What Is a Maritime Lawyer

Courtney SweasyMarch 21, 2024

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Navigating the complex waters of maritime law requires a guide which explains the intricacies and nuances of legal issues that arise at sea. At Breit Biniazan, our team of dedicated professionals is well-equipped to provide comprehensive legal advice and representation for a wide array of maritime-related issues.

This article aims to highlight the specialized field of maritime law, delving into its definition, the pivotal role and responsibilities of maritime lawyers, and the various types of cases they handle. Whether you’re a maritime worker injured on the job, a vessel owner facing legal challenges, or someone seeking compensation for a maritime accident, understanding maritime law is crucial. Our experts at Breit Biniazan are here to offer the expertise and support needed to address your maritime legal needs.

Defining Maritime Law

Maritime law, also known as admiralty law, governs legal disputes and contracts related to maritime commerce, navigation, and shipping on navigable waters. This body of law encompasses both domestic maritime activities and international maritime law, overseeing a broad spectrum of issues from maritime injuries and accidents to cargo disputes and vessel ownership.

Role and Responsibilities of a Maritime Lawyer

Maritime workers confront perilous conditions daily, where the risks inherent to their work often result in severe injuries or fatalities. Despite the inherent dangers, many of these accidents could be averted through adherence to proper safety protocols and measures. In instances where employers or other responsible parties neglect these protocols, leading to injury or harm, they must be held accountable for their negligence. 

Our maritime accident attorneys at Breit Biniazan advocate for individuals who have suffered serious injuries or loss of life in boating or maritime accidents, whether occurring on the vast expanse of the open sea, within bustling harbors, or on any navigable body of water. We stand firm in defending the rights of those affected, seeking justice and rightful compensation for their pain, suffering, and losses.

Types of Cases Handled by Maritime Lawyers at Breit Biniazan

Types of Maritime Accident Cases We Handle

When it comes to safeguarding the rights of workers on or near water, our experienced maritime accident attorneys stand as staunch advocates. We handle various maritime accident cases, including but not limited to:

  • General maritime law
  • Jones Act cases
  • Unseaworthiness claims
  • Wrongful death suits
  • Vessel sinking incidents
  • Maintenance and cure disputes
  • Crane accidents
  • Brain injuries due to accidents
  • Recreational boating accidents
  • Unsafe working conditions

Additional Specialized Areas within Maritime Law

  • Longshoreman Accident Claims: Upholding the rights of longshoremen injured on navigable U.S. waters, ensuring they receive rightful compensation despite the hurdles posed by insurers and employers.
  • Shipping Crate Accident Claims: Holding responsible parties accountable for injuries caused by improperly secured or loaded shipping containers, addressing common causes such as crane accidents and slips/falls.
  • Water Sports Injury Claims: Advocating for victims of Jet Ski, WaveRunner, or Sea-Doo accidents, seeking recourse against reckless riders, negligent rental companies, and manufacturers of defective products.

Personal Injury Claims from Recreational Boating Accident Injuries

Recreational boating accidents can result in severe injuries or fatalities, often necessitating legal intervention. Maritime lawyers adeptly handle personal injury claims arising from such incidents, representing individuals who have been injured due to the negligence or misconduct of another party while on navigable waters. These cases require a deep understanding of maritime law, as well as state and federal regulations governing recreational boating. Whether it’s a collision between personal watercraft, a boating under the influence (BUI) incident, or an equipment failure, maritime attorneys are equipped to pursue justice for the injured, helping secure compensation for medical bills, lost wages, and other related expenses.

Compensation Claims under the Jones Act for Injured Seamen

The Jones Act is a pivotal piece of legislation that protects seamen injured in the course of their employment, allowing them to seek compensation from their employers for injuries sustained due to negligence. Maritime lawyers play a crucial role in these cases, offering their specialized knowledge to navigate the complexities of the Jones Act. 

They work diligently to ensure that injured seamen receive the compensation they deserve, including maintenance and cure benefits, covering medical treatment and daily living expenses until the seaman has reached maximum medical improvement. The expertise of maritime attorneys in interpreting and applying the Jones Act is indispensable for injured seamen seeking justice and financial support following an on-the-job injury.

Disputes Involving Vessel Owners and Cargo

Maritime lawyers also specialize in resolving disputes between vessel owners and parties involved in the shipment of cargo. These disputes can arise from a range of issues, including cargo damage, delivery delays, or breaches of charter party agreements. Navigating these disputes requires a maritime attorney with a firm grasp of international maritime law, as well as the specific contractual agreements governing the shipment of goods. 

From negotiating settlements to representing clients in court or arbitration, maritime attorneys work to protect the interests of their clients, whether they are vessel owners, charterers, or cargo owners. Their expertise ensures that disputes are resolved in a manner that upholds the integrity of maritime commerce and adheres to the complex web of regulations that govern it.

In each of these cases, maritime lawyers serve as vital advocates for their clients, leveraging their specialized knowledge and skills to navigate the often turbulent waters of maritime law. Whether addressing personal injury claims, advocating for injured seamen under the Jones Act, or resolving cargo and vessel ownership disputes, maritime attorneys are dedicated to providing expert legal representation and support, ensuring the rights and interests of those involved in the maritime industry are protected and upheld.

Education and Training Requirements for Maritime Lawyers

To become a maritime lawyer, one must complete law school with a focus on maritime law, gaining knowledge of specific laws, regulations, and international agreements that govern maritime activities.

Undergraduate Education

The journey begins with an undergraduate degree. Aspiring maritime lawyers typically pursue degrees in fields that provide a solid foundation for legal studies, such as political science, international relations, or even maritime studies. However, the choice of undergraduate major is less important than developing critical thinking, research, and writing skills, which are essential for success in law school and beyond.

Law School and Specialization

After obtaining an undergraduate degree, the next step is attending law school to earn a Juris Doctor (JD) degree. Law school provides a comprehensive legal education, covering a wide range of subjects from constitutional law to civil procedure. However, for those aspiring to specialize in maritime law, it is crucial to attend a law school that offers a robust selection of maritime law courses. These courses might cover topics such as admiralty law, maritime personal injury, international maritime law, and laws related to maritime commerce and navigation.

Advanced Degrees and Certifications

While a JD is essential, some maritime lawyers choose to further their education by pursuing an LLM (Master of Laws) in Maritime Law. This advanced degree allows lawyers to deepen their knowledge of maritime law and gain expertise in specific areas, such as maritime arbitration, shipping regulations, or marine environmental law. Additionally, certifications or specialized training offered by maritime institutions can complement legal education, providing practical insights into the maritime industry.

Gaining Practical Experience

Practical experience is invaluable for aspiring maritime lawyers. Internships or clerkships with law firms specializing in maritime law, maritime organizations, or governmental agencies overseeing maritime affairs offer hands-on experience and networking opportunities. These experiences provide aspiring maritime lawyers with a glimpse into the day-to-day challenges and intricacies of maritime law practice.

Continuing Legal Education and Professional Development

The maritime industry is constantly evolving, influenced by changes in international regulations, environmental considerations, and technological advancements. Therefore, continuing legal education (CLE) is essential for maritime lawyers to stay abreast of new developments. Professional organizations, such as the Maritime Law Association of the United States, offer conferences, seminars, and workshops that facilitate ongoing learning and professional growth.

Bar Admission and Specialization Recognition

Upon completing law school, aspiring maritime lawyers must pass the bar exam in the jurisdiction where they intend to practice. Some jurisdictions also offer certifications or recognition for lawyers who specialize in maritime law, which may require additional exams or proof of expertise in the field.

Skills and Qualities of a Successful Maritime Lawyer

Successful maritime lawyers are well-versed in both domestic and international maritime laws. They possess strong analytical, negotiation, and litigation skills, crucial for navigating the legal complexities of the maritime industry.

Specialized Areas within Maritime Law

Maritime Injury and Accident Claims

Maritime injury and accident claims are pivotal within maritime law, focusing on incidents that occur on or near navigable waters, leading to injuries or fatalities. This area covers a broad spectrum of cases, from accidents involving commercial shipping vessels to recreational boating incidents. Key statutes, such as the Jones Act and the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act, provide the framework for injured maritime workers to seek compensation. These laws ensure that seamen, dockworkers, and other maritime employees who are injured on the job have avenues to recover damages for lost wages, medical expenses, and pain and suffering. Maritime lawyers specializing in this area must adeptly navigate these statutes, along with general principles of negligence and liability, to advocate for their clients’ rights and secure the compensation they deserve.

Vessel Ownership and Operation Disputes

Disputes related to vessel ownership and operation encompass a wide range of legal issues, from disagreements over vessel sales and financing to conflicts arising from charter agreements and vessel management. This specialized area of maritime law also deals with regulatory compliance, including safety standards, environmental regulations, and crew requirements. Maritime lawyers working in this field must have a thorough understanding of both domestic and international laws that govern vessel operations. They represent vessel owners, operators, charterers, and financiers in negotiations, contractual drafting, and, when necessary, litigation to resolve disputes. Their expertise is critical in ensuring that vessel operations are conducted legally and efficiently, safeguarding their clients’ interests in a highly regulated and competitive industry.

Maritime Commerce Regulations

Maritime commerce regulations are essential for the orderly conduct of international and domestic trade via navigable waters. This area of maritime law covers regulations pertaining to the carriage of goods by sea, customs and duties, maritime security, and pollution control, among other topics. It encompasses international treaties like the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) and domestic laws that implement these treaties. Maritime lawyers specializing in commerce regulations advise shipping companies, cargo owners, and insurers on compliance with these complex regulations. They play a crucial role in drafting and reviewing commercial agreements, such as bills of lading and letters of credit, ensuring that their clients’ commercial transactions are secure and legally sound. Additionally, they represent clients in disputes related to cargo loss, damage, and other shipping-related issues, facilitating the smooth operation of maritime commerce.

Resources for Finding a Maritime Lawyer

For those in need of a maritime lawyer, this section will offer guidance on finding a law firm that specializes in maritime law, ensuring legal representation by an experienced maritime attorney.Breit Biniazan stands at the helm, ready to assist you with your maritime legal issues. Our expertise spans the full spectrum of maritime law, from personal injury and wrongful death claims to contractual disputes and insurance matters. If you’re seeking an experienced maritime lawyer to guide you through the legal process, offer support for medical expenses, or help secure financial compensation, contact our maritime lawyers today.


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