Maritime Attorney Law: Everything You Need to Know

Maritime Law

Maritime Attorney Law: Everything You Need to Know

Maritime attorney law is a specialized field encompassing legal matters that arise from activities and commerce in the ocean and waterways. Maritime attorneys are experts in maritime law, also known as admiralty law, and are equipped to handle various legal issues, ranging from personal injury claims to international disputes. This comprehensive guide will delve into the role and responsibilities of maritime attorneys, the education required, the difference between maritime and common law, and much more.


Maritime Attorney Law: An Introduction

What is Maritime Law?

Maritime law, also referred to as admiralty law, is a body of law that governs maritime activities, including commerce and navigation on the high seas and other navigable waters. Maritime law typically encompasses local U.S. laws as well as international laws. These laws provide the rules that govern torts, injuries, contracts, and any type of offense that occurs near, on, or in a body of navigable water.


Scope of Maritime Law

The scope of maritime law is vast, dealing with issues related to private boats, disputes arising from maritime contracts, and crimes committed on American territorial waters or crimes committed on American vessels or against American citizens. It also covers matters relating to marine insurance, marine pollution, employee compensation (Jones Act), and even foreign corruption and anti-bribery provisions.


Maritime Lawyer: Roles and Responsibilities

What Does a Maritime Lawyer Do?

A maritime lawyer is an attorney who specializes in maritime injuries and boating accidents that occur in both recreational and commercial maritime activities. Maritime attorneys protect not only seamen who are injured on the job but also those involved in recreational boating accident injuries.

Maritime attorneys may conduct various activities, including trying cases in court, drafting documents, negotiating agreements, and handling complaints about injuries or illnesses caused by marine vessels or sea crafts. They also address issues related to companies dumping hazardous waste into the sea.


Skills and Expertise Required

Maritime law can often be extremely complex, and maritime lawyers should be well-versed in international, federal, and state laws. They must also be knowledgeable about marine insurance, marine pollution, employee compensation (Jones Act), and foreign corruption and anti-bribery provisions as set forth by the United States Department of Justice.


Maritime Lawyer Education and Training

Educational Requirements

To become a maritime lawyer, one must first graduate from an accredited law school with a Juris Doctorate (J.D.) degree, pass state bar association exams, and maintain a license to practice law in that state. Those interested in maritime law careers can apply to a maritime law school or enroll in a law school that offers courses and internship opportunities in maritime law.


Maritime Law Schools and Programs

Maritime law schools, such as Tulane Law School, offer a concentration in admiralty and maritime law. Students in these programs receive extensive education in maritime legal matters, including international treaties, maritime insurance and liability, shipping industry regulations, cargo damage, personal injury, and environmental law. Practicing attorneys interested in deepening their knowledge of maritime law can apply to graduate programs, such as Tulane’s Master of Laws in Admiralty degree.


Maritime Lawyer Salary and Job Prospects

Salary Expectations

The average annual salary for maritime law jobs is 164,000, while their counterparts in Baltimore earn 119,250.


Job Growth Outlook

The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that demand for lawyers will increase by a modest 6 percent from 2018 to 2028, potentially creating 50,100 new jobs by 2028. However, competition for openings will be strong, as the number of students graduating from law school each year exceeds job openings. Willingness to relocate and having a specialization like maritime law that other applicants lack can be advantageous for some jobs.


Maritime Law vs. Common Law: Understanding the Differences

What is Common Law?

Common law is a body of unwritten laws established through court decisions. It originated in England during the early days of the country’s law courts and is an ever-evolving field of law. Common law is mainly applied in cases where the court cannot apply existing statutes or rules of law to decide an outcome.


What is Admiralty Law?

Admiralty law, also referred to as ‘maritime common law,’ has evolved from decisions made by judges who referred to civil law and common law to establish the standards used to solve maritime issues. Admiralty law is a subset of maritime law, which combines international agreements, admiralty law, and federal government maritime statutes and regulations to address maritime disputes.


Key Differences Between Maritime Law and Common Law

The main differences between maritime law and common law lie in their scope, nature, and how cases are tried. Maritime law deals with shipping vessels and maritime trade and commerce issues, while common law is applicable in many legal fields, both on land and water. Maritime law comprises a mixture of admiralty law, federal government statutes, and international agreements, while common law relies on past court decisions to create precedents for future cases. Lastly, maritime law cases are tried without the presence of a jury in admiralty law courts, whereas common law requires a jury for an impartial verdict.


Types of Cases Handled by Maritime Attorneys

Maritime attorneys handle a wide array of cases in admiralty law courts, including:

  • Criminal activity related to piracy
  • Vessel accidents involving passenger or cargo ships
  • Violating contract agreements or engaging in fraud
  • Wrongful deaths or injuries on shipping vessels
  • Violation of labor laws by shipowners
  • Environmental pollution from hazardous cargo leakages
  • Conspiracy to conceal or falsify documentation

The Jones Act and Maritime Injury Compensation

What is the Jones Act?

The Jones Act is a law set forth by the Merchant Marine Act of 1920, which governs the shipment of goods in the United States. It is most relevant to those who work at sea and become injured. The basics of the law ensure that employers take responsibility for workers injured at sea while on the job. A worker covered under the Jones Act is entitled not only to compensation for pain and suffering endured after the accident but also to lost income due to the accident.


Compensation Claims for Maritime Injuries

A maritime injury claim is similar to a workers’ compensation claim, with the main difference being that maritime injury settlements tend to be larger due to the higher risk associated with working on a vessel. If an individual suffers a maritime injury on the job and qualifies as a seaman under the Jones Act, they can be compensated for lost income (present and future), healthcare costs, loss of faculties (both physical and mental), treatments or rehabilitation, pain, mental distress, and other expenses related to the injury.


Final Thoughts

As a business owner in maritime trade and commerce or an individual involved in maritime activities, it’s essential to understand the legal matters affecting the industry. Thorough research of maritime laws and regulations is necessary, and if you don’t have the time or expertise to do so, consulting an experienced maritime lawyer is highly recommended. A seasoned maritime attorney can help you navigate the complexities of maritime law and provide valuable advice and representation in the event of a dispute or legal issue.

If you have any further questions about maritime law or need professional assistance with a maritime dispute, consider reaching out to a reputable maritime law firm to schedule a consultation.

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