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Maritime Lawyer – A Comprehensive Guide Like None Other

Is the term maritime lawyer appearing new to you? Let’s understand it with a few examples. You are enjoying a cruise holiday and got injured? You are working on a ship and got injured due to negligence from management? You are a ship owner and your ship has collided due to the negligence of another ship? In such cases, you are entitled to get justice or better say compensation. A maritime lawyer can help you navigate through the complex legal process.

how to select a maritime lawyer

What is a Maritime Lawyer – Meaning and Definition

A maritime lawyer also called a maritime attorney or shipping lawyer can be defined as a lawyer who specialized in handling legal cases related to maritime injuries and boating accident that happens during recreational activities as well commercial maritime practices. A maritime lawyer provides legal help to those affected by it.

Salary of a Maritime Lawyer

Maritime lawyers are one of the highest-paid lawyers in America. As per some reputed sources, the average salary of a maritime lawyer also called a shipping lawyer in the United States is $118,500 per year.

What does a maritime lawyer do? Roles and responsibilities

A maritime lawyer is an attorney that provides legal support to clients – individuals and businesses – in cases related to boat and ship accidents. Here we give a detailed account of their roles and responsibilities.

Representing clients

A maritime lawyer represents clients in cases related to sea, ocean and other open water bodies. They represent the clients who have got affected due to accidents in the sea and open water.


If there is an injury on the sea while you are onboard cruises, ships, boats or cargos, then these cases are handled under maritime law. Some of the injuries that are covered under maritime law are as follows.

  • Slips and falls
  • Heavy lifting
  • Collision and bumps
  • Sickness

Working condition

Besides safety and injuries, a maritime lawyer also provides legal assistance in cases where poor working condition on ships and cargo is involved.

Shipping and commerce

A maritime lawyer provides you with legal assistance when you find yourself in a legal battle that involves shipping and commerce.

Recreational boating

Recreational boating like cruises and yachts is high in demand. But these recreational activities have their own dangers. Whenever a boat capsizes or you get injured, you have every right to claim compensation in court.

Besides providing legal assistance to victims, a maritime lawyer also provides assistance to boat and cruise owners.

Environmental issues

Maritime lawyers also deal with maritime environment laws. If a ship is found dumping garbage, it may be entitled to legal action. A maritime lawyer handles the cases related to maritime environmental law.

Settlement negotiation

Settlement negotiation is one of the major duties of maritime lawyers. In the case of an accident or injury, a maritime lawyer is a key person who does settlement negotiations.

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When should you hire a maritime lawyer?

Do you have questions like when should I see a maritime lawyer? Aren’t you sure, if your case merits to be dealt with by a maritime law? Here we describe the situations when you should visit a maritime lawyer.

Boat crashing into another boat

If your boat crashes another boat or another boat crashes you, both these situations require a legal procedure. You need to hire a maritime lawyer to resolve it.

Boat hitting dock

Your boat hits someone’s dock or someone’s boat hit your dock. In both these situations, you need to hire a maritime lawyer. These lawyers have good command over maritime law.

Ship polluting water

If you are the owner or manager of a ship that dumps garbage in the ocean then you can be brought to court for violating the maritime laws related to environmental pollution. Here a maritime lawyer can better represent you in court.


If someone injures you or you injure someone in the open water then this situation is governed by maritime law. Here an experienced maritime lawyer can help you.

Benefits of hiring a maritime lawyer

You might have questions like why should I hire a maritime lawyer. Is hiring a maritime attorney worth it? What benefits I will get by hiring him? As these lawyers have expertise in admiralty and maritime law, they help you manage these legal issues that are known for their complexity.

They establish your status as a seaman

As we have said earlier, there are several maritime laws that may apply to your case. A maritime lawyer will help you establish your status as a seaman. He will decide on factors that include how many hours you work on the sea and how far you are from the shore.

They will determine your injury

Most of the claim cases under maritime law depend upon the severity of the injury you have received. Your injury could be minor, major, or even life-threatening. A good maritime lawyer will give a fair estimate of your injury.

They determine the negligence

In a significant number of cases, accidents happen due to negligence or mismanagement by a shipowner. But it is the workman that suffers.

When fighting your case under maritime law your lawyer ascertains the negligence and mismanagement of a shipowner.

They keep track of your record

When you or your loved ones get injured or you lose someone to a ship or boat injury, you won’t be in a position to keep track of all the related documents. Here a maritime lawyer will support you with organizing the documents.

Just give him the details of the injury and he will arrange every document required for filing compensation.

They give you advice on legal issues

Admiralty and maritime law are highly complex and you can’t get a hold of them by just reading them. Here a good maritime lawyer will interpret it for you. As they have represented various clients in court, they know the practical aspects of it. They will clearly tell you what you can ask and what can you get. They also know the argument a defense lawyer can make so that your case can be prepared accordingly. The advice from an attorney will help you navigate through the process.

They help you get compensation

Whether you are suffering from maritime injury, bad work conditions, or cargo damage. You might be looking forward to seeking justice in such situations.

Here having a knowledgeable and experienced maritime lawyer on your side ensures that you are getting the compensation you deserve. As they are experienced, they know the complexity of law that help them get the desired results in your case. In the case of an out-of-court settlement, they negotiate a better settlement amount for you.

They get help for your family

Unfortunately, if one of your family members dies due to a maritime injury, no doubt your family will suffer a lot. Here a maritime lawyer with a good understanding of the law can file a claim that may help your family. A good lawyer will establish in the court how your family has been suffering due to the death. Such an effort will help get the right compensation.

How to choose a maritime lawyer

Choosing a maritime lawyer has always been a difficult task for many, given the complexity of maritime law. Here we guide you about what should you look into while choosing a maritime lawyer.

Extensive knowledge of the Jones Act

Jones Act is section 27 of the Merchant Marine Act of 1920 that provides for the regulation of merchant marine activities in America. This law is complex in nature. Most lawyers in America know a little about it but a little knowledge is not sufficient when you are fighting a legal battle in court. Look for an attorney who has expertise in Jones Act.

Relevant experience

Experience is one of the major factors we consider while choosing a professional and the same applies to a maritime lawyer. Ask him if he has relevant experience. Maritime law encompasses various things like injury, product liability, and environmental pollution among others. Sometimes you are fighting a legal battle for breach of contract. In such a case your maritime attorney should be experienced in handling such kinds of cases.

Courtroom experience

When it comes to maritime law, an attorney has to fight your case in the courtroom as well as outside the court so that a settlement can be reached. Most of the time settlement is reached before the trial starts. If you are not getting the right settlement amount your attorney should be willing to take it to trial. Always go for an attorney who has enough courtroom experience so that you can get a good settlement.


Maritime injury cases are very complex in nature. There are times when a maritime lawyer has to hire experts to establish whose fault was it. They have to pay these experts even before getting payments from it. A maritime lawyer who is not that resourceful can’t handle situations like this. You should consider while looking for a maritime attorney.


Preparing for a maritime case requires resources, not only in terms of money but resources as well. Preparing documents, accessing medical records and arranging testimony requires manpower. Winning a case requires teamwork. You should have enough skilled people to collect evidence of the damage, document to establish the negligence of the opposite party, collect dispositions and organize them in an order that can successfully be presented in the court. Here a maritime lawyer without sufficient human resources won’t be able to do justice to your case. You should look for an attorney who is rich in human resources.

Qualification is important

Right educational qualification is important to become a successful maritime lawyer. The basic educational qualification for a maritime lawyer is graduation from a recognized law with a Juris Doctorate. He must have passed the examination of the state bar association and must be carrying a valid license to practice in the state concerned. Lawyers who want to make a great career in maritime law can take admission in a maritime law institute or seek an internship with an experienced maritime lawyer.

Hard work

A maritime attorney should be hardworking. The maritime cases involve falls, slips and poor work conditions among others. They have to prepare for a number of cases at a number of courts at different venues. So, your maritime lawyer is required to be very hardworking.

Good reviews

You should take your time while hiring a maritime lawyer. With a hurried approach, you may end up hiring a lawyer who is not the right fit for your case. You should check their website for client testimonials and also visit independent websites to know what people have to say about your prospective maritime attorney. There are some reputed rating agencies to see the rating of maritime lawyers.


The fee is an important consideration while selecting a maritime lawyer. The fee varies according to popularity, experience and success rate. Location is also an important factor that affects the fee. For example, the fee of maritime lawyers in Houston may differ from those of New Orleans. There are several lawyers who offer free consultations at the initial stage.

Types of cases he has handled

While looking for a maritime lawyer for your case, you should look into the types of cases he has handled in the past successfully. Maritime law is a very vast subject with a varied specialization that includes shipping accidents, injuries and oil spills among others. It is important to know whether your maritime lawyer has handled your type of case.

Good case results

A good maritime lawyer is one that wins cases for their clients. When choosing a maritime lawyer, you should ask what the number of cases they have won for their clients. You can also ask for details of the clients so that you can verify their claims.

Don’t give complete authority

Some maritime lawyers expect that clients should give them complete authority so that they can negotiate a settlement that they think is right. As you give them the authority, they may not inform about the different stages of negotiation. Don’t give them free hand. Instead, retain the power to call the shots.

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Questions to ask your prospective maritime lawyer

After collecting all this information, the next thing you should do is to meet your prospective maritime lawyer in person. An in-person meeting helps you know your lawyer better. Don’t know what to ask your maritime lawyer? Let’s give you some hints.

Ask him to give reasons to hire him

After initial ice-breaking come to the standard question – why should I hire you? Let him convince you. An experienced lawyer will talk about his capability. He will tell you how can he help you.

Ask about experience

Experience matters a lot when choosing a lawyer. So, you ask your prospective lawyer about his experience. Ask him how much experience he has in handling maritime cases. Know about his key strengths. Do they have experience in handling Jones Act?

Does he handle cases of people living in different states

There are times when you may have to fight a maritime case in a state different from yours. Ask your lawyer if he can help you with a maritime case that is being fought in different states.

Ask about his relationship with different experts

Preparing a case requires a legal team to seek the services of other experts. These experts help provide a witness that makes your case strong. Good association with these experts can tilt the scale on your side.

Ask about the fee

It is one of the most important considerations when hiring a maritime lawyer. Your lawyers should be affordable and offer value for money. Most lawyers give a free consultation and seek a certain percentage of the settlement or claim amount.

Ask about their expertise

Maritime law is a very vast and complex subject and we need to hire a lawyer. Here hiring a jack of all trades won’t serve a purpose. Is he an expert in Jones Act or the working condition of seamen or cargo damage? Always go for a lawyer with expertise in your kind of case.

Types of cases a maritime lawyer handles

A maritime lawyer is different from a general law as he handles cases related to maritime law. But maritime law in itself is a very vast subject replete with different laws. Here we discuss the major cases a maritime lawyer handles.

Personal injury claims

There is no denying the fact that sailing, working and indulging in recreational water activities involve risk. Sometimes, these injuries may result in death. Cruises, cargo and recreational boat owners take all the necessary steps to avert injuries. But still, these activities are not foolproof as it records several maritime injuries every year. Personal injury claims are one of the major cases a maritime lawyer fights. Based on whether the injury is done to crewmembers, passengers or those working on shores a maritime lawyer prepares the case. 

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Cargo damage

A large number of international and sometimes domestic trade takes place through the ship. As large stuff is transported through the sea, the chances of cargo damage are also high. Cargo owners file claims against vessel operators. Here a maritime lawyer helps settle the claim.

Charter or contract cases

There are times when a party takes to ship on the lease, mortgage or contract. Here a maritime lawyer prepares the document for lease and contract. He prepares different clauses for it. If any dispute arises, he prepares the case for the client.

Marine pollution

A maritime lawyer also handles cases related to maritime environmental pollution. There are several laws and rules related to the control of maritime environment pollution. A maritime lawyer looks after the cases related to it.

Maritime Law – Frequently Asked Questions

Maritime and admiralty law is a vast subject and readers might have various questions regarding it. Here we try to answer some of the most asked questions.

What types of accident cases are dealt with under maritime law?

If you have received an injury at sea, your case falls under maritime law. People who have got injured on cruise ship, ferry, boat, oil tanker or yacht may file a case under maritime and admiralty law. In addition, those who have received an injury while indulging in water activities like scuba diving, parasailing, and snorkeling can seek respite under maritime law.

What steps should I take after an accident at sea?

Meeting an accident is unfortunate. But it is no time to get nervous. Here we suggest what should you do after an accident.

  • Make sure you are safe. It is the topmost priority. Immediately seek medical attention.
  • Start documenting the incident. Take photographs and videos.
  • Those traveling on the cruise should visit the medical facility. Keep the prescription safe.
  • Make a call to a maritime lawyer who will tell you what to do or what not to do.

What is the fee of a maritime lawyer?

Most maritime lawyers charge no initial consultation fee. They charge you a certain percentage of the amount paid as a settlement or claim.

What is the right time to contact a maritime lawyer after a cruise ship injury?

The earlier you contact the lawyer, the better it is. Don’t wait for coming to the shores and make a call while you are onboard. A maritime lawyer will guide you on dos and don’ts.

How much compensation I may receive?

It is a subjective question and it depends on a number of factors including the extent of injury, degree of negligence and expected time of recovery.

What is the role of the coast guard in maritime law?

The coast guard is the leading agency when it comes to the enforcement of maritime law. The agency enjoys the right to enforce national and international maritime law in the sea. Apart from the sea, the coast guard also has the right to enforce the law on the waters within the territorial jurisdiction of the United States.

Where should I file a claim?

The location for filing the case depends upon a number of factors that include the site of the accident, the ship’s registry port and the headquarters location. Your maritime lawyer can better guide you on this.

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