Limitation of Liability


Our Maritime Trial Lawyers Will Assert Your Rights

Imagine that you have suffered a catastrophic injury on the water. It may have been while working at sea or it may have been while out on a cruise, power boat or jet ski. You can no longer work, and you suffer from constant pain. Or, imagine instead that your spouse, parent or child has died in a maritime accident, and you must not only deal with the grief, but you must also find a way to support yourself and your children without your spouse´s income. Then imagine that you get a certified letter from the owner of the vessel on which the accident occurred, and that letter says the owner is suing you to make sure that the owner will not have to pay you more than the current value of the vessel at the time of the accident. Your medical bills are in the hundreds of thousands of dollars and you cannot begin to know how much you have lost in future wages, but the value of the boat on which the accident occurred may only be $10,000 or zero if it sank to the bottom of the ocean. How can this be fair? What can you do?

The Limitation of Liability Act

The Limitation of Liability Act is a 19th century maritime law that was intended to increase competitiveness and encourage investment in the shipping industry, but since its enactment, it has become a means for negligent vessel owners to reduce or even cancel any amounts they should pay to those injured on their watercraft or vessel. The Act applies in any maritime injury or accident case that occurs on navigable waters, and it applies to any watercraft, including but not limited to rowboats, jet skis, yachts, commercial ships, cruise ships, ferries, passenger vessels, sailboats, tugs and tankers.

The Limitation of Liability Act provides that if anyone suffers an injury or death on a watercraft, the owner can file a Petition for Limitation of Liability with the court. If the owner prevails, the owner’s liability for the accident is limited to the current value of the craft. This means that no matter how horrific your injuries, no matter whether you lost a beloved family member, even if there is plenty of insurance money to cover the damages and the owner is responsible for the accident, the owner will only have to pay you the value of the watercraft. This means that you cannot get damages for past and future lost wages, loss of support in a death case, pain and suffering damages, medical expenses, mental anguish, lost cargo or any other compensation. Worse still, if the craft sank or was severely damaged and the value of the vessel is zero, you could get nothing at all.

Received a Petition? You Must Act Quickly

These cases are difficult and procedurally challenging, and defending against a Petition for Limitation of Liability must be done right or you lose any chance of recovering money for your injuries and damages.

The maritime attorneys at Latti & Anderson LLP have handled more Limitation of Liability cases than any other law firm on the East Coast. We know how to respond to a Petition, and we know the deadlines and procedures. If the injury or accident occurred because the craft was not seaworthy and the owner has privity and knowledge about the craft’s condition, or if the owner’s or the owner’s agents’ negligent acts caused your injury or loss and the owner had privity and knowledge, we can fight the petition, get it dismissed and make sure you receive the compensation you need and deserve.

If the owner of a vessel on which you were injured has petitioned the court to limit its liability, you must contact an experienced maritime trial lawyer quickly. Under the Limitation of Liability Act, a person or family claiming damages against a watercraft owner must file a response to the owner’s lawsuit within weeks of its filing. If you do not respond to a Petition for Limitation of Liability by answering the Petition and filing a claim, the court will bar you from ever bringing a claim for more than the craft’s value. Timing is key – contact us today if you have received notice of a Petition for Limitation of Liability and we will file your answer and claim and start working on dismissing the Petition. We help clients across New England and nationwide.