Congress enacted the Limitation of Liability Act during the 19th century in an effort to improve competition and investment in the shipping industry. Now, however, negligent watercraft owners can use this act as a means to shield themselves from lawsuits brought by people injured on their vessel. The owner of the vessel can file a Petition for Limitation of Liability requesting that his or her liability be restricted to the current value of the vessel, even if the vessel has insurance. If the owner prevails, it means that even if you have incurred hundreds of thousands of dollars in medical expenses and are entitled to damages for pain and suffering and lost wages, if the vessel is only worth $10,000, then you can recover only up to that amount.
If you receive a Petition for Limitation of Liability, you must act quickly. You will receive notice via certified mail from the attorney representing the vessel’s insurance company, and the notice will be published in a local newspaper (generally where the vessel is berthed). Do not ignore the letter or publication, as there are time limits for filing a response to the petition, and if you fail to timely respond, you forfeit any rights you have against the boat owner for your injury and you will lose your right to recover any damages as a result of your injury. If you want to preserve your rights under the law, you must file a response to the Petition for Limitation of Liability. To defeat the Petition, certain facts need to be proved.
Fighting these petitions can be complicated, so it is important to consult an experienced maritime attorney promptly if you receive one. A maritime attorney understands complex maritime laws and knows what steps to take and what arguments to make when dealing with a Petition for Limitation of Liability.
Were you injured in a maritime accident? Contact a Boston maritime attorney right away . . . before you face a limitation of liability action.
Latti & Anderson LLP –Boston maritime trial lawyers