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Understanding Admiralty Jurisdiction Laws

Admiralty Jurisdiction

Admiralty law, also known as maritime law, is a combination of United States law and International law that rules over contracts, injuries, torts, and offenses on navigable waters. Put briefly; admiralty law is meant to cover the interactions between two or more ships, the rights of crew members, and other legal issues that may arise on navigable water.

If you have suffered damages that might come within the scope of admiralty jurisdiction, then it is imperative to understand admiralty law. Doing so helps you know your rights and the appropriate remedies you can seek due to injury.

Here’s a brief synopsis of some things to know about admiralty law.

Admiralty law and Maritime law: What’s the Difference?

The terms admiralty law and maritime law are often used interchangeably. Currently, the two terms are similar, and the only distinction lies in their past. 

Originally, maritime law was meant to protect seamen in their dangerous working conditions. Thus, its purpose was to rectify any hazardous working conditions offshore, which may affect the sea workers. Admiralty law, on the other hand, was more focused on protecting ship owners in navigable waters.

Subsequently, the two laws were merged to form a body of law (both substantive and procedural) governing navigation and shipping.

The Legal Basis for Admiralty Jurisdiction 

Federal courts are conferred with jurisdiction under article 111,§ 2 of the U.S. constitution to handle admiralty and maritime law matters. However, this doesn’t exclude states from hearing admiralty cases. In addition, the courts apply special rules and procedures which set out how maritime and admiralty claims should be handled.

Determining Admiralty jurisdiction

Jurisdiction denotes the right of a court to hear and determine a particular case. Unfortunately, determining admiralty jurisdiction is often very complicated. This is because not all courts have the jurisdiction to hear admiralty cases.

Although the federal courts have jurisdiction-as per the U.S. constitution- to hear admiralty cases, other state courts can hear them as well. As such, determining the appropriate admiralty jurisdiction is a question of fact, and law-which isn’t straightforward. Therefore, a maritime worker who is injured will need the help of an experienced attorney to determine the best court to hear their case.

As a general proposition, a case is within admiralty jurisdiction if the accident occurs in the navigable waters of the United States of America. The key point is whether the water is “navigable.” To determine this, you need to find out if the waterway in question is or has been used (or could be used) to transport interstate or foreign commerce. 

The Importance of Admiralty and Maritime Jurisdiction

Federal maritime law tends to be distinct from state law in many respects. Parties may have more favorable rights when federal maritime law is applied than when state law is applied. Therefore, applying understanding admiralty law is essential and can in fact be beneficial in many cases.

For example, a party who files a suit in a federal court is subject to the court’s admiralty jurisdiction. As such, the party isn’t entitled to a jury -as is the case in a state court. Therefore, the latter will be determined by the judge.

Contact an Offshore Injury Lawyer Today 

Admiralty law is broad and complex. As such, it is often difficult to navigate any legal process that is subject to this law. Nevertheless, if your injury or harm occurred on navigable waters, it is imperative to take the necessary legal steps to ensure you are compensated. Contact us for a free and confidential consultation with a maritime injury lawyer today.

Mike Mahone

Mike Mahone

Mike Mahone is a personal injury and business litigation lawyer located in New Orleans, LA, and the sole practitioner of The Mahone Firm.

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