If you have been injured in a maritime accident or perhaps been the victim of a crime while on a cruise, the matter of which court has jurisdiction will be particularly important to you.

Jurisdiction concerns which court or courts have authority to hear a criminal or civil case, and this can be quite complex when it comes to maritime claims. A maritime lawyer is the ideal person to help you determine which court or courts will have jurisdiction in your particular situation; however, there are some general considerations that can help you decide where to file.

U.S. Waters Or International Waters?

Before getting into issues of state or federal jurisdiction, it is important to understand how where an incident occurs can affect any court proceedings that might result from it.

The laws governing a ship begin with what flag that ship is flying under. In general, a ship is governed by the laws of whatever country’s flag it flies (which indicates where the ship is registered). However, the territory where an incident occurs must also be considered when determining jurisdiction. These general guidelines can help you, but consulting a maritime attorney is vital in determining what rights you have in your particular case.

When a ship is in another nation’s internal waters — bays or ports, for example — the ship, its crew, and its passengers are subject to the laws of that country. The host nation’s laws typically apply within its territorial waters, as well. This extends up to 12 miles from the country’s coastline. Once a ship hits international waters (24 miles from any coastline), the laws of this ship’s country of origin apply.

State And Federal Jurisdiction

Under the U.S. Constitution, federal courts hold jurisdiction for incidents that occur on the ocean or within the navigable waters of the United States. This jurisdiction is not exclusive, though. The aggrieved party can also file a maritime lawsuit in state court if the state’s laws provide relief in that particular type of case.

For some cases, such as if a claim is brought against a piece of property (like a ship), jurisdiction will be strictly federal. It is important to note, also, that if a case is brought in federal court, the party bringing the claim is not generally entitled to trial by jury.

A maritime lawyer will be able to best help you determine whether a state or federal court has jurisdiction.

Additional Rights In Maritime Cases

In the U.S., maritime laws enacted in recent years allow for extra protection, particularly of maritime workers on U.S.-flagged vessels that offer maritime attorneys the ability to seek reparations for clients injured in the course of work.

The Jones Act, the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act, and the Death on the High Seas Act are examples of these types of legislation. In general, these laws are applicable in cases of maritime workers injured or killed, and in some cases employer negligence plays a role in the claim.

The maritime lawyers at Schechter, Shaffer & Harris, L.L.P., Accident & Injury Lawyers  have years of experience in helping people across the U.S. with maritime lawsuits.