Admiralty Liability Details

When sailing and transporting goods for import or export, your ship becomes ruled by the admiralty law, which includes areas of law like maritime contracts, personal injury, and property damage liabilities. The law states that injuries sustained and crimes committed in navigable waters depend on the local jurisdiction. On the other hand, courts should examine breaches of contract and inappropriate transactions concerning insurance policies, crew wages, and vessel repairs according to the terms under which the ship began transportation.

American admiralty law applies to vessels on navigable waters transporting goods for interstate or international trade within the United States. Admiralty jurisdiction may cause the detention of vessels that violate the law of nations, such as illegal trade. Courts may determine the admiralty liability under several legal acts, like:

  • The Jones Act, or the Merchant Marine Act: This act requires that only U.S. citizens own cargo ships transporting goods between U.S. ports and that only U.S citizens and residents are members of the crew on board. Critics claim that this law is protectionist.
  • The Admiralty Jurisdiction Act, or AJA: This law provides for limitations of liability by giving the defendant the right to forward the case to the Federal High Court, which in turn may limit his or her liability.
  • Death on the High Sea Act: Family members or others acting on behalf of the deceased may file a wrongful death claim within three years.
  • Cruise Line Passenger Contracts: These differ from admiralty law and liability because cruise lines usually put the fine print into their contracts and limit what the passengers are entitled to, even though those affected can seek their rights under maritime law. For example, cruise lines sometimes substitute the three-year statute of limitations with a one-year statute of limitations (they underline that passengers can file claims within one year instead of three years).

Example of Admiralty Liability

Admiralty liability varies according to circumstances and the type of event that has occurred. Say a ship sinks; the ship’s owner (under certain circumstances) may require compensation for the goods that were lost up to the total value of the ship.

History of Admiralty Liability

Admiralty liability goes as back as 1787 when the founding fathers created the American Constitution. The Commerce Clause in the Constitution specifies that federal courts have the power to hear legal cases arising from actions that have taken place in the ocean.

In addition, this clause allows Congress to pass laws regulating trade that entail shipping and passenger transport over the ocean. With the Judiciary Act, Congress placed admiralty under the jurisdiction of the federal district courts.

Significance of Admiralty Liability

Admiralty liability applies to all vessels and protects ships and passengers in the sea, where different national and international laws may contradict one another and may not provide reimbursement for damages.

However, courts and attorneys can apply different legal acts when presenting the case. For example, under the Jones Act, individuals may file personal injury claims or take legal actions within three years of the date of the accident or of the date the victim knew about his or her injuries. However, some states have a shorter statute of limitations (the period during which you are allowed to file a claim).