Admiralty and Maritime Law
The terms "admiralty" and "maritime" are frequently used interchangeably. "Admiralty," refers to the body of law and procedures that govern matters related to the carriage of goods or passengers on the high seas and navigable inland waters. The term "maritime," however, is a far more general term.
This interesting history of admiralty law has very real consequences to those who find themselves pressing claims within the admiralty jurisdiction. The criminal and civil law with which we are most familiar is derived from the English common law. The law of admiralty, however, having had its origin in the Mediterranean and European sea trade, more closely resembles the European civil law system than the English common law. One significant difference which proved an irritant to our colonial forefathers given the expanded jurisdiction of the British Admiralty Court in the American colonies is the lack of jury under admiralty procedures. Fortunately provisions of law make it possible, in many cases, to maintain an action in the various state courts, or on the "law side" of the federal court, and to retain the important right to a jury trial and other common law remedies. Even in such cases, however, the substantive law applied to decide the case is the law of admiralty.
The Substantive Law of Admiralty
Admiralty law provides a whole range of rights and remedies to those injured within its jurisdiction. Those rights and remedies may vary according to the status of the person making the claim. For example, the remedies available to a member of a crew are quite different from those available to a passenger. Admiralty law also affects the defenses which might be raised against a claim. In some cases making available defenses unknown to the common law, and in other cases removing defenses long established and accepted in common law cases. For these reasons it is important for anyone with a claim arising on or adjacent to the oceans or waterways to seek the advice of an attorney knowledgeable in this area of practice.
Admiralty law (also referred to as maritime law) is a distinct body of law which governs maritime questions and offenses. It is a body of both domestic law governing maritime activities, and private international law governing the relationships between private entities which operate vessels on the oceans. It deals with matters including marine commerce, marine navigation, marine salvaging, shipping, sailors, and the transportation of passengers and goods by sea. Admiralty law also covers many commercial activities, although land based or occurring wholly on land, that are maritime in character...
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