Acworth, GA asked in Admiralty / Maritime for Georgia

Q: A boating accident on Lake Lanier would be handled by the state, & on the Chattahochee River by Fed govt, correct?

I am a high schoolteacher in Georgia. I am teaching about federal, state, &concurrent jurisdiction in my Honors Government class. This is really beyond the scope of what I teach, but I like being able to provide some basic info. My understanding is that a passenger boat accident between 2 American citizens within 12 nm off coast or on Chattahooche River would be a case handled under federal maritime law. I have read that states commonly apply federal law in state courts for maritime cases, would it be incorrect to call that concurrent jurisdiction since it's a state administering federal law? Also, is it 3 nm off the coast that is handled by state maritime law, & between 3-12nm handled by our federal govt? Is beyond that international water? My understanding is that an American ship 20 miles of the cost of England would still be handled under US Maritime law, buts once an American boat is within 12nm of another country you now fall under their maritime jurisdiction, correct?

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1 Lawyer Answer
Tim Akpinar
Tim Akpinar
  • Maritime Law Lawyer
  • Little Neck, NY

A: You've chosen an interesting topic for students, but you go into many different directions. Framed the way it is, your assignment runs the possibility of confusing your students. Try to keep things on a level that high school students would be able to follow. For starters, look into the concept of navigable waters. That will open the door to admiralty jurisdiction. A boating accident that makes its way into federal court would be governed by the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. In terms of substantive law, boating accidents apply elements of maritime law. In terms of an ocean-going vessel, the flag of registry would play a role, as would the issue of what capacity the people aboard are in. You've covered half the concepts covered in a college-level course on admiralty law. You could overwhelm your students. I recommend that you keep the exercise confined to the concepts of navigable waters, how that opens the door to admiralty jurisdiction, and some discussion of maritime law - i.e. what is a vessel, what is negligence, what are the Collision Regs (you could touch upon the existence of international and inland rules - don't go too deep into this topic - it has parts that could lose their interest). I believe that if you keep things on a basic level and let your students explore some of these concepts, they will find them interesting and hopefully enjoy the assignment. Good luck

Tim Akpinar

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