Maritime Injury Topics

» Glossary of Legal Terms A - G
» Glossary of Legal Terms H - M
» Glossary of Legal Terms N - S
» Glossary of Legal Terms T -Z

Maritime Law Overview


() -
Disability Compensation
Wage Loss
Medical Care

Glossary of Legal Terms A - G

Act of God

An act of good refers to something that happens that could not be controlled by a human. It could, for example, include weather conditions and natural disasters. While, maritime employers are not protected if they ignore weather conditions and their employees are injured or killed, they might be protected if a sudden and unexpected thunderstorm or large wave hit a vessel and caused injuries or fatalities.

Administrative Claim

This is a dispute that is heard by a government board or agency rather than through the court system. Certain maritime laws such as the Longshore and Harbor Workers Compensation Act require injury and illness claims to be heard in administrative hearings while other laws, such as the Jones Act, do not permit administrative hearings.

Admiralty Court

a court that is set up to hear maritime cases. In the United States, federal district courts hear maritime claims and there is not a separate admiralty court. Other countries do have admiralty courts and historically these courts were important in countries such as England and Wales.

Admiralty Jurisdiction

the court system which has the authority to hear maritime and admiralty cases. In the United States, this authority is provided to the federal court system by the United States Constitution. Other countries have separate admiralty courts with jurisdiction to hear maritime disputes.

Admiralty Law

the body of law that governs maritime activities including navigation, shipping, recreational boating and maritime employment. It includes the US Constitution, federal statutes and federal common law. Admiralty law is part of the federal law and disputes are heard in federal courts.


occurs when a moving vessel strikes a fixed vessel, such as one that is anchored, or a fixed object such as a rock or a pier. It is useful to compare this definition with the definition of a collision which involves two moving vessels.


a method of alternative dispute resolution that does not involve the court system. Some maritime parties may agree to arbitration as a clause in a contract before a dispute arises. Professional arbitrators who specialize in maritime cases are available to hear these disputes.

Article III, US Constitution

this article of the United States Constitution establishes the judicial power of the United States. Section 2 of this Article extends federal judicial power to all matters of maritime and admiralty law. This means that federal courts have jurisdiction over admiralty and maritime law.


is a naturally occurring mineral that was often used in the construction and repair of ships. Ship workers who worked on the construction, dismantling or repair of ships that were built with asbestos were put at risk of developing serious and fatal pulmonary conditions such as mesothelioma.


a barge is a large flat bottomed boat. Barges are typically used to transport heavy and bulky cargo. Most barges are not able to move on their own and require the assistance of tugboats. However, some barges can be self propelled.


unlawful and deliberate acts by the captain, master or seamen on a vessel that result in loss or damage the vessel. These acts of the captain, master or seamen are in direct conflict with the duty they owe the ship's owner.

Bill of Lading

the official document issued by a shipping company that acknowledges the specific cargo that is on board the vessel and intended for delivery to a specific location and person or business. The bill of lading is a receipt that acknowledges that the vessel is carrying specific goods, a contract for transporting the goods and evidence of title for the goods.

Both to Blame Clause

this clause used to be part of some bills of lading and referred to who was at fault and responsible for payments if two vessels collided while one was carrying cargo pursuant to a bill of lading. The United States Supreme Court has found this clause to be invalid in most cases.


the transportation of goods or people between points located in the same country. In the United States, the right to engage in domestic cabotage is limited to ships that bear the American flag. It is not granted to international ships.


goods that are carried by ship or barge, usually for commercial reasons. Common types of cargo that are transported by maritime vessels include cars, oil, metal and machinery. Cargo is always used to refer to goods that are carried by non maritime modes of transportation such as airplanes, trains and trucks.

Carriage of Goods by Sea Act (COGSA)

federal statute that describes the rights and responsibilities of cargo owners and ship operators when goods, known as cargo, are transported by sea. It is the United States enactment of the Hague Rules and as such is based on those rules but provides more protection for cargo owners.


a vessel that is used for transportation of goods by ocean or other waterway. The term can also be short for an aircraft carrier that is a large flat vessel which allows aircraft to take off and land at sea and is often used by the navy for those purposes.


a contract between the owner of a vessel and one who seeks to rent (or charter) the vessel for the transport of goods. The contract should contain details about the vessel, who will operate the vessel, the type and amount of the freight, the dates of the voyage and responsibility if anything goes wrong.

Clean Bill of Lading

a clean bill of lading indicates that the goods have been received by the ship in the expected condition with no flaws to the goods or their packaging. If there are any notations on the bill of lading with regard to the poor or flawed condition of any of the cargo then the bill of lading is not considered a clean bill of lading.

Coast Guard

the United States Coast Guard is part of the United States military. Its mission is to protect the public, the environment and the country's security and economic interests in maritime regions including domestic and international waters. The Coast Guard also plays an important search and rescue role when there is a maritime accident.

Coastwise trade

when a vessel engages in trade along the United States coast, as opposed to in international waters. The Jones Act has specific requirements about what kinds of vessels may regularly engage in coastwise trade and which kinds of vessels need to be granted special permission to engage in coastwise trade.


when two moving vessels are in an accident that causes loss or damage to the vessel, the seamen or the cargo. Liability is based on federal statutes and legal principles of causation. The term does not apply to an accident between one vessel and a non moveable object.


International Regulations for Prevention of Collisions at Sea. These regulations are to maritime vessels what traffic laws are to motor vehicles. They explain who has the right of way and how vessels should be operated and navigated in certain situations.

Common Carriage

the transportation of people or goods by a common carrier who services the general public without discrimination. Some examples are a cruise ship or a commuter ferry because they are not hired by a private party but are instead open to members of the public who pay a fee for use.

Common Venture

this tenant of maritime law stands for the premise that everyone involved with a vessel's voyage should equally share the risk, as well as the potential gain, of that voyage. So, the cargo owners, ship operators and ship owners all bear some of the risk.

Compulsory pilotage

the requirement that a vessel be operated by a licensed pilot unless that vessel meets certain exceptions. Most state laws make exceptions for boats that are licensed to the United States and operating in coastwise trade and for small vessels.

Contributory Negligence

when the actions of the plaintiff also contributed to the harm that the plaintiff endured. While the defendant's negligence caused at least some of the harm to the plaintiff, the plaintiff bears some responsibility for the illness or injury because of his or her own actions.


the men and women who work on a vessel to make sure that it works properly. This can include everything that happens on the vessel such as navigation, repair work and cooking. There is no requirement that those who operate the ship be paid in order to be considered part of the crew.


money that is paid as the result of someone's injury or illness. The determination of the amount of damages is described by federal maritime statutes and common law. Damage awards are determined by an arbitrator or federal district court judge.

Death on the High Seas Act

since 1920 this federal act has allowed the surviving spouse of a seaman who is killed on the job to recover for the loss of future wages that the seaman could have earned. It also applies to aviation accidents that occur over the high seas and allows family members to recover losses in addition to wages in aviation accidents.


an amount owed to the ship owner if the charterer of a vessel is delayed beyond the agreed upon time frame. Holding the vessel for the charterer costs the ship owner money so this concept exists to reimburse the ship owner for the costs of the delay.


the act of a vessel leaving port for a journey. In order for a departure to happen safely, the crew must be able to safely navigate the harbor or other waterway in which it leaves its dock. Delays in departure can be costly and may lead to damages for any party that was not responsible for the delay.


when the carrier changes the agreed upon route without the consent of the owner whose cargo the carrier is transporting. An unreasonable deviation can be considered a breach of contract; however, reasonable deviations such as those necessary to save property or human life are not considered breaches of contract.

Drunk Boating

operating a vessel or ship under the influence of drugs or alcohol, in excess of any limits set by state law or to the degree that the operator of the ship or vessel cannot safely operate and navigate the ship or vessel. A leading cause of maritime accidents, injuries and fatalities.


a person who is hired to work a job. Employees are typically paid by the employer to complete specific tasks. The employment relationship creates specific responsibilities that the employer owes the employee and makes certain maritime laws applicable should the employee be hurt or killed on the job.


the person or party responsible for arranging for the transport or carriage of goods. The carriage of goods may involve more than one vessel or more than one leg of a journey and the forwarder may oversee the entire trip.

General Maritime Law

the body of law that governs maritime matters and that is not derived from statute. This may also be known as common maritime law. The requirements come from court precedent. Its origins go back to the beginning of American history.

Great Lakes Rules of Navigation

federal law that establishes the rules for navigation and traffic on the Great Lakes and their connecting waterways. The federal law can be found at in Title 33, Chapter 4 of the United States Code. Different rules apply to other inland waters in the United States.

Longshore & Harbor Workers Compensation Act (LHWCA)

Free PDF overview from 888-GO-LONGY regarding Longshore & Harbor Workers Compensation Act (LHWCA)

Download Free
PDF Overview

Defense Base Act
The Frequently Asked Questions

Our Maritime Injury Lawyer answers the 29 most common Defense Base Act Questions. Continue ...

Injured seaman must file a claim within three years of the injury. More on Employees Rights...