If you get an injury on a trawler or crab boat off of the coast of Alaska, Washington or Oregon, you might start to hear about admiralty and maritime law. While people tend to use “admiralty” and “maritime” interchangeably, they are not the same thing.
You might not need to know exactly what all of the technical language means. However, a basic understanding of jurisdictions and types of laws should help provide context.
A constitutional distinction
The Constitution of the United States specifically mentions both admiralty and maritime jurisdictions. What exactly does this mean?
To understand better, it is important to know that there are many different systems of law. A simple example might be the distinction between criminal and civil courts. Different rules apply to each, and they each handle different types of cases.
When the Constitution mentions both admiralty and maritime, it means that the framers saw a difference between these two concepts. Even today, that separation might have an impact on your injury case.
Admiralty versus maritime issues in a fishing injury case
Admiralty has to do with the scope of a court’s jurisdiction over your case. In other words, federal admiralty jurisdiction might apply because of the admiralty law.
If it turns out that your case could fall under federal admiralty jurisdiction, then you could turn to federal maritime law to anticipate potential outcomes. These maritime laws provide the rules by which the court would consider facts, follow procedures and decide your case.
Your injury might be subject to different jurisdictions, and that is only one potential variable. Understanding your case in its complex legal context should help you decide which strategy you want to pursue.