A maritime lawyer or admiralty attorney is a legal representative who handles nautical (water-related) matters, usually arising from U.S. maritime law. Unlike their counterparts who deal with issues that occur on dry land, maritime lawyers have a different scope of work. This stems from the fact that maritime problems tend to be peculiar or distinct. To learn more about the subject or for legal representation, you can check out our list of well ranked maritime accident lawyers in Florida.
For starters, ships and people often move into and out of various jurisdictions in the U.S. Under normal circumstances, a lawyer would be bound by state law in determining the circumstances of a case. Besides, multiple entities rely on and operate on the water, including:
- Crew members
- Port operators
- Cargo owners
- Ship owners
Each of these entities has its interests, and when disputes arise, they may require a lawyer to address their needs. That’s where maritime law and lawyers come in. With the right attorney, disputants can reach settlements through negotiation or in court. For instance, if a vessel damages property or a crew member gets injured in their line of duty, maritime law comes into play to help each party pursue or defend their rights or interests.
Type of Claims
Before we shed light on the types of claims a maritime lawyer handles, it’s relevant to understand what it takes to be a maritime lawyer? Typically, specialist maritime lawyers are graduates from accredited law schools. They also need to pass bar exams and have a practice license in the particular state they operate.
Many maritime attorneys focus on maritime issues only. Also, given the uniformity of U.S. maritime law at the state and federal levels, such attorneys cast their nets wide. Doing so allows them to handle cases across broad geographical areas. With that out of the way, let’s shift our focus to the typical claims an admiralty lawyer may handle.
Working or commuting on water poses a significant danger. According to The Coast Guard, 767 people died in 2020 due to boating accidents. During the same period, at least 3,000 people were injured.
Even with the implementation of safety protocols for professional mariners, it’s apparent that on-the-job injuries are common. For perspective, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that, on average, 113 more people die per 100,000 mariners than in other professions combined. I hope you get the drift. As far as an injury is concerned, typical crewmember injuries and cases involve:
The Jones Act
The Merchant Marine Act or Jones Act was enacted in 1920. Generally, a maritime lawyer may rely on the act when pursuing compensation on behalf of an injured seaman or crewmember.
A crewmember is anyone employed to assist in operating a commercial ship or boat. Seamen are entitled to a safe working environment. But if they are injured due to an employer’s negligence, they may sue for monetary compensation under this act.
Before a ship embarks on any journey, the owner or maritime employer is responsible for ensuring the vessel is seaworthy and the captain and crew are properly trained and equipped. Plus, all the equipment and safety gear should be in good condition.
If a seafarer gets injured, they may pursue civil action in court against their employer or vessel owner by arguing that the vessel was unfit for service. Only seamen can use such a cause of action, in which case, they would need a maritime lawyer to file their claim in court.
Maintenance and Cure
Did you know that conventional workers’ compensation doesn’t extend to commercial mariners? Well, seamen are covered by “maintenance and cure.” The cover is commonly dubbed a no-fault remedy. Basically, seafarers are compensated to cover medical bills, lost wages, and more in case of injury.
Maintenance provides a daily stipend for living expenses, while cure covers medical costs of treatment due to injury, up to the point where a seaman’s health reaches maximum improvement.
Essentially, legal representation also extends to other aspects. These may include:
As we’ve noted, a seafarer’s trip out to sea is sometimes fraught with danger. Unfortunately, death is a stark reality facing mariners. When a loved one passes on due to an incident at sea, you likely have to grapple with bills, funeral expenses, and more. Fortunately, a maritime lawyer can help you seek compensation for negligence to cover such costs.
Having a maritime attorney in your corner can make it easier to navigate the complex issues surrounding maritime wrongful death law. For instance, they interpret and evaluate multiple statutes relevant to your case, and investigate and pursue your rights in court. All the same, getting a ruling in your favor may be a tough ask without such assistance.
Still, experienced maritime lawyers also handle other diverse legal issues. These include, but are not limited to:
- Cargo damage disputes.
- Contract disputes such as ship mortgages, vessel leases, dock agreements, and employment contracts.
- Vessel arrest and attachment.
- Enforcement of liens
- Vessel purchase and sales
All in all, opt for a competent lawyer who specializes or is familiar with maritime law. An attorney from a firm like McLeod Brock can clarify complex and often confusing legal issues relating to maritime law and represent you in various nautical disputes. Plus, they can help you determine the benefits you or a loved one is entitled to in case of injury.