Will a Maritime Law from 1851 Hurt Families After a Collision at Sea?

Picture of an Oil Tanker Setting Sail
on

It was August on the high seas as the USS McCain sailed near Singapore. Trouble was brewing as an oil tanker began to draw close. Below deck, several sailors were resting in their quarters when that tanker and the USS McCain collided. Now, the owners of that tanker are using a maritime law from 1851 to limit its liability. Will the legal maneuver work?

How Complex Can Maritime Law Get?

Ten Navy sailors lost their lives in that collision. One of those sailors was a man from the Decatur, Texas area. Since the collision, his family and the other victims have put a lot of pressure on the Navy and the company that owns the tanker. The Navy itself has now admitted that a lack of preparedness and incompetence on the part of the crew contributed to the crash. However, the company that owns the tanker seems to be trying to dodge liability for its part in the incident.

The company has filed a lawsuit against the Navy, the sailors injured and the families of the sailors who lost their lives. Using the Limited Liability Act of 1851, the company is trying to limit its liability in the accident to $16.7 million.

The Limited Liability Act was put into effect to help our country’s early merchant fleets limit their liability and grow. If disaster struck one of these ships, the vessels’ owners would only be liable for damages equaling the cost of the wrecked ship. The tanker involved in the crash with the USS McCain is estimated to be worth $16.7 million.

Families of the victims are outraged by the lawsuit and plan to fight it. The tanker in question was on autopilot at the time of the crash, despite having steering problems.

This case exemplifies just how complicated a maritime case can be. There are many treaties, laws and documents that govern how offshore incidents must be handled. If an attorney isn’t experienced with these types of accident cases, it could sink a victim’s chances at compensation. Be sure that you are contacting an attorney who has the experience to handle your maritime dilemma.

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