A personal injury claim is the best course of action when a maritime worker is injured on the job. The claim allows them to obtain compensation for their injuries so they can recover and return to work, if possible. Some personal injury claimants are blindsided when they learn the vessel owner filed a limitation of liability claim in response.

A limitation of liability claim can have a detrimental effect on a personal injury case, especially when legal counsel does not have experience handling these claims. If this is the case for you, contact a maritime lawyer immediately.

Limitation of Liability Act Attorney in Oregon, Washington, California and Alaska

If you do not have legal counsel with hands-on experience handling limitation of liability claims, you may end up being undercut for the compensation you need to recover fully. Don’t let this happen to you. Call 1-800-262-8529 to schedule a time to speak with the maritime lawyers at BOATLAW, LLP.

BOATLAW, LLP negotiates on behalf of injured maritime workers in Oregon, Washington, California and Alaska.

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What is the Limitation of Liability Act?

The Limitations of Liability Act allows vessel owners to restrict or limit their liability in maritime personal injury or wrongful death accidents.  The only way this can be successful, though, is if the owner can prove they had no privity or knowledge of the issue that led to the injury or wrongful death.

If the claim is successful, damages will be limited to the value of the vessel at the end of the voyage where the incident occurred plus the value of pending freight. The act can only be applied to injuries and wrongful deaths on certain vessels. Some of the eligible vessels include:

  • Canal boats
  • Barges
  • Lighter ships
  • Large cargo ships
  • Ships used at high sea
  • Pleasure crafts
  • Jet skis
  • Houseboats

A vessel owner cannot file a limitation claim every time a wrongful death or personal injury claim has been filed against them. There are some instances where a vessel owner cannot file a limitation claim, such as when wages or maintenance and cure are owned to an injured seaman.

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Who Can File Under the Act?  

Owners of the vessels mentioned above can file a limitation of liability claim, but only when the personal injury or death took place on navigable waters in the United States. Navigable water is any body of water deep, wide and slow enough for a vessel to pass through. The vessel owner cannot file a limitation claim if the accident occurred on a waterway not considered navigable.

The court’s interpretation of  “owner” takes on various meanings. As long as an individual exercises dominion or control over a vessel, they are considered an owner. This can include:

  • Sole shareholder and president of the company that owns the vessel
  • The United States Government if the ship was a public vessel
  • Owner of the vessel at the time of the accident but sold it before litigation
  • Anyone who navigates a vessel at their own expense or procurement

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Examples of Privity and Knowledge

A vessel owner will have to prove they had no privity or knowledge of the issue that caused the underlying cause of a claim.  The Limitation and Liability Act does not define privity or knowledge, but judicial interpretation held it to mean participation or knowledge of the negligent act, condition or unseaworthy condition that caused or contributed to an injury or death.

There are several instances where a ship-owner has been found to have privity or knowledge of negligence or unseaworthiness, including:

  • Allowing an unqualified individual to operate the ship
  • Failing to provide accurate charts and navigational equipment
  • Inadequate maintenance procedures
  • Failing to shut down operations during dangerous weather
  • Failing to provide a competent crew
  • Knowledge of unseaworthy conditions before a voyage

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Additional Resources for Limitation of Liability Act

Exoneration and Limitation of Liability | U.S. Code – Follow the link provided to learn more about the limitation of liability of vessel owners. You can gain access to the precise legal explanation of the limits on liability, provisions limiting personal injury or death and necessary actions of owners filing a claim.

Amount of Liability | U.S. Code – You can learn more about privity and knowledge by following the link. You can also gain access to information about vicarious liability for medical malpractice and the definition of a seagoing vessel. The code can be read on the official website for the U.S. House of Representatives.

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Limitation of Liability Act Lawyer in Oregon, Washington, California and Alaska

With over 40 years of experience in the maritime industry, BOATLAW, LLP has an in-depth understanding of the Limitation of Liability Act. We will help you prove the ship-owner had full or partial knowledge of the unsafe conditions that caused your injuries.

Call 1-800-262-8529 to schedule a confidential consultation. BOATLAW, LLP defends injured maritime workers in Oregon, Washington, California and Alaska.

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