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New York Personal Injury Attorneys

Commonly Asked Questions About Maritime Law

February 5, 2024 in

General maritime law is a challenging area to navigate. Unlike state and federal law, this area of law applies explicitly only when individuals face injury at sea. Below, the experienced attorneys at Sullivan Papain Block McManus Coffinas & Cannavo explain some of the intricacies of maritime law, exploring where it works, the history, and why it is necessary to contact a maritime attorney if you have been injured at sea.

What’s the Difference Between Admiralty Law and Maritime Law?

Historically, admiralty law and maritime law were distinct areas of the law, with admiralty law governing the sea specifically (but not other bodies of water). However, over time, these laws merged into what is now commonly referred to interchangeably in the United States as both admiralty and maritime law, expanding the original jurisdiction of the law to all bodies of water used for trade, travel, or commerce between states or foreign nations.

General maritime law encompasses a variety of situations, including:

  • Boating accidents
  • Maritime personal injury
  • Maritime mortgages
  • Marine insurance
  • Salvage operations
  • Transportation of goods and people
  • Marine commerce
  • Seafarer’s rights

Where Does Maritime Law Apply?

United States maritime law applies when incidents occur on navigable waters. These are legally defined as any bodies of water used for trade, travel, or commerce between states or foreign nations, including the high seas, harbors, bays, inlets, and inter-state rivers. 

Important Historical Maritime Acts

To understand when maritime law applies, it’s also helpful to understand the following legal acts that protect passengers and seamen.

  • The Jones Act: Grants the right to claim damages for seamen injured or killed during employment aboard a sea vessel. Not all seamen qualify, and the rights it bestows are not available to guest passengers or volunteers.
  • Death on the High Seas Act (DOHSA): Allows families of passengers and non-Jones Act workers killed outside the three-mile territorial coast to file for damages. Proof of negligence by the boat owner or company is typically required.
  • Longshore & Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act (LHWCA): Covers offshore and maritime occupations, including harbor workers, longshoremen, and shipbuilders. Extensions like the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act (OCSLA) broaden coverage to additional maritime workers.
  • Limitation of Liability Act: Permits ship and company owners to limit liability when they are unaware of vessel unseaworthiness. Initially intended for shipowners’ protection in the 19th century, it’s now controversially used to shield corporations.

Any maritime injuries or wrongful deaths that do not specifically apply to these acts fall under general maritime law. This can include maintenance and cure benefits and claims of negligence or unseaworthiness.

Maritime law can be complicated, but consulting with an experienced maritime injury lawyer is a necessary next step if you or a loved one has suffered injuries at sea. A lawyer experienced with maritime cases, like those at SPBMCC, can guide you knowledgeably through your claim. Contact us today for a free consultation.

Contact an Experienced Maritime Lawyer at SPBMCC Today

Sullivan Papain Block McManus Coffinas & Cannavo P.C. is a reputable, full-service personal injury law firm specializing in various areas, including maritime law. Our dedicated litigation support teams are committed to vigorously representing clients in 9/11-related illnesses, personal injury cases, car accidents, premises liability, medical malpractice, and firefighter law across New York City, Long Island, Nassau, Suffolk counties, and New Jersey. Contact us today to learn more about our firm or schedule a consultation with one of our experienced attorneys.

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