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U.S. Maritime Jurisdiction: Where it Comes From

The maritime law is the law that governs the relationship between private entities that operate vessels on the oceans. It also deals with:

  • Shipping
  • Transportation of passengers by sea
  • Transportation of goods by sea
  • Marine commerce
  • Sailors
  • Marine navigation
  • Civil and criminal actions

Statute of Limitations

There is a three year statute of limitation for personal injury and wrongful death cases. This is the amount of time a person has to file a claim before forfeiting their rights to pursue a legal action.

Jurisdiction

The jurisdiction under maritime law also known as admiralty law is different from jurisdiction under common law. It originated from Article 3, Section 2 of the U.S. Constitution, which extended judicial power to all cases of admiralty and maritime jurisdiction.

The federal courts have exclusive jurisdiction over most maritime claims under Title 28 of the United State Code. This statute also covers the saving to suitors clause which grants the right to file a suit in a state court or federal court without the special procedures for maritime claims where there is some other basis for jurisdiction. This includes injuries to seamen, wake damage, maritime pollution, damage to cargo and collisions between vessels cases. Generally there is no right to trial by federal court in most maritime cases.  But Congress created limited rights of jury trial in seamen’s personal injury actions under the Jones Act. In state courts the right to trial is determined by the law of the state where the claim was filed.

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