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Understanding the reach of admiralty laws

On Behalf of | May 21, 2021 | Maritime Accidents

Admiralty law is a body of law that covers a wide range of rules and regulations regarding liability on navigable waters. There are many difficult terms to unpack to determine if admiralty law applies in specific New York cases. One of the most fundamental definitions that must be understood is what constitutes navigable waters for the purposes of admiralty law suits.

This informational post will provide guidance on navigable waters and how the law has defined it over time. This post does not offer any legal advice. Because admiralty law is a unique body of rules and legislation, those readers with questions about possible admiralty cases can benefit from speaking with attorneys who include admiralty law in their practices.

Not all water is navigable

Water is unique in that it does not necessarily have to be bound to a single location. Where bodies of water connect, water may pass from area to area and continue to flow until it is bound by land or a man-made obstruction. Bound waters such as lakes and small tributaries may not be considered navigable because the water may not move to a separate location.

For the purposes of admiralty law, navigable waters are considered bodies of water that form a water highway capable of interstate or foreign commerce. To this end, a river that travels 10 miles in a single state may not be considered navigable because it does not support interstate commerce. The Atlantic Ocean, though, would support both interstate and foreign commerce as vessels could traverse its span to reach distant lands.

Working out the details of an admiralty case

Before someone who has been hurt on a vessel may seek compensation for their losses, they must understand what laws apply to their claims. If their injuries occurred on navigable waters, they may be able to avail themselves to the benefits of admiralty law. If not, they may need to seek out other legal options for pursuing their losses in other tort arenas.

Defining the terms of a personal injury claim can change how and where it is litigated. Admiralty lawyers can help their clients work through the important details of understanding and filing their admiralty claims.