May 12, 2022

The History of Maritime Law & Admiralty Law

6 min read

Admiralty law, now known as maritime law, governs incidents that occur at sea as well as the conduct of vessels. Many countries have their own laws that cover seamen, the conveyance of passengers, and maritime commerce. However, multilateral treaties established many internationally recognized aspects of admiralty law.

Because ships were one of the earliest means of transportation over long distances, these rules date back to ancient Greece. Later, Eleanor of Aquitaine brought the concept of a legal authority that regulates maritime concerns to the west. She learned of this concept during the Second Crusade while accompanying King Louis VII of France to the Mediterranean.

British admiralty courts set the basis for the term admiralty law as they presided over maritime issues as a separate entity from the common law courts. Because the United States based its judicial system on that of Britain, it incorporated admiralty laws soon after the ratification of the Constitution.


Originally, jurisdiction over maritime matter went to federal courts. Today, many maritime injury cases are heard in either state or federal courts. The saving to suitors clause in Title 28 of the United States Code (28 U.S.C. § 1333) established this option.

However, the exception to this is any case that involves maritime property. These cases must be tried in a federal court. The most important thing to remember is that when a state court presides over a maritime case, they have to apply maritime law, not state law.

This means that you need an experienced maritime injury lawyer. Houston residents often trust The Cobos Law Firm to handle maritime cases. Our strategic mindset and pursuit of your best interests makes us a strong advocate. Contact our firm today for a free case evaluation with our maritime law attorneys.


Admiralty law established the foundation of the legal tenants that govern the sea as well as maritime workers. These basic tenants set a precedent for our Houston maritime lawyers to help you hold negligent parties accountable. This includes the following:

  • Seaman and creditors owed wages have the right to have a Maritime Lien against a vessel, providing a security interest to ensure payment.
  • Rescuers have the right to claim a maritime salvage award when they recover property that was lost at sea.
  • Shipowners have a duty to provide reasonable care to their workers and passengers.

When negligence results in the injury of a passenger, that passenger has the right to bring a lawsuit against the shipowner.

Maintenance and cure requires shipowners to care for injured crew members.
“Maintenance” creates an obligation for owners to provide seamen and maritime workers with basic living expenses until they are able to return to work. On the other hand, “cure” requires shipowners to provide injured workers with free medical care. This includes cases of permanent or long-term care.
The shipowner provides care until the seaman reaches “maximum medical cure,” which means they are as close as possible to their condition before the injury.

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