What is Maritime Law?

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Attorney Tom Giannotti is here to talk about an area of law that is less common in places like Atlanta, Georgia: Maritime Law.

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Tom Giannotti: https://butlerfirm.com/our-team/tom-giannotti

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► Hi, I’m Tom Giannotti, attorney with Butler Kahn. Today I’m going to talk about an area of law that is less common in places like Atlanta, Georgia, but more common in coastal areas such as our Port of Savannah here in Georgia. And that’s maritime law, also called admiralty law. And the significance of this is depending on the circumstances of a particular case, if it involves a marine environment of some sort, and that may be a ship, a port, dock, even some inland lakes or rivers if they’re navigable.
► Again, the point of this is depending on the circumstances of that particular case, whether maritime law or admiralty law applies can can significantly affect the remedies and rights available to injured people. So if you or a family member have an injured or killed in connection with some kind of marine environment like that, this could be a big deal for your case. So the main point here is that maritime law is a unique and exclusively federal body of law that is intended to have a uniform body of laws apply to essentially commercial shipping, right?
► So the idea again is that you have ships going from port to port. Congress decided it was important to have one uniform body of law to administer across all these types of situations so that you didn’t have a situation where different states’ laws might apply to a ship that is going to be moving all over the place all the time. And those states’ laws could conflict and just create essentially a burden to a hindrance to interstate commerce. Congress decided many years ago that this was important, and this is what we have, we have a body of admiralty law or maritime law.
► So unlike other types of injury cases where different states laws may apply depending on where the injury occurred or other jurisdictional factors, admiralty and maritime cases are governed by federal law. And although it is possible for sometimes for a state to have a jurisdiction, the state court is going to still have to apply this federal admiralty law. So again, for all intents and purposes, this is a federal body of law and this afford workers who are onboard vessels. The law traditionally is called them seamen. I will call them sailors, in an effort to be inclusive here to many women who are in the shipping industry, merchant Marines and commercial diving, for example.
► And again, the rights afforded to these sailors are specific to maritime or admiralty law. So when you’re on board a vessel, that injured worker can have a claim against the ship owner based on unseaworthiness or negligence. And these are rights that are not afforded by the common international maritime law. At the same time, that means that those folks do not get the benefit of state workers’ compensation laws.

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