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Maritime Law Glossary D - F

Glossary A - B | Glossary C | Glossary G - J | Glossary L -N | Glossary O - P | Glossary R - S | Glossary T - Z


Damages – Any and all monetary compensation a plaintiff obtains in a judgment. The purpose is to fully compensate a victim for his or her losses. In maritime law, damages are awarded on the basis of both general maritime law and statute. Damages include lost earning capacity, medical and other related expenses incurred or to be incurred, and pain and suffering. Damages should reflect the nature and extent of a victim's injury.

Death on the High Seas Act – A federal law enacted in 1920 permitting a wrongful-death action to be filed in U.S. district court for a death occurring on navigable waters. A wrongful death action is a civil action brought on behalf of a decedent’s survivors for their damages sustained from a tortious injury that caused the decedent’s death.

Defendant – A person sued in a civil action or proceeding.

Directed Verdict – A ruling issued by a trial judge where the judge takes the case from the jury because the evidence set forth only permits one reasonable verdict.

Discharge – Any means by which a legal duty is extinguished.

Double Wages Penalty Statute – A law that imposes the payment of double wages to a seaman by his employer in certain circumstances. If a seaman’s employer fails to pay a seaman his or her wages, this statute penalizes the non-paying employer by requiring the employer to pay the seaman “two days” wages for each day of delayed payment.

Duty of Employer – A maritime employer is legally required to provide safe working conditions for its employees and to ensure a vessel is seaworthy or fit for its intended purpose. A breach of this duty may give rise to legal rights for an injured employee.

Duty to Mitigate – A nonbreaching party’s or tort victim’s duty to make reasonable efforts to limit losses resulting from the other party’s breach or tort. If a party fails to mitigate, the party’s may be precluded from collecting damages that could have been avoided had the party mitigated his or her damages.


Economic Loss – A monetary loss as a result of a tort or breach of contract and a type of damages recoverable in a lawsuit. Examples of economic loss include lost wages or lost profits.

Equitable Relief – A remedy, typically nonmonetary, such as an injunction or specific performance, obtained when monetary remedies cannot adequately redress an injury.

Estoppel – A bar that prevents one from asserting a claim or right that contradicts what one has said or done before or what has been legally established as true.

Evidence – Documents, testimony or objects that tend to prove or disprove the existence of an alleged fact.

Exculpatory Clause – A clause in a contract that relieves a party from liability resulting from a negligent or wrongful act. Depending on the clause, courts may void the clause as a violation of public policy.

Exoneration – The removal of a burden, charge, responsibility or duty.


Federal Law – A body of jurisprudence established by Congress, agencies and federal courts. Most of maritime law is federal law. Under the Supremacy Clause of the U.S. Constitution, federal law is the supreme law of the land and trumps state law when the two conflict.

Federal Rules of Civil Procedure – A set of rules governing civil actions brought in U.S. district courts.

Floating Drydocks – A type of pontoon used for docking, hauling and raising vessels.

Forum Non Conveniens – A legal doctrine that permits a court to divest itself of appropriate jurisdiction if, for the convenience of the litigants and the witnesses, it appears that the action should proceed in another forum that could also have jurisdiction over the matter.

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