What Are the Top 5 Questions About Maritime Law?

Maritime law oversees disputes, offenses, and other questions of seafaring concern. Your attorney should have direct experience with the nuance of nautical laws before they handle your maritime injury case.

Injuries over water or in dock-related incidents may involve special rules and legal deadlines related to maritime law. While you absolutely still have the right to file a personal injury lawsuit, if it involves nautical laws, you need a lawyer with dedicated experience in the area.

The attorneys at Pierce Skrabanek are headquartered in Houston, TX, where a significant portion of our practice involves Gulf Coast matters like oil rig accidents and other maritime injuries. We represent workers, their families, and innocent bystanders harmed by issues like toxic spills or explosions.

If you have an injury case that involves boats, seafaring, or coastal concerns, contact our offices today at (832) 690-7000. Regardless of whether your case involves an individual or a company, our lawyers have the background necessary to help you seek justice.

 A family boats recreationally past trees with the father behind the wheel, mother sitting in the sun with their two life-jacketed children.


1. What Is the Difference Between Maritime and Admiralty Law?

“Maritime law” and “admiralty law” are used interchangeably today, and both refer to legal matters relating to navigable water, such as contracts, injuries, torts (harmful acts), and other offenses.However, the terms used to refer to separate matters in colonial times, specifically:

  • Maritime law considered the working conditions of offshore employees, and recognized the dangers related to hazardous work at low pay.
  • Admiralty law was more focused on the contracts held by shipowners and their expectations regarding worker productivity over worker safety.

These two areas of law have merged into one for modern times. Courts aim to fairly weigh the balance between owners’ rights and workers’ rights for safe commercial exchange on seas, rivers, and lakes.

2. What Is the Difference Between OUI, DUI, DWI, and BUI?

The designations OUI, DUI, DWI, and BUI each refer to crimes of intoxication, and the charges that may result if someone is drunk, stoned, or otherwise medicinally compromised when operating certain vehicles.

  • OUI – Operating Under the Influence: The operation of any vehicle or conveyance where intoxication is prohibited. Some states have codes specifically designating which vehicle like ​​OMVI (Operating a Motor Vehicle while Impaired), which intoxicants as with DUII-CS (Driving Under the Influence of Intoxicants: Controlled Substances), and a person’s behavior while intoxicated ADWI (Aggravated Driving While Intoxicated).
  • DUI – Driving Under the Influence: Used interchangeably with the following DWI, over half of the fifty United States (including the District of Columbia) use DUI when referring to charges of driving under the influence.
  • DWI – Driving While Intoxicated: There are 10 states which use the designation DWI (which also stands for driving while impaired) when charging individuals.
  • BUI – Boating Under the Influence: Boating while intoxicated is a crime under both state and federal law, and individuals can be arrested by the Coast Guard if they are apprehended while on the water. These laws apply to all water vessels regardless of whether they are motorized or have a steering wheel. Ships, yachts, motor boats, rowboats, and canoes fall under this category.

While drunk and intoxicated driving laws vary by state, a blood alcohol content (BAC) of .08 or higher is prohibited when operating certain vehicles, including maritime vessels.

Though the names and abbreviations of intoxication crimes may differ, the consequences of such infractions could involve:

  • Moderate-to-heavy fines of hundreds or thousands of dollars
  • Days or weeks of jail time
  • Months or years of a suspended license

3. What Type of Information Should I Collect if I Am Involved in a Boating Accident?

If you’re involved in a boating accident with a private individual, the information you may need is similar to the exchange needed after a car accident with another driver, namely:

  • The operator and owner’s contact and insurance information
  • The make, model, and registration number of the boat
  • The time, place, and date of the accident occurred
  • Photos of all boats or vehicles involved, especially any visible damages
  • Photos of any bodily injuries suffered by you or your loved ones

If you are involved in a boating accident with a commercial or municipal barge, ship, tugboat, patrol boat, or jetski, it is also helpful to note which entity employs the vessel.

For maritime workers injured aboard a vessel or while on duty at a maritime job, see our experience on Jones Act claims and workers’ comp. Note that maritime law also covers dock, pier, and shipyard workers as well. Call our attorneys directly at (832) 690-7000 for specific questions regarding your rights and to secure experienced maritime representation.

If you are unable to determine some or all of the information regarding a maritime accident, it’s okay — your lawyer will investigate on your behalf.

4. If I Was a Passenger in a Boating Accident and Was Injured, Who Is Responsible for My Injuries?

Just like with injuries on land, the individual or entity who causes an injury may be held liable for the cost of the damages.In order to prove liability, your personal injury lawyer must establish:

  • A duty of care was owed to you from the other party, whether they are a fellow boater, a boss, or the owner of the vessel that harmed you
  • A dereliction (breach) of duty occurred due to some form of negligence or possible recklessness, causing an accident
  • A direct causal link between the accident that happened and the injuries you sustained
  • The cost of damages, including economic expenses like medical bills or property loss, as well as non-economic harms such as PTSD and various wrongful death damages.

A vessel’s operator or owner could be held liable for your injuries, or their employer if they are contract workers on a commercial boat. If an accident or injury is caused by a defective component of the boat, the manufacturer could be held liable, or the mechanic who installed a part ineffectively.

The evidence will help your lawyer identify all potentially liable parties in your accident. We will then build a case describing the true cost of your losses (time, money, and any ongoing care or recovery needs) to negotiate a settlement or take before a judge.

5. How Long Do I Have to File a Lawsuit?

The time limits on when you can file a lawsuit vary state by state, and depend on what kind of injury has occurred.In Texas, where Pierce Skrabanek is headquartered, the time you have from the date of the injury is:

  • One year to file a workers’ compensation claim
  • Two years for boating accidents and other kinds of personal injury claims
  • Three years for Federal maritime law claims

There may be extenuating circumstances if your child was injured in a maritime accident, or if your workplace injury was diagnosed long after it occurred (as is frequently the case with asbestos and mesothelioma).


Contact Experienced Maritime Injury Attorneys

The laws regarding ocean trade, boundary waters, and liability at sea are ancient and everchanging. In fact, the word “protean,” which means shapeshifting and changeable, derives from the Greek mythological figure Proteus, a sea-shepherd with the gift of prophecy who would change form to avoid having to answer questions about the future. A comprehensive understanding of modern laws regarding seafaring is necessary to pin down concrete, tangible results for your situation.

At Pierce Skrabanek, our verdicts and settlements show multi-million dollar results in Jones Act cases and personal damages related to accidents, defective products, and offshore injuries. More importantly, our client testimonials show the real, tangible benefits our services achieve for our clients, their families, and their futures. 

If you need to speak with an attorney regarding your maritime injury right away, call us at (832) 690-7000, or schedule an appointment online at your earliest convenience. The sooner you reach out, the faster we can relieve your worries and begin working towards the justice you deserve.

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