Maritime Claims Cases: A Unique Area of Subrogation Law

After hundreds of years, shipping still remains the predominant method of transporting goods worldwide. Contracts arranging these movements are vast and complex, even involving international treaties and other legal mechanisms not encountered in other areas of insurance like automotive subrogation. 

The 2021 Suez Canal blockage by the Ever Given reminds us that waterway passage is unpredictable, and disputes are inevitable. Shipping disruptions that resulted from the COVID pandemic still affect nearly all aspects of industry today, and have saddled many shipping companies with myriad insurance disputes, some recoverable, some not. 

Subrogation at Sea is Different than On Land

For maritime clients, having a sophisticated and experienced subrogation legal team at your side is paramount. Subrogated maritime claims can involve contract disputes, collisions, delays, groundings, sinking, loss of cargo, as well as injury to employees and others. Subrogated maritime law also governs personal harm that may befall the thousands of passengers who travel on cruise ships or other water-faring vessels each year. 

Essentially, maritime and admiralty subrogation is a microcosm of on-land subrogation – you may have property and casualty claims, fire claims, health claims, workers comp claims, etc. Understanding the nuances of this niche yet diverse area of subrogation and insurance law is key to maximizing chances of your maritime subrogation claim resulting in recovery.

Jurisdictional Challenges in Maritime Subrogation Require an Educated Approach

Admiralty and maritime law is a uniquely complex practice within the transportation sector. Special laws and regulations govern losses that occur on navigable waterways, including rivers, lakes, seas, and oceans. In addition, maritime law may govern commercial activities that, while land-based, are maritime in nature. 

Maritime activity is heavily regulated by numerous federal and international agencies. Although the U.S. Constitution grants federal courts original jurisdiction over admiralty and maritime matters, most subrogated maritime actions can alternatively be brought in state court while still applying Federal Admiralty law under a federal provision called the Savings to Suitors Clause. 

The Savings to Suitors Clause allows the vast majority of tort actions in maritime subrogation cases – such as damage to property or personal injury claims – to be heard in state court. This provides both the client and the government a more streamlined way to handle these complicated subrogated matters.

Rathbone Group attorneys are adept in knowing when and how to best choose a jurisdiction to hear a subrogated maritime legal claim. The importance of this strategic legal decision cannot be understated, nor can the importance of your legal team knowing how to navigate these often rough waters.   

Rathbone Group’s Maritime Subrogation Experience is Unmatched

Jurisdictional obstacles notwithstanding, maritime clients need an insurance law firm that has the knowledge and resources to track down any and all responsible parties. It can be difficult to identify all possible liable parties due to the nature of maritime cases. But RG’s thorough investigations into subrogation claims ensures clients have every avenue open to maximize recovery. 

Our subrogation attorneys and claims specialists are also proficient at the many federal acts and statutes that may come into play in a maritime subrogation case. Whether the subrogated claim involves: 

  • Limitation of liability
  • The Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act (LHWCA)
  • The Federal Employer’s Liability Act (FELA)
  • The Jones Act
  • Any tort or contract claims concerning a vessel or marina, 

Rathbone Group can help with the application of state and federal maritime statutes. In addition, our experience with experts and cause and origin investigations offers guidance in recovering claims for cargo damage, products liability, and collisions.

Contact Rathbone Group