When boating injuries fall under maritime law

| Jul 24, 2018 | Firm News

South Carolina offers a wide variety of exciting boating activities. However, these activities can also lead to serious injury. While understanding your environment and taking appropriate precautions can go a long way to keeping you safe, unfortunately, there is no way to guarantee other people will be as careful.

If you suffer an injury on the water due to another person’s negligence, you may be considering filing a lawsuit. Doing so can help you obtain financial recovery for the damages suffered because of the injury.

When does maritime law apply

It is important to understand that your boating case may differ substantially from a typical car accident case in at least one essential way: your claim may be subject to maritime law rather than ordinary South Carolina tort statutes and case law that would otherwise apply. To fall under federal maritime law jurisdiction, the accident must take place on navigable waters that can be used for interstate or international commerce. An accident that happens on land but involves a boat in navigable waters can also invoke maritime law. Generally, the law considers lakes, rivers and canals, as well as the ocean, to fall under the designation of navigable waters.

To fall under maritime law, the accident must also have a connection to traditional maritime activities and potentially affect maritime commerce. Courts generally understand this to include accidents that involve commercial or recreational boats.

State or federal court

You can bring a maritime law case to federal or a South Carolina court. A state court may decline to hear a case that is worth less than $75,000. People often want to know which venue is better, but the answer can vary depending on the facts of the case. For example, in a federal court, a judge will decide your case, while in state court there will be a jury. Whether having a jury would be an advantage depends on the case.

Whether your case goes to a state or federal court, the same federal maritime law will generally apply. If the law does not contain provisions that cover a specific situation while South Carolina law does have such a provision, the court can apply state law to that part of the case.