How the Limitation of Liability Act Could Affect Your Claim for Compensation Following a Maritime Accident

Maritime law is very complex, and some of the laws go back centuries. One such law is the Limitation of Liability Act, which is a federal law enacted in 1851 to protect American ship owners. If a family member or you was injured or killed in a maritime accident, you need to understand the Limitation of Liability Act and how a ship owner could use it to limit its responsibility to compensate you for your injuries.

What Is the Limitations of Liability Act?

The Limitations of Liability Act allows vessel owners to limit their liability after a maritime incident or casualty to the post-casualty value of the vessel and its cargo. The incident must happen in United States waters for the law to be used. The Act applies to many ships including:

  • Seagoing vessels.
  • Vessels on lakes, rivers, and in inland navigation.
  • Canal boats.
  • Barges.
  • Lighters.
  • Recreational crafts, such as house boats and jet skis.

Both ship owners and a leaseholder that obtains the possession, control, and command of a vessel can obtain protections under the Act. It applies to claims for cargo damage, collisions, injuries, and some deaths. However, there is an exception to when a vessel owner can escape liability through the use of the Limitation of Liability Act. Owners cannot avoid responsibility when the injury occurred due to the owner’s privity or knowledge. This can be established by showing that the owner knew or should have known of the acts of negligence or unseaworthiness that caused the accident.

How Does a Vessel Owner Assert His Rights Under the Limitation of Liability Act?

Owners of vessels can assert their right to limit their liability in one of two fashions. They can take the following actions:

  • The owner can file a complaint in federal district court to obtain a decision as to whether the Act applies. As part of the lawsuit, the owner would sue the victim of the accident. The owner is allowed to consolidate the claims of all injured victims in this lawsuit, and this is one of the benefits of filing suit in federal court.
  • The owner can raise the Limitation of Liability Act as a defense if he is sued by a victim of an accident.

Having a boat owner raise the Limitations of Liability Act can be devastating to victims of a maritime accident who may find themselves unable to receive full compensation for their injuries due to the owner’s limited liability. In addition, it can seem extremely unfair to be the victim but be the party is being sued instead of the one suing the owner. However, this does not mean that victims cannot defend against the Act’s applicability or raise all their claims.

Contact Attorney Steve Lee Today

If you were injured in a maritime or other boating accident, you need the help of an experienced maritime attorney who understands the Limitation of Liability Act and other laws that could apply to your claim. It can be extremely complicated to determine the value of the vessel and its cargo and whether an exception to applicability of the Act to your case can be raised. You cannot expect to do this successfully on your own.

Let our experienced legal team take over the burden of pursing your claim for compensation following a maritime accident. Fill out our convenient online form to schedule your free consultation.

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