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Legal Blog

Does Maritime Law Apply to Lakes?

If you got injured in an accident that occurred on a lake, federal maritime law might apply to your case instead of state liability laws. In such cases, you will need the assistance of an experienced Houston maritime lawyer. Federal maritime law, also known as admiralty law, is significantly different than state law: your case will follow different procedures and its outcome will depend on specific rules and regulations.

To learn more about how a lawyer can help you get compensation for a maritime injury, call the Krist Law Firm P.C. today at 281-283-8500.

Federal Maritime Law Only Applies to Navigable Waterways and Lakes

Federal maritime law applies to cases resulting from accidents that occur on navigable waters. Whether a body of water is navigable or not depends on whether it’s used in interstate or international commerce. The US Constitution gives the federal government exclusive jurisdiction over navigable waters, meaning that even if a lake is entirely within a state, the federal government may have jurisdiction over it.

It’s not always easy to determine whether a lake is navigable or not for purposes of determining the applicability of maritime law to a case. Courts follow a test first laid out in the case Kaiser Aetna v. the United States, according to which a waterway is navigable if it:

  • Is subject to the ebb and flow of the tide
  • Connects to continuous interstate waterway
  • Has navigable capacity
  • Is actually navigable

If all four of these criteria are met, a court will consider a lake to be navigable. In practice, this test has led to some small lakes and shallow rivers being considered navigable waters. So, do not assume that state laws will apply to your case if you were injured on a lake. If that lake has a shore in a different state, or connects to a river that leads to the sea, federal maritime law may apply.

How a Houston Maritime Lawyer Can Help You

If your injury occurred on navigable lakes, the compensation process will unfold under federal law. Should litigation be necessary to get you the compensation you deserve, your case will most likely be held in a federal court. In other words, your case will be completely different from what most lawyers are used to. That’s why you should seek the assistance of a lawyer with significant experience in maritime law.

At The Krist Law Firm P.C., our attorneys are well versed in the intricacies of maritime law, and frequently handle high stakes maritime law cases. This focus enables us to maximize the recovery of our clients who have been injured on oil rigs, commercial vessels, or a navigable waterway.

If you got injured on the water, we can help. Call us today at (281) 283-8500 for a case consultation.