18 July 2019

Do I Need a Maritime Lawyer for a Personal Injury from a Boating Accident?

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Maritime Law and Personal Injury

If you’ve been injured in a boating accident, it can be critical to understand when maritime law governs your personal injury claim or whether state law negligence continues to apply to your claim. The rules and laws for a personal injury claim can differ if the claim is governed by maritime law as opposed to state law.

What is Maritime Law?

Maritime law governs all interactions that occur on bodies of water. These can include commercial transactions, navigation, salvage, dispute, pollution, and transport of goods. However, it is possible for those who are simply traversing a body of water to still face state laws in the state where the lake, river, or shoreline is located. While state laws may govern an interaction in one way, maritime law may govern the situation in a completely different way.

Injury Lawsuits under Maritime Law

It can be more difficult to pursue a personal injury lawsuit when maritime laws govern the claim due to the differences between state law and maritime law. Someone who is seeking compensation from a party responsible for a boating accident may need legal assistance and representation to understand how to proceed with their claim, since it can be confusing as to how maritime laws affect personal injury lawsuits. Some personal injury claimants who initiate their claim under state law may be shocked when their case is changed over to being governed by maritime law. Indeed, whether state law or maritime law applies can have a significant impact on the potential success of a personal injury claim. 

When Maritime Laws Take Effect

Maritime laws tend to take effect over state laws in boating accident such as ferry accidents, fishing accidents, and recreational boating accidents. Maritime law also takes effect in accidents involving cruise ships, charter boats, sailboats, yachts, barges, and tugs. Even accidents involving jet skis and personal watercraft can be subject to maritime law. 

Although maritime law was originally intended to only take effect on the ocean and other large bodies of water such as the Great Lakes, in recent decades maritime law has been expanded to cover other types of bodies of water, such as lakes, rivers, and even small waterways like canals. Even though it is possible that state law will continue to apply in incidents that occur on small bodies of water contained entirely in a state, maritime laws will take over when an injury occurs on any sort of watercraft that is on a navigable body of water.

Maritime Law Versus State Law

States will designate what bodies of water are considered navigable bodies of water and therefore where maritime law will take precedence over state law. States will include almost all bodies of water as navigable bodies, although some small bodies such as ponds are often excluded from the scope of maritime law. Maritime law can also apply to incidents that occur on land where there is a significant nexus with maritime issues or where there has been an impact and disruption of commerce on the water.

There can be significant differences in how state law treats a personal injury claim versus how maritime law treats the claim, depending on the state. However, one primary difference is that maritime law usually requires at least $75,000 in controversy to initiate the matter, although that can be far lower than some other states that impose verbal thresholds on personal injury lawsuits.

Contact a Broward County Personal Injury Lawyer to Discuss Your Boating Accident Case in Florida

Did you or a loved one sustain serious injuries due to a boating accident in Florida? Don’t let the medical bills pile up while you wait for the negligent party or their insurance company to do the right thing. Right now, you need an aggressive personal injury attorney on your side, fighting to get you the compensation you need, want, and deserve. The skilled attorneys at Lawlor, White & Murphey represent clients injured because of boating accidents in Fort Lauderdale, Pembroke Pines, Pompano Beach, Weston and throughout Florida. Call (754) 226-1474 or fill out our online contact form to schedule a free consultation about your case. We have an office conveniently located at 2211 Davie Blvd. Fort Lauderdale, FL 33312, as well as offices in Pembroke Pines, Weston, Coconut Creek, Plantation, and Pompano Beach.

The articles on this blog are for informative purposes only and are no substitute for legal advice or an attorney-client relationship. If you are seeking legal advice, please contact our law firm directly.