Maritime Law Basics

Now more than ever, the global marketplace relies on safe transport of raw materials and final products at sea. In addition, the business of recreational cruises moves hundreds of thousands of tourists each year. While the frequency of travel at sea increases, the weather is becoming more unpredictable and severe. The combination can result in mounting risks of loss of life and property at sea. It is important to minimize danger from travel at sea, as well as adequately address liability when things go wrong. Maritime law has evolved over time and continues to evolve to address these concerns.

What is Maritime Law?

Maritime law resolves legal disputes over events that happen at sea. It imposes on ship owners and operators the responsibility to use safe vessels and avoid negligence to protect its crew, passengers, and cargo. Failure to provide a seaworthy ship or to exercise a duty of care to provide reasonably safe transportation are violations of maritime law.

Protecting Crew Members

Seamen injured at work are entitled to recover under maritime law. They may recover damages from ship owners and/or operators who fail to provide a safe ship to travel at sea under the Doctrine of Unseaworthiness. Under the Jones Act, injured seamen may seek recovery from their employers for injuries they sustained due to their employer’s negligence. Proof of negligence only needs to show that it played some part in causing the injury. Seamen may also receive a portion of lost wages and living expenses while recovering under the Jones Act without having to prove negligence.

Protecting Dock Workers

The Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act (LHWCA) provides protections similar to Workers’ Compensation and does not require proof of negligence. The protections typically cover about 66 percent of lost salary and living expenses during recovery, as well as providing compensation for permanent partial disability.

Protecting Passengers

Handling claims of passengers is somewhat different from claims involving seamen. Injured passengers may have to prove liability caused rather than contributed to their injuries. They may also be subject to contractual agreements made with cruise lines. This often involves agreeing to a shortened statute of limitations for filing claims.

Jurisdictional Issues

Maritime law involves multiple jurisdictions. For example, the Law of the Sea Convention, a treaty agreed to by members of the United Nations, covers ship activities in international waters. States may also have laws that supplement maritime law. Generally, federal courts have original jurisdiction in maritime cases. Cases involving multiple jurisdictions may be consolidated.

While this article delivers basic information regarding maritime law, there are many nuances that must be understood to favorably resolve a case arising from acts at sea. It is important to consult with lawyers experienced in handling maritime cases to ensure adequate representation.

Cape May Maritime Accident Lawyers at Freedman & Lorry, P.C. Advocate for Those Injured at Sea

If you or someone you know was injured at sea, contact one of our experienced Cape May maritime accident lawyers at Freedman & Lorry, P.C. We will fight to obtain the compensation you deserve for your injuries. Call us at 888-999-1962 or submit an online form to schedule a free consultation today. Located in Philadelphia, Cherry Hill, New Jersey, and Pinehurst, North Carolina, we serve clients throughout South Jersey, including Cape May and Wildwood.