North Carolina’s entire eastern side is bordered by the coastal waters of the North Atlantic Ocean. Therefore, in port cities like Wilmington, maritime law is an important part of the state’s legal system that incorporates and enforces laws for both land and sea. With hundreds of businesses operating off the Wilmington coastline, and thousands more residents and tourists in the area, maritime law encompasses trade, shipping, navigation, towing, recreational boating, and piracy on both international and domestic waters. Wilmington fronts both ocean waters and the riverway of the Cape Fear River, making a maritime attorney an important resource for the town and surrounding waterways.
Christina Rivenbark & Associates is a well-established law firm with experience in Wilmington maritime law cases. The maritime attorneys at Christina Rivenbark & Associates have represented many successful maritime cases. Since 1990, we have grown to be a reputable law firm in the area, with positive feedback from past clients.
Maritime law, also called admiralty law or wet law, is a term used to describe the laws that govern and regulate how employers, businesses, and individuals carry out matters on the high seas, whether on national or international waters. These laws regulate the seemingly limitless possibilities of occurrences and events that can take place on the oceans and waterways. It involves navigation, leisure travelers, commerce, cargo, and the interaction between employers and the seamen who work for them.
The International Maritime Organization (IMO) issues conventions on behalf of the United Nations that regulate the navies and coastal guards of most countries. The IMO is responsible for the International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers (STCW).
A maritime attorney’s clients include many types of business owners, vessel owners, and townspeople. Federal regulations strive to regulate maritime activity and job positions universally, providing coverage for the vast range of possible hazards that can occur on the water, whether working or for other reasons. Some of the most common maritime cases involve representation for the following:
Maritime law covers a wide range of legal areas. One of the biggest concerns in maritime law is the shipping and fleeting industries. Maritime law covers disputes over contracts regarding shipping and cargo transportation that occur on the high seas or in navigable waters. Additionally, legal transactions, damaged property claims, or product liability claims are handled by the admiralty court.
Accidents that occur on the high seas or navigable waters are also covered under admiralty jurisdiction. This includes boating accidents, ferry accidents, and cruise ship accidents, as well as recreational accidents involving parasailing vessels, sailboats, and jet skis, among others. When an accident occurs on the water due to the negligence or irresponsible actions of the owner of a boat, yacht, ship, or vessel owner or operator, or due to a vessel’s condition, that owner, operator, or other responsible party can be held liable for the injury, harm, or wrongful death to the otherwise innocent sailors, seamen, or longshoremen involved. For example, when an oil rig capsizes, a barge is overturned, or a plane is lost at sea, U.S. admiralty laws can provide protection to those injured and their families.
Another legal area of maritime law involves water-related contract disputes, such as:
In short, maritime law applies to any transactional and contractual disputes involving seas, waterways, and those who use them.
Admiralty law and maritime law are complicated areas of both federal and state law. Understanding all their various facets takes years of study and experience. It’s an area of law that most people are unfamiliar with. They usually find that they have better results in court when they have the knowledge and experience of a qualified maritime attorney by their side. A well-qualified admiralty court attorney has a deep understanding of legal areas that include:
All of these are addressed within maritime law.
Maritime attorneys can interpret the laws, regulations, and rulings regarding maritime cases to guide their clients through maritime proceedings. They can represent and offer invaluable legal advice on business transactions, claim liability, and assist with the initiation and handling of claims. Maritime lawyers are knowledgeable about collecting the essential evidence needed to defend their clients from government agencies or private entities.
Both state and federal courts have admiralty jurisdiction over maritime cases, but the laws are sometimes conflicting. A well-versed maritime lawyer is familiar with the laws of both state and federal courts and can determine which maritime laws can benefit an individual maritime legal case more than others. Therefore, anyone involved in the legal proceedings of an admiralty court can have an advantage if they consult with a maritime attorney regarding their case.
There are three main maritime laws: the Longshoremen and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act, the Death on the High Seas Act, and the Jones Act.
The Longshoreman and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act (LHWCA) includes multiple laws that determine benefits for land-based maritime workers who are injured on the job. The Seaman Status Test is a set of rules that are used to determine whether a worker is covered by maritime laws or a land-based employer who just works on the water.
The Death on the High Seas Act (DOHSA) allows the loved ones of those who were lost in international waters to collect damages for their loss, including monetary compensation for lost wages and emotional damages.
The Jones Act provides provisions for medical bills and lost wage compensation for injured sailors and seamen. Similar to workers’ comp, injured workers must prove that their injury is the result of:
State organizations have been established to set maritime-related standards that often go along with maritime law. For instance, occupational safety and health standards serve to regulate maritime operations. These are upheld by the North Carolina Occupational Safety and Health Division, also known as the OSH Division, which can cite employers who improperly operate or manage public sector marine terminals. In addition, the North Carolina Marine Patrol regulates and enforces the regulations set forth for fishing.
A well-versed maritime attorney is familiar with all these standards as well as the consequences of not complying with them. There are also other sectors of maritime law that an attorney can apply to a unique case with exceptional circumstances.
Some of the most common cases in the North Carolina admiralty court are related to boating accidents. These accidents usually involve a degree of negligence, such as:
Inadequate training for boaters and fatigue are common culprits in boating accidents. Most of these incidents are preventable, though, and exercising better training or boating practices can prevent future claims against you should you be at fault for a North Carolina maritime boating accident.
State and federal courts share concurrent jurisdiction over maritime law, but some state laws differ from federal laws. Therefore, according to the details of a case, an experienced maritime attorney who is knowledgeable of the laws of both can determine which court you want to have presiding over your maritime legal case.
Essentially, there is no difference between these two terms, and both can be used interchangeably. Admiralty Court was once a separate court that strictly presided over maritime cases, but today, both federal and state courts have jurisdiction over maritime cases. Your attorney can help you determine which court has jurisdiction over your specific case.
The main difference between maritime law and common law is that, in common law cases, trials are held before a jury, and the jury decides the outcome of the case. However, in maritime cases, a jury is not necessary because there is no need to interpret maritime law as it applies to the case. Maritime law applies clearly to all cases.
Maritime law covers a large range of areas, including, among other types of cases:
If you have a case involving maritime law, and need advice from a reliable maritime attorney, contact Christina Rivenbark & Associates to schedule a consultation to discuss your case. Our law firm is understanding and ready to listen to your individual circumstances, answer your questions regarding the potential outcomes of your case, and represent you in any maritime legal matter.