What is Admiralty and Maritime Law?

Admiralty and Maritime law are regulations and statutes that cover the broad number of activities that occur on the high seas. These laws can cover trade, international disputes, and the relations sailors have with their employers or governments. Maritime laws are some of the oldest types of legal procedures, and many modern laws can be directly traced to principles that governed ancient mariners in centuries past.

Many modern nations built their economies on seaborne trade, and as nations evolved into more sophisticated political entities the laws governing maritime activities also became much more involved. Further complicating legal investigation of accidents and liability in maritime trade is the fact that accidents that occur at sea often leave few witnesses or evidence.

Maritime law remains critically important even in the 21st century. The thousands of Americans who rely on maritime trade can feel secure that their occupations are protected by some of the oldest and most encompassing laws in the world. Unfortunately it is not always easy to understand these complicated laws, and seamen or sailors injured in their duties can be taken advantage of by unscrupulous employers.

If you are a sailor or seaman injured in the line of duty, or if you are the family of a maritime employee who died tragically on the job, you may be able to receive compensation for your pain and suffering depending on your situation. Let an experienced, dedicated, and compassionate maritime law attorney help you in your quest of legal action. Don’t allow restrictive statutes of limitations to expire before you get the answers that you deserve.History of Admiralty and Maritime Law

Before the advent of safe and reliable overland trade routes, many ancient societies used the sea to transport goods and materiel to faraway ports. Inevitably conflicts, accidents, and other serious incidents would occur, and without civilized means to resolve these problems simple misunderstandings could quickly degenerate into violence.

Although the ancient Greeks and Romans had several forms of law to govern maritime trade, these laws were mostly lost to the Western world during the dark ages, and once again the brave men who traveled the seas did so without protection from any government entity. This changed around the year 1166, when Eleanor of Aquitaine set down the Rules of Oleron.

The Rules of Oleron were a set of guidelines for shipping throughout the Mediterranean that shipowners and sailors alike could use to settle disagreements. These rules worked out so well in fact that many of the precedents are reflected in modern maritime laws such as the Jones act. For example, Article VII of the Rules of Oleron states:

“If it happens that sickness seizes on any one of the mariners, while in the service of the ship, the master ought to set him ashore, to provide lodging and candlelight for him, and also to spare him one of the shipboys, or hire a woman to attend him, and likewise to afford him such diet as is usual in the ship; that is to say, so much as he had on shipboard in his health” This is almost identical to the provisions for the “maintenance and cure” principle established by the Jones Act nearly 800 years later.

These laws are not just the idle interest of historians and naval archivists; they are a reality to the millions of people who make their livings on the sea and other bodies of water. Without such protections the inherent danger of working on the water might very well discourage anyone from undertaking vital roles in maritime commerce.Admiralty Law Overview

There are three major admiralty laws that affect maritime workers in the United States: The Jones Act, Death on the High Seas Act, Longshoreman and Harbor Workers Compensation Act. These pieces of legislation are designed to cover virtually every possible type of maritime work and establish provisions for how to recover damages, collect benefits, and assign liability for negligence.

Not every admiralty law applies equally to all people injured in maritime accidents. The Jones Act, for example, only applies to seamen injured while in the service of their vessel, the LHWCA covers longshoreman and land based harbor workers, and the DOHSA frequently provides help for the family members of victims of maritime accidents in international waters.

A dedicated and experienced staff of legal professionals can help guide through complicated and confusing admiralty law. If you or someone you love was the victim of a maritime accident you may have the right to seek damages against those responsible. Contact a knowledgeable admiralty law attorney today.Definitions

Although there are many different types of rules and regulations that apply to admiralty law, few are as important as the Seaman Status Test. This test establishes the criteria to determine whether or not a worker is protected under the Jones or the Death on the High Seas acts. These standard means of judgment include:

  • A seaman must be responsible for duties essential to the function or mission of the vessel
  • The seaman must have substantial and real link to a vessel in navigation in both duration and nature
  • A sailor must actually be involved with the vessel in question, and not a land based worker who happens to be injured while aboard
  • Seaman status is dictated by the relationship with the employee and the vessel, rather than where the injury is inflicted

Just as important as determining seaman status is the type of vessel involved in the injury. Originally these vessels were simply ships at sea, but traditional standards are woefully inadequate to cope with the variety of modern maritime vessels. Therefore, people who work on any number of “vessels” can qualify as seamen, and can claim the same rights and protections as traditional sailors. These vessels typically include:

  • Tankers
  • Freighters
  • jack-up rigs
  • semi-submersibles
  • towboats / tugs
  • supply boats
  • crew boats
  • barges
  • lay barges
  • fishing vessels

The Jones Act, the Death on the High Seas Act, and the Longshoreman and Harbor Workers Compensation Act provide different compensation for different workers. These laws are extremely complicated, and while they allow for some workers to receive aid for their injuries, they are not always the only way or the best method to get the full compensation you deserve.

If you are a seaman, sailor, longshoreman, or dock worker injured due to your occupation on the seas, you may have the right to take legal action against those responsible for your condition. Let an experienced and dedicated admiralty lawyer assist you in your case today.Statute of Limitations

Statutes of limitations are laws that restrict the amount of time victims have to begin legal action for compensation for their injuries. These laws vary from state to state, and time periods for these restrictions usually range from one to three years.

The statute of limitations issue is quite different for maritime laws. These laws generally take into account the large number of conditions and variables common to accidents on the water, so time can be very limited. If you or someone you know was a maritime worker and was injured on the job you may have less than a year from the time of your accident to press your case.