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Admiralty and Maritime Injury

Admiralty and Maritime Law Injuries

Admiralty law, also called maritime law, is a combination of U.S. and international law that covers all contracts, torts, injuries or offenses that take place on navigable waters. Admiralty and Maritime law encompasses the rules and procedures governing navigation and commerce by water. Although the majority of admiralty and maritime law issues involve international trade on the high seas, seaman's injuries are also a prevalent issue.

Common Questions

What is a Bill of Lading?
The bulk of maritime commercial activity involves the carriage or transport of goods internationally. The most important document used in this type of transaction is a bill of lading. A bill of lading is basically a multiparty contract of carriage or transportation between the carrier (ship owner), seller of the goods, and the purchaser.

What Happens if My Goods are Lost or Damaged at Sea?

The basic statute regulating compensation for lost or damaged goods in maritime situations is the Carriage of Goods by Sea Act (COGSA)COGSA requires ship owners to:

  • Make their vessels seaworthy
  • Properly equip, supply and man their vessels
  • Make the holds, cooling compartments, and all other areas where the goods are to be stored fit and safe for their reception, preservation, and carriage.

If a ship owner fails in any of the above, they may be liable for the damaged or lost goods. COGSA only applies to cases of international shipment.

The Jones Act or the Merchant Marine Act of 1920

Maritime employees inherit a great deal of occupational risk due to their constant exposure to dangerous working conditions and hazards. And while all employees are protected to some extent under workers' compensation laws and insurance, the Jones Act provides even more extensive coverage and protection specifically to employees in the maritime industry. The Jones Act is a federal law that provides remedies to seamen who are injured while working on a vessel. The act also makes provisions for the families of seamen killed in the performance of their duties.

Qualifications for Coverage

To be a “seaman” and qualify for coverage under the Jones Act, the individual must meet the following criteria:

  • The vessel that you were injured on must be “in navigation” at sea or in a body of water that is connected to interstate or international commerce
  • You must spend a substantial part of your work time on board the vessel

Who are covered by the Jones Act?

  • Fishermen
  • Tug boat workers
  • Barge workers
  • Cruise ship workers
  • Ferry boat workers
  • Construction workers who work on vessels or barges
  • Oil platform workers
  • Commercial divers

Primary Basis of Maritime Personal Injury

Maritime personal injury cases revolve around issues of negligence, in particular boat owners and boat workers who have been negligent in their activities.

Boat Owner Duties to Its Passengers

The vessel as a common carrier of passengers owes a duty of safe transportation. That duty, generally speaking, is to safely embark the passenger, carry him to his port of destination and to make sure that he has safely disembarked. During the passage, these duties include the protection of passengers from harm, either at the hands of the ship's crew or from fellow-passengers, and from any injury attributable to negligence of the vessel.

Small Boat Owners liability for Personal Injuries

Small boat owners can be liable for personal injuries if they fail to exercise reasonable care. Some examples of failing to use reasonable care would be if they are unfamiliar with waters they are navigating in and fail to familiarize themselves with those waters, and operating vessels at unsafe rates of speed.

Do I Need an Attorney Specializing in Admiralty and Maritime Law?

Because of the complex nature of maritime law, it would be wise to consult with an attorney specializing in both admiralty law as well as international law. Speaking with the right admiralty and maritime lawyer will enable you to understand your rights and to preserve any possible remedies.

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