Some causes of action (lawsuits) are provided by statute enacted by the Legislature, but there is an entire body of law that has developed within the courts known as common law. In particular to admiralty and maritime, General Maritime Law is federal common law and provides a broad range of causes of action that are not provided for by statute.
The statue of limitations is crucial in bringing a cause of action and determines whether a plaintiff may bring the cause of action or the cause of action will be barred because too much time has passed. Unless provided by law, the statute of limitations controlling general maritime claims is three (3) years from the date of the event that gave rise to the cause of action. However, there are instances when the statue of limitations is shorter, so it is best to seek counsel early whenever you think you may have a claim.
General Maritime Causes of Action
In claims brought by non-seamen or non-seafarers (cruise ship passengers, recreational boaters, etc.), recovery can be sought for injuries resulting in a maritime setting or involving maritime activities. Additionally, non-seamen have a cause of action for wrongful death due to negligence that occurs on navigable waterways within a state’s territorial waters (bays, lakes, rivers). General maritime law also recognizes a cause of action for products liability.
In addition to causes of action and remedies for personal injuries, a major portion of maritime law historically lies with contract suits involving disputes arising out of charter parties, master-service agreements, carriage of goods, stores/necessaries/fuel, etc. These contractual disputes may involve complex issues and specific federal maritime statutes and remedies.
Because of the vast array of individuals and entities doing business within U.S. waters, general maritime law is not just limited to claims against U.S. citizens. Overall, general maritime law is broad and expansive and covers many areas related to and specific to the maritime industry.
If you or a loved one was injured or killed while on the water within a state’s territorial waters (bays, lakes, rivers, etc.), or if a dispute has arisen out of a contract for cargo/goods/stores/etc., or if you want to learn more about whether your case falls under general maritime law, contact Gilman & Allison, LLP for a free consultation and evaluation.