What is Admiralty Law?

Admiralty Attorney Explains Admiralty and Maritime Law

Many people are confused by the term “admiralty law.” They often think that admiralty law is different from maritime law. Admiralty law and maritime law are essentially one in the same –admiralty/maritime law is the body of law that regulates and governs maritime activities that take place on navigable waters such as navigation, shipping, commerce, employment matters, injuries to crew members, torts and contracts.

U.S. Admiralty Law

In the United States admiralty law began to emerge shortly after the adoption of the U.S. Constitution in 1789. This body of law was first introduced through admiralty cases and has grown and expanded over the years to include a number of federal acts passed by the U.S. Congress. Some of the more well-known maritime/admiralty acts include:

  • The Jones Act- Merchant Marine Act of 1920: The Jones Act is a federal statute aimed at promoting and supporting the American Merchant Marine while providing important legal rights to seaman who are injured, fall ill, or die in the course of their employment. This Act requires maritime employers to provide injured seaman with maintenance (cost of living) and cure benefits (medical care) regardless of who may be to blame for the maritime accident or injury. Under the Act, maritime workers who are classified as “seamen” also have the right to file a negligence lawsuit against their employers when an employer’s negligence or the negligence of a co-worker plays a part in the employee’s injuries.
  • Longshore Harbor & Workers’ Compensation Act (LHWCA): First enacted by Congress in 1927, the LHWCA is a federal workers’ compensation program that protects longshoremen, harbor workers, shipbuilders, forklift operators, dock men and other maritime workers who are hurt working on, near or adjacent to U.S. navigable waters who are not covered under the Jones Act. Similar to state workers’ compensation programs, the LHWCA program is a no-fault program providing medical care, disability payments and death benefits to workers irrespective of who may be at fault for the worker’s accident.
  • Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act (OCSLA): Passed by Congress in 1953, OCSLA is an extension of the Longshore Harbor & Workers’ Compensation Act (LHWCA). The Act expands the LHWCA to provide compensation and benefits to persons who work on the Outer Continental Shelf. Longshoremen, dock men, ship repairers, harbor workers and rig and platform workers are generally the types of maritime workers who are covered under the Act. When these types of workers are injured while working on the Outer Continental Shelf, OCSLA provides medical coverage, disability benefits, rehabilitation/retraining and death benefits

An Experienced Attorney Can Protect Your Rights

Maritime or admiralty law is extremely complex and can be impossible to navigate without the assistance of an attorney. The Willis Law Firm is a leading authority on maritime and admiralty law. If you have general questions we encourage you to review the resources and articles in our Jones Act Information Center. While these materials can provide you with some background information on admiralty law, they are not a substitute for talking with a skilled maritime attorney. When you are injured in a maritime incident, you should discuss your accident with a lawyer who has extensive experience handling maritime injury cases. Call The Willis Law Firm today at 1-800-468-4878.

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