Admiralty law, also known as Admiralty and Maritime law, focuses on the application of commercial law and procedures to situations that take place at sea. Shippers have the potential to conduct felonies, and those who sail the seas have the potential to commit crimes that do not fall within the territorial jurisdiction of a particular nation.
Its origins may be traced back to the United Kingdom when maritime issues were heard in specialized courts called admiralty courts. These courts were distinct from criminal and civil courts, and their judges were known for their in-depth knowledge of marine law.
To make things even more confusing, each country has its own set of national maritime laws, which are established by its “Flag State” (the government body in charge of maritime affairs). These might be the outcome of a marine disaster, the application of civil or criminal laws, the legislative implementation of international voluntary efforts, or a combination of these factors. Once again, this will not have any impact on the legal system in place.
If you are participating in a maritime activity on land, admiralty law does apply to your situation. For instance, a charterer is entitled to pay in the form of demurrage if the vessel is held up in port for an extended period of time while loading or unloading cargo. In the event that, for instance, a malfunctioning crane causes a delay in the delivery of a time-sensitive cargo, an individual may seek compensation via the maritime courts.
Which Subject Areas Are Included in Admiralty law?
The scope of maritime law is quite broad, including a diverse range of customs, topics, and activities. Although it would be difficult to cover every facet of admiralty law in one article, we will discuss some of the most often encountered issues that are covered by American Maritime Law.
Treatment and Preventative Measures (Injuries)
Unfortuitously, one of the most prevalent issues that marine attorneys have to deal with is that of injuries received while working on the water. Working on decks and near industrial equipment while on an ocean that is constantly moving has a number of challenges.
Despite having immaculate training and substantial experience, accidents do occur, and they may result in injury or even, in the worst-case scenario, death. Because legislators have taken this into mind, maritime workers enjoy some of the highest levels of legal protection that can be found elsewhere.
This includes giving the wounded sailor free medical treatment for the whole of the journey and beyond, up to the point when they have attained what the court considers to be the “maximum medical cure.” This is different from “maximum medical improvement” in the sense that the employer is required to offer therapy that enhances the employee’s capacity to operate, regardless of whether or not the treatment directly helps the employee’s injury (e.g. wheelchairs and pain medication).
In addition, the corporation or shipowner is responsible for providing the injured sailor with “maintenance,” sometimes known as financial support to help the seaman subsist while he gets well. If a sailor is compelled to file a lawsuit in order to collect the money that is rightfully his, a successful lawsuit will not only result in the awarding of maintenance and cure benefits, but it will also result in the payment of attorney costs and, in certain instances, punitive damages.
Because of the potential financial burden, this places on owners, it is not uncommon for them to propose a one-time payment in an effort to get out of their responsibilities. A marine attorney who is familiar with your rights in the event of a maritime injury may help guarantee that you get the appropriate medical attention and financial compensation.
Passengers are owed a duty of care that is reasonable.
Although it does not happen very often, there are times when civilian passengers on ships end up being hurt. If a passenger can demonstrate that an accident they had was the result of the carelessness of a ship owner, then the passenger may be eligible for compensation for their injuries.
Although maritime law is somewhat analogous to that which governs “negligence,” it is distinguished from that body of law by a number of important distinctions, particularly in the United States.
For instance, it is widely recognized that the statute of limitations for personal injury claims is normally three years and that within that time period, an action must be made against the ship owner. This is the case even if the accident was caused by someone else. Nevertheless, the tiny print on passenger tickets might sometimes result in a significantly reduced time limit.
And despite the fact that the courts have made it illegal to exclude liability for injury or death in cases of obvious negligence, there are still ways for businesses to attempt to shift blame to employees or third parties who, in all likelihood, will be unable to financially meet the fair level of compensation levied by the court. An expert marine lawyer is familiar with these strategies and can help guarantee that business owners and operators do not attempt to avoid their duty.
Act to Provide Compensation for Longshore and Harbor Workers
Despite the fact that the issue pertains to personal injury law, it merits separate attention owing to the significance of the topic and the widespread misunderstanding that surrounds it. This statute, which offers federal compensation protection to persons who operate in harbors, ports, shipyards, and other similar environments, has the name it was given for a reason.
Many people have the misconception (which is perpetuated by businesses with lower ethical standards) that the rigorous safeguards afforded by maritime law do not apply to persons who are employed in settings like these.
This is not the case in any way, shape, or form; all workers engaged at ports and shipyards, from crane operators to clerical office workers, are afforded the full protection afforded by this statute. In point of fact, several expansions (such as the Defense Base Act) guarantee that certain individuals who are not employed in the marine industry also obtain coverage.
The most significant aspect of this coverage is that it is “no-fault,” which indicates that you are eligible for compensation in some form regardless of who was to blame for the damage (you, your employer, or nobody). You will need the assistance of a marine attorney in order to navigate the complexities of this vitally significant part of maritime law.
Jones Act and the Death On The High Seas Act provide bereaved families the ability to sue for wrongful death in the event that an accident sustained while at sea ends in the most inconceivable of circumstances and ultimately leads to the victim’s passing. There are also numerous issues of maritime law that are not linked to injuries, including the following:
Concerns pertaining to Liens, Mortgages, and Other Contractual Matters
Maritime conflicts are heard in federal courts, as opposed to the civil courts and arbitration centers that are often involved in the resolution of similar problems on land. The defaulting of loans and the continuing litigation around mortgages are typical examples in this context.
However, the courts also give marine workers who are seeking unpaid or underpaid pay a platform in which to argue their case. This is because the courts have jurisdiction over maritime employment disputes.
Salvage and Treasure
Salvage is very real activity on the high seas, and as a result, there are laws in place to protect both property owners and those who take on the risk of retrieving such property that has been lost at sea.
Although one might think that this is a topic that is better left for blockbuster movie franchises featuring pirates and Hollywood stars, salvage is very real activity on the high seas. There are two different kinds of salvage: “contract salvage” and “merit salvage.”
The first method, which is suggested by its name, is when a property owner and a salvage expert (also known as a “salvor”) engage in an agreement that specifies the amount of money or the percentage of the total worth of the property that the salvor will earn. The concept of merit salvage, on the other hand, refers to situations in which the property owner and the salvager have not reached an agreement.
In the event that the two parties are unable to reach a settlement on their own after the salvaging of the property, the court will award an amount that is determined by the worth of the item, the amount of work put in, and the level of risk encountered by the salvaging party.