cure) or passengers and personal injury accidents like slip and fall incidents and many others can all fall under the umbrella term of “maritime law” depending on the circumstances. There are many other types of scenarios that can fall under maritime law like piracy and vessel liens, but we won’t get into that in this brief overview.

At first glance it may seem clear cut what is covered by maritime law, but over the years, courts have struggled with the meaning of “vessel” and “navigable waters”. That’s why hiring an experienced maritime attorney is critical to the success of any potential legal claim.

In general, courts agree that three basic conditions must be met:

  1. The dispute must involve a vessel;
  2. the incident in dispute must have occurred on navigable waters; and
  3. the accident occurred while the seaman or worker was on-the-job.
For purposes of maritime law, a wide variety of structures fall under the category of vessels for maritime law purposes, including:
  • yachts;
  • dredges;
  • fishing boats;
  • supply/cargo ships;
  • cruise ships;
  • tugboats;
  • barges;
  • towboats;
  • crew boats;
  • tankers;
  • offshore oil rigs, platforms and semi-subs.
For the purposes of maritime law, navigable waters include:
  • oceans;
  • seas;
  • bays;
  • bayous;
  • lakes;
  • rivers; and
  • harbors.
C. Where are maritime law cases heard?
Some claims can only be heard in federal court (like those looking to enforce a mortgage or lien or divide up ownership of a vessel). Similarly, petitions to limit liability of shipowners after an accident is also an issue for federal courts.

Some cases should be brought in state court, for instance personal injury law (common law tort claims). This is the “saving to suitors” clause, which allows for victims of injuries to bring their case in state court but apply federal maritime law. A good personal injury lawyer will know which venue is ideal for your case to be heard in.

D. What else should I know about my maritime law accident claim? What are my legal options?
First off, you should know that there is a limited window of time in which victims of maritime accidents and negligence can file a claim; if the accident occurred on a cruise ship, then there may be even more restrictions because of the nature of the private contract you entered into with the cruise provider.

You also may be able to sue multiple parties, such as parts manufacturers, subcontractors, and other parties, as well as collect workers compensation benefits if your employer has workers comp insurance.

Your lawyer will help you figure out deadlines and the best legal course of action for your potential claim . Then, your legal team will help you collect evidence, including medical records and ship-related documents, as well as contact possible witnesses and guide you through the legal process to help you build the strongest possible claim to recover from your injuries.

At Jim Adler & Associates, we have over 30 years of experience under our belt helping injured clients get the best outcome for themselves and their family. We can help you recover from your losses and rebuild your future. We’re a family law firm so let our family help your family – you’re important to us and that’s just how we’ll treat you.

When you call 1-800-505-1414 or contact us online for your free case review, we will take a close look at your case and help you identify all of the potential parties that might owe you compensation for your lost wages and medical expenses. Remember, our clients don’t pay unless we win because our fees only come from a favorable settlement or jury verdict – never your wallet.
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