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Practice Definitions  | Admiralty & Maritime

Admiralty & Maritime

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Admiralty and Maritime Laws govern navigation and shipping not only in U.S. tidal waters, but also any waters within the United States used for navigation (navigable waters). These generally include the oceans of the world as well as large lakes or rivers that can be used for commercial shipping. Navigable waters are divided into territorial waters and the high seas. Territorial waters are close to land while the high seas are waters that are further away from land.

Maritime law, admiralty law, marine law, the law of marine insurance and the law of the sea, barges, ships, shipping, commercial vessels, fisheries, offshore oil and gas rigs, semi-submersible drilling rigs, jack-up drilling rigs, commerce, seamen, passengers and cargoes, salvage, towing and towage, wharves, piers, docks, insurance, maritime liens, canals, pleasure and recreation water craft, and even piracy (ship hijacking) all fall within the admiralty/maritime law area.

What laws govern Admiralty and Maritime?

There are state admiralty and maritime laws. But, the general federal maritime law as set down in United States statutes and decisions of federal appellate courts and United States Supreme Court pre-empt and take precedence over all state laws. The source of federal maritime law is the United States Congress in the U.S. Code and also in written case decisions announced by the United States Courts (federal common law).

What kinds of cases are covered under Admiralty/Maritime law?

There are two types of cases that are typically covered under the admiralty/maritime law:

1. Admiralty and maritime matters arising out of an injury to one or more persons or damage to property related to a vessel in navigation on the navigable waters of the United States during the course of traditional maritime activity with the potential for affecting maritime commerce, which can also injuries and property damage sustained on or by means of pleasure craft, as well as those sustained on or by means of commercial vessels. There are also two federal laws that cover injuries sustained by seamen, longshoremen and harbor workers: the Jones Act and the Longshore and Harbor Workers' Compensation Act (LHWCA).

2. Maritime contracts, contracts that relate to the navigation, business or commerce of the sea, including contracts to repair vessels. However, contracts for the construction of new vessels are not considered maritime contracts, nor are contracts fror the sale and purchase of vessels. But, marine insurance policies are considered maritime contracts.

There are also times where cases involve salvage. The concept of salvage arises from recovery of damaged property that includes treasure and a damaged or a derelict vessel. In order to have a valid claim for having rendered salvage services, the salvor must show that the property saved was imperiled, that his or her services were voluntarily rendered, and that the salvor was successful in whole or in part to the saving of the property. There are several factors considered by a court in establishing the amount of the salvor's award, including the difficulty of the operation, the risk involved to the salvor, the value of the property saved, and the degree of danger to which the property was exposed. Salvors are usually awarded 10% to 25% of the value of the vessel and property salvaged.
Should I hire a lawyer?
If you have a insurance or maritime contract dispute, a dispute involving salvage, a Jones Act claim, a LHWCA claim, or a property damage or injury dispute involving a commercial or pleasure vessel use the State Lawyers Directory to find a lawyer specializing in admiralty/maritime law now.
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