When a maritime worker is injured, one thing that needs to be considered is jurisdiction.  Jurisdiction concerns the right of a court to make decisions or apply laws to certain case.  Not all courts have the power to make decisions in all cases.  Under the Constitution of the United States, admiralty cases are under the jurisdiction of the federal courts.  In some cases, a state court may be permitted to hear admiralty cases.  There are also certain situations where both state and federal courts are allowed to make decisions regarding a case and this is considered “concurrent” jurisdiction.  In these situations, a choice will need to be made to determine the best court in which to file.  Your admiralty attorney will be critical in helping you decide the best which will be the best court to hear your case.


Determining jurisdiction is not always cut and dried.   One might think that because an incident occurred on the ocean or on an ocean vessel that it would automatically come under admiralty jurisdiction. This is not always the case.

In most cases, if an accident occurs on U.S. navigable waters involving two vessels, an injured seafarer, or the passenger on a cruise ship, these kinds of incidents will fall under admiralty jurisdiction.  Additionally, crimes on the sea and crimes against American citizens that occur on the ocean will often fall under admiralty jurisdiction.  Contract disputes regarding vessels or business occurring on the sea, might also fall under the jurisdiction of the admiralty court.

Why is jurisdiction important?  Different laws apply to different types of courts.  If an accident occurs in a public place on land, state laws would often apply to these cases.  Quite often, when an accident occurs on the sea, Maritime Law would apply.  The difference in jurisdiction can have a huge impact on the outcome of the case and damages recovered.  An experienced admiralty lawyer will be able to help you navigate the matter of jurisdiction, which is crucial especially in cases of concurrent jurisdiction.


One important consideration in maritime cases is whether or not the incident occurred “in navigation on navigable waters.”  The term “navigable waters” applies waters that connect.  This would apply to waters that allow the vessels to move between states and allows or has allowed in the past foreign transport. Whether or not a waterway is determined to be “navigable” is not always a simple matter to determine.

The term “in navigation” refers to the vessel being used a means to transport or do commerce on navigable waters.  This definition does not always mean that a vessels needs to be in motion.  It may also apply to a maritime worker who was injured while a ship was dry docked or undergoing minor repairs or routine maintenance.  

 When an incident occurs “in navigation on navigable waters”, federal maritime laws will often apply to the case.  This is import to note as federal laws may often be more favorable than state laws.

The maritime accident attorneys of Madalon Law handle cases in Florida, Louisiana, Texas, Mississippi and Alabama.