Admiralty and Maritime Law

Admiralty: an overview

Admiralty law or maritime law is the distinct body of law (both substantive and procedural) governing navigation and shipping. Topics associated with this field in legal reference works may include: shipping; navigation; waters; commerce; seamen; towage; wharves, piers, and docks; insurance; maritime liens; canals; and recreation. Piracy (ship hijacking) is also an aspect of admiralty.

The courts and Congress seek to create a uniform body of admiralty law both nationally and internationally in order to facilitate commerce. The federal courts derive their exclusive jurisdiction over this field from the Judiciary Act of 1789 and from Article III, – 2 of the U.S. Constitution. Congress regulates admiralty partially through the Commerce Clause. American admiralty law formerly applied only to American tidal waters. It now extends to any waters navigable within the United States for interstate or foreign commerce. In such waters admiralty jurisdiction includes maritime matters not involving interstate commerce, including recreational boating.

Admiralty law in the United States developed from the British admiralty courts present in most of the American colonies. These courts functioned separately from courts of law and equity. With the Judiciary Act, though, Congress placed admiralty under the jurisdiction of the federal district courts. Although admiralty shares much in common with the civil law, it is separate from it. Common law does not act as binding precedent on admiralty courts, but it and other law may be used when no law on point is available.

Parties subject to admiralty may not contract out of admiralty jurisdiction, and states may not infringe on admiralty jurisdiction either judicially or legislatively. Since admiralty courts, however, are courts of limited jurisdiction (which does not extend to nonmaritime matters), 28 USC – 1333(1), the “Savings to Suitors Clause,” does provide for concurrent state jurisdiction so that non-admiralty remedies will not be foreclosed. Moreover, state courts may have jurisdiction where the matter is primarily local.

Under admiralty, the ship’s flag determines the source of law. For example, a ship flying the American flag in the Persian Gulf would be subject to American admiralty law; and a ship flying a Norwegian flag in American waters will be subject to Norwegian admiralty law. This also applies to criminal law governing the ship’s crew. But the ship must be flying the flag legitimately; that is, there must be more than insubstantial contact between the ship and its flag, in order for the law of the flag to apply. American courts may refuse jurisdiction where it would involve applying the law of another country, although in general international law does seek uniformity in admiralty law.

Just as the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure placed law and equity under the same jurisdiction in 1938, the 1966 rules subsumed admiralty. Nonetheless, the Supplemental Admiralty Rules take precedence over the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure in the event of conflict between the two.

Maritime and Jones Act Workers Claims

Injured At Sea
Working on and around boats and rigs, you know the dangers that come along with your job. You took the job willingly and understand that it comes with inherent risks. However, it is the responsibility of your employer to minimize these risks. The list of injuries seamen and other maritime workers sustain is long. However, the following make up the most serious injuries sustained while working at sea:

These injuries can end the career of a sailor, seaman, or any other maritime worker. Due to the physical demands of working at sea, severe injuries to the hands, arms, legs or back can be catastrophic. Unable to work, you and your family may struggle to get by. If you have been injured, you do not have to wait for your insurance company to settle your claim or for your employer to give you the compensation you deserve. You need professionals to fight for your rights. At the Harper Law Firm, we have over 25 years of experience in Maritime/Jones Act cases.

We Fight to Protect Your Rights
At HLF we work to protect every person injured while working at sea. We specialize in Jones Act/Seaman’s Injuries and are ready to help you if you have been hurt. The following is a list of the diverse groups of people we represent:

Maritime/Jones Act Workers Claims
Maritime/Jones Act Worker claims, Longshoreman 3rd Party Claims and Seaman‘s Wage Claims are complicated and often difficult cases to prove. In addition, you only have a small window of time to act on a claim. If you miss this window your case will hold little to no value, leaving you without the help you need. At HLF we act swiftly to bring you the relief you need.

Responsible for Your Safety
Your employer is responsible for ensuring that your workplace is as free from hazards as possible. The following is a list of events and oversights that often lead to unnecessary injuries:

  • Falling overboard
  • Slippery decks
  • Un-seaworthy vessels/boats
  • Unsecured loads
  • Collisions
  • Lifting, pulling, or falling injuries
  • Injuries sustained while boarding or leaving a vessel or rig

Many of the injuries and deaths resulting from the above could have been prevented: if only proper procedure was taken, if only the equipment was well maintained, if only your supervisor was doing his job.’ These if only’s can cost you your career.’ It is not fair to let your employer put your life at risk.’ If you or someone you know has been injured at sea, please contact the Harper Law Firm.

Gambling With Your Future
With your health and financial future on the line are you comfortable with just any lawyer? How do you know if the attorney you hire has what it takes to win your case? Our record speaks for itself. The attorneys at the HLF have won maritime cases before. We have the experience you need to help you win your serious injury case.

Though the Harper Law Firm is based in Colorado we can handle personal injury cases throughout the United States. We can handle cases in: Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New Jersey, New York, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, California, Oregon, Washington, Alaska, Hawaii, Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana.

Attorney Charles Harper worked on offshore tugs and supply boats in the Gulf of Mexico for many years before becoming an Admiralty and Maritime lawyer. Mr. Harper worked for many years first as a deckhand, then as a mate, and then as a port captain for a large offshore tug and supply boat company, and so he has many years of actual and personal work experience in the safe operation and maintenance of offshore vessels to add to his many years of work experience as an Admiralty and Maritime Lawyer. Mr. Harper took every Admiralty Law course that is offered at Loyola University Law School in New Orleans, Louisiana, and then did his senior year legal research and writing project in Longshore and Harbor Workers Compensation Law. For over two years, Mr. Harper worked in the Admiralty Law section at the New Orleans based law firm of McGlinchey Stafford before returning to Colorado to take over his father’s Colorado based law firm.

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