A maritime lawyer is an attorney that specializes in maritime injuries and boating accidents that occur in both recreational and commercial maritime activities. Maritime lawyers protect not only seamen who are injured on the job but maritime lawyers also protect those who are involved in recreational boating accident injuries.
Definition of Maritime Law
Maritime law, also called Admiralty law, is a combination of U.S. and international law that covers all contracts, torts, injuries, or offenses that take place on navigable waters. Maritime law traditionally focused on oceanic issues, but it has expanded to cover any public body of water, including lakes and rivers.
These laws largely cover interactions between two or more ships, the ship captain’s obligations to the crew and passengers, and the rights of crew members, as well as other legal issues.
Terms to Know
Some terms relating to maritime law are as follows:
. Admiralty court: A court, usually a federal court, has jurisdiction over admiralty cases and applies the special rules and laws of maritime law.
. Jurisdiction: A legal term for a court’s authority to hear a specific case. Federal courts generally have jurisdiction over admiralty cases.
. U.S. Coast Guard: A federal agency responsible for enforcing all federal laws on the oceans, seas, and other bodies of water in or near the United States.
. Maritime: Anything related to navigation on the water, another word for admiralty.
. Longshore and harbor worker’s compensation act: A federal law that requires maritime employers to provide worker’s compensation for injuries and illnesses that crew members suffer while serving on a ship.
. Jones Act: A federal law, also known as the Merchant Marine Act of 1920, that governs maritime commerce, the right of crew members, and maintenance and other requirements of boats and shipping operations.
History of Maritime Law
The origins of maritime law can be traced back to ancient Egypt. In those days, ships were used to transport goods and a clearly defined set of rules was needed to ensure safety and fair trade and settle disputes between different parties. however, it wasn’t until much later that the first written record of formal codes can be found.
The Rhodian Sea Laws formed between 900 and 300 B.C., set official rules for the Mediterranean Sea. These laws governed seafaring trade in the area, influenced the Romans, and remained in effect for a very long time.
European maritime laws gradually evolved over the following centuries. Key developments that helped to shape current laws included the Consulate of the Sea, the Rolls of Oléron, and the early English Admiralty laws, which would later help to shape the laws of the sea in the U.S.
Maritime law arrived in the U.S. in the 1600s. However, it wasn’t until 1789 that federal district courts were given jurisdiction over admiralty law cases and a uniform body of law was created.
Responsibilities of a Maritime Lawyer
Here are some of the duties of a maritime lawyer:
. Maritime lawyers advise their clients on laws and business transactions and claim liability. They advise their clients on whether it is sensible to prosecute or defend lawsuits. Maritime lawyer tells their clients about their legal rights and obligation.
. They prepare and draft legal documents. Such as contracts, and records of processes.
. As a maritime lawyer, you will interview witnesses that can help with your cases.
. A maritime lawyer analyzes cases and determines possible outcomes of cases, using your knowledge of legal precedents.
. When you meet a challenge as a maritime lawyer, you will confer with colleagues with specialties to know the way to handle legal proceedings.
. They summarize and present cases to judges. Maritime lawyers represent clients before government agencies that oversee regulating sea and water activities.
. They interpret laws, rulings, and regulations regarding maritime matters for individuals and businesses.
. Maritime lawyers gather facts and evidence to defend their clients from lawsuits from lawsuits from government agencies, or to initiate lawsuits.
. Supervising legal assistants.
. They negotiate the settlements of all the disputes their clients are involved in.
. As a Maritime Lawyer, you are expected to study the constitution, statutes, decisions, regulations, and ordinances for maritime issues to determine ramifications for cases.
Skills of a Maritime/Shipping Lawyer
A maritime lawyer must possess the following skills:
. Ability To Work Under Pressure
A Maritime Lawyer regularly comes under a lot of pressure when handling cases for clients. It is important to be calm and work efficiently and effectively when this kind of pressure arises. You will also have deadlines that you must meet. However, tasks are not beyond what an expert should be able to handle.
. Research Skills
A Maritime lawyer must always be professional by showing that you are prepared. Lack of preparation and research will always weaken your position. Preparing adequately for any case you are handling is non-negotiable.
. Problem-Solving Skills
A Maritime lawyer is expected to solve complex problems by exploring new ideas, arguments, and avenues to get the desired result.
. Ability To Work in A Team
You must know how to make decisions independently when the situation demands it.
. Communication Skills
It is impossible to avoid writing and speaking in your practice, therefore, you must have excellent communication skills. You will draft documents, write letters to clients, and represent them in court.
. Commercial Awareness
You must have a broad knowledge of current affairs and business happenings in the maritime and shipping sector. This skill is quite important as those issues also affect your clients.
. Attention To Detail
This skill is particularly important for Maritime lawyers because they sometimes have to process large and somewhat unclear documents which will require the ability to spot important pieces of information to help the case.
. Decision-Making Skills
As a Maritime Lawyer, you must know how to make decisions independently when the situation demands it.
. Ability To Understand People
Since you are providing a service, all your practices must be directed toward the needs of your clients. This also involves taking the time to listen and understand their concerns.
What Do to Look for When Hiring a Maritime Lawyer?
When you need to hire a maritime lawyer, you should look for the following:
. Number of years experience in maritime law
. The number of maritime workers represented
. Where they represent maritime workers
. Bills on a contingency fee basis
. Their case results.
What Is the Jones Act?
The Jones Act is a federal law that provides seamen with certain protections and benefits, much like workers’ compensation for onshore workers (although there are many, many differences between state-mandated workers’ comp and federal law under the Jones Act). Under the Jones Act, a seaman who is injured while working on a vessel can bring a claim against their employer for negligence. The Jones Act also allows for claims of unseaworthiness, which is when a vessel is not fit for its intended purpose.
Common Causes of a Maritime Injury
There are many different ways that a maritime worker can be injured. Some of the most common causes of maritime injuries include:
. Falls overboard
. Falls from height
. Slip and fall accidents
. Machinery accidents
. Explosions and fires
. Food poisoning
. Repetitive lifting cases
What Is Covered by The Jones Act?
If you are injured while working on a vessel, you have certain rights under the Jones Act. These include the right to:
. Bring a claim against your employer for negligence
. Seek compensation for your medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering
. Bring a claim for unseaworthiness if the vessel was not fit for its intended purpose.