Admiralty Extension Act

Legal Remedy for Land Injuries Caused by Maritime Vessels

Admiralty law oversees issues related to maritime activities and objects. Originally, it only covered incidents that happened at sea, outside state borders, meaning if an incident occurred on land, state law would apply. But in 1948, this changed. The Admiralty Extension Act expanded the scope to allow people injured on land to make claims if a vessel on navigable waters caused the injury. Essentially, this Act extended the reach of federal maritime jurisdiction to include certain land-based incidents if they were connected to the activities of vessels on the water.

Here's an example of how the Admiralty Extension Act may apply: Imagine a construction site located near the bank of a river, where workers are using a large crane to move heavy materials. One day, a large vessel sailing too close to the bank causes a significant wake. The wake's force destabilizes the crane, which collapses. A construction worker on land is severely injured by the falling crane.

Although the injury occurred on land, it was a direct consequence of the action of a vessel on navigable water (the ship causing a strong wake). Under traditional maritime jurisdiction, the worker might not have been able to bring a claim under admiralty law because the injury occurred ashore. With the Admiralty Extension Act, the worker can bring his claim under federal admiralty jurisdiction because the injury on land was "caused by a vessel on navigable water."

What Is the Admiralty Extension Act?

According to 46 U.S. Code § 30101:

“The admiralty and maritime jurisdiction of the United States extends to and includes cases of injury or damage, to person or property, caused by a vessel on navigable waters, even though the injury or damage is done or consummated on land.”

The extension widens the scope of original jurisdiction held by admiralty courts. When a court has original jurisdiction over a subject, that means it must be the first to hear any claims made. Due to this Act, admiralty courts have original jurisdiction over cases involving ships on navigable waters that caused damage on shore. Prior to this extension, there were cases in which neither federal admiralty law nor local state law covered the legal claims arising from land-based injuries caused by maritime vessels. The extension does not preempt state law where it does apply; rather, it provides a legal remedy for injured parties where state law falls short.

Examples of cases that fall under the Admiralty Extension Act:

  • Property damage on bridges by vessels traveling navigable waters
  • Damage or injury caused to or on a pier by a vessel
  • Injury to maritime employees injured on land while working near their vessel
  • Persons injured while involved in loading, unloading, or storing operations for vessel cargo

How the Act Affects Dock Workers & Longshoremen

The Admiralty Extension Act has implications for longshoremen and dock workers, as it extends federal admiralty jurisdiction to incidents that occur on land but are caused by vessels on navigable waters. This means that injuries suffered by longshoremen and dock workers, which are the result of the actions or conditions of a vessel nearby, might fall under admiralty jurisdiction rather than just state law or other federal laws.

The primary law that protects longshoremen and dock workers is the Longshore and Harbor Workers' Compensation Act (LHWCA). The LHWCA offers compensation and medical care to employees injured on the navigable waters of the U.S. or in adjoining areas used in loading, unloading, repairing, or building certain vessels. Still, the Admiralty Extension Act can play a role in specific circumstances where the actions or conditions of a vessel lead to injury on land.

Admiralty Extension Act Conditions

For the Admiralty Extension Act to apply, the following conditions must be met:

Causation by a Vessel on Navigable Waters 
The injury or damage that occurred on land must have been directly caused by a vessel on navigable waters. It doesn't matter whether the vessel was moving or stationary, but it should be on navigable waters at the time the event occurred.

Connection to Maritime Activity 
The incident must have a significant connection to maritime activity. This is often referred to as a "maritime nexus."

Location of Injury or Damage 
While the Admiralty Extension Act extends admiralty jurisdiction to injuries or damages on land, the actual cause must originate from a vessel on navigable waters. The location of the resulting damage or injury, however, can be on land.

Nature of the Damage or Injury 
The damage or injury can be either to a person or property. For instance, if a ship's cargo crane malfunctioned and dropped cargo onto a dock, damaging equipment or injuring a worker, the Admiralty Extension Act might apply.

The Effect of the Admiralty Jurisdiction Extension Act

Since its enactment, the Admiralty Extension Act has given many injured parties a legal avenue by which to seek damages from the maritime party responsible for property damage or physical injury. Case law development since the extension was granted has consistently held that certain matters previously policed by state law are not retracted. For example, legal precedent on the statute holds that cases of injury due to ship-to-shore pollution are still governed by the power of the states. Finally, if the federal and appellate courts find that the extension does not apply in a particular case, injured parties will need to go back to the state level to continue seeking remedies according to applicable state laws.

Call (888) 346-5024 for a Free Consultation

After an injury or loss, engaging an experienced maritime law attorney is crucial. Maritime law is a distinct body with its own set of complexities. Navigating the intricacies of admiralty jurisdiction, particularly when land-based injuries intersect with maritime activities, requires focused knowledge. What’s more, maritime workers and individuals affected by maritime incidents often have unique rights and remedies distinct from standard personal injury cases. 

At Arnold & Itkin, our trial attorneys are highly experienced in maritime law. We have the resources and know-how to provide thorough investigations, strategic negotiations, and if needed, aggressive litigation. Given the particular nature of the Admiralty Extension Act and its implications, having a qualified team like ours will make all the difference.the right legal representation becomes essential in steering one's case to the best possible outcome.

To learn more and to discuss your accident or injury, please do not hesitate to contact us today.

Contact Us

Get a Completely Free Evaluation of Your Case

  • Please enter your first name.
  • Please enter your last name.
  • Please enter your email address.
    This isn't a valid email address.
  • Please enter your phone number.
    This isn't a valid phone number.
  • Please make a selection.
  • Please make a selection.
  • Please enter a message.