In short, maritime law is the private and international law that governs the relationships between private entities which operate vessels on the ocean. Maritime law is also commonly referred to as admiralty law and is a strict body of law that governs maritime questions and offenses.
Maritime law can include legal matters that address marine commerce, marine navigation, marine salvaging, shipping, sailors and related injuries to crew members, and the overall transportation of passengers and goods by sea. Further, maritime law can stretch to land based activities if commercial in nature and as long as they are maritime in character.
One aspect of maritime law deals with the “doctrine of maintenance and cure”. This doctrine is an obligation to “cure” and requires a ship owner to provide medical care, at the ship owner’s expense, to a seaman injured during the service of the ship. This duty to cure extends until the seaman has reached a maximum medical cure which is based on the goal of improving the seaman’s ability to function.
In addition to the obligation to cure the ship owner also maintains an obligation of “maintenance” which requires the ship owner to provide the seaman with his basic living expenses while he is recovering. Further, case law has established that if the seaman is forced to bring a lawsuit to seek recovery of cure and maintenance he or she may also recover his attorney’s fees and also may recover punitive damages if ship owner’s failure is willful and wanton.
Maritime law is vast and complex and if you or a loved one has suffered an injury while working in the marine industry it is highly recommended that you seek the advice of a maritime lawyer.