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Old 04-17-2015, 01:15 PM   #1
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COLREGS and Maritime Law

I got a boat safety magazine or flyer from Boat U.S. called Seaworthy which has a short discussion of the COLREGS and a couple of cases. The first case was a large boat traveling 20 knots which struck and destroyed a smaller boat which was drift fishing killing 2 of the three people on the smaller boat. The article goes on to cite various COLREG issues involved. A court battle took place and the court assigned 60% of the blame to the larger boat and 40% of the blame to the smaller boat.

No issues here with the COLREGS. What I don't quite understand is what the 60%/40% means. Does it mean because the larger boat was mostly to blame that it is responsible for all the costs and liable for wrongful death or does it mean the larger boat only has to pay 60% of the total damages and 60% of any wrongful death awards?

Should probably ask a lawyer but don't have enough boat bucks for their hourly rate!
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Old 04-17-2015, 01:31 PM   #2
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I'm likely wrong, and if so would be glad to be corrected by more knowledgeable members, but the Col Regs in accident investigations are mainly to assign blame. The incident is looked at as a whole and blame is assigned but like so many other aspects of life boat accidents are typically a combination of errors by all parties. Seldom if ever is one party solely to blame.

Probably doing a poor job of expressing myself but took a swing at it.
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Old 04-17-2015, 01:35 PM   #3
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Without knowing what type of "court battle" one would assume it was a civil action of sorts involving one or both parties seeking damage compensation. If 60/40 was assigned by the the court then yes, that would be their individual responsibilities on claims. Probably appealed though.
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Old 04-17-2015, 01:36 PM   #4
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The court almost always assigns partial blame to both parties in the case of a collision. Maintaining a proper lookout is often cited for both vessels.

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Every vessel shall at all times maintain a proper look-out by sight and hearing as well as by all available means appropriate in the prevailing circumstances and conditions so as to make a full appraisal of the situation and of the risk of collision.
Often, even boats that are not underway which are run over through no fault of their own are assigned 10% of the blame.
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Old 04-17-2015, 01:43 PM   #5
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Too bad car wrecks aren't scored the same way.
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Old 04-17-2015, 03:33 PM   #6
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I understand adjudication of the percent of blame but how does that translate to resolving the monetary claims.

For example if the larger boat with 60% of blame had $50K of damages and the smaller destroyed boat with 40% of blame was valued at $30K, does that mean the smaller boat is responsible for $20K of the damages to the larger boat and $12K for the damages to his own boat?

Or is the larger boat responsible for for all $80K of the damages because he was assigned the majority of the blame?
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Old 04-17-2015, 03:54 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Donsan View Post
For example if the larger boat with 60% of blame had $50K of damages and the smaller destroyed boat with 40% of blame was valued at $30K, does that mean the smaller boat is responsible for $20K of the damages to the larger boat and $12K for the damages to his own boat?
Typically all of the damages are added up then divided according to the percentage of blame (but not always, it's up to the court). In your example, the total damages of $80k may be divided such that the larger boat paid $48k and the smaller boat paid $32k. Some cases have used really old Admiralty law that splits the costs 50/50 despite the blame.
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Old 04-17-2015, 04:10 PM   #8
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two people were killed and you guys are debating 80K in damages??????????
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Old 04-17-2015, 04:15 PM   #9
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Originally Posted by Boydski View Post
Typically all of the damages are added up then divided according to the percentage of blame (but not always, it's up to the court). In your example, the total damages of $80k may be divided such that the larger boat paid $48k and the smaller boat paid $32k. Some cases have used really old Admiralty law that splits the costs 50/50 despite the blame.
I think I got it now. I suspected it was that way. What was bothering me is potentially, the smaller boat could have ended up with a huge liability if say the larger more expensive boat had also sank.

Any idea how the loss of life is handled? Is that handled under admiralty law?
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Old 04-17-2015, 04:17 PM   #10
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two people were killed and you guys are debating 80K in damages??????????
Nope. I would like to know how that is handled also.

But really, no debate. Just trying to understand the implications of what I read.
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Old 04-17-2015, 04:32 PM   #11
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Others are correct that the apportionment of blame is to apportion damages. Some states do the same in all tort liability cases. As to the question of who pays, the apportionment is based on who filed the suit and is seeking damages. So, here, I assume that the larger boat defendant pays 60% of whatever damages were sought by the smaller boat plaintiffs. The larger boat wouldn't get any damages unless they had a counter suit, but that would be litigated seperately. I imagine that if no one died on the larger boat, there was no suit against the smaller boat. These numbers are likely all related to the death and injuries, not property damage that would have likley been handled by the insurance companies between themselves.
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Old 04-17-2015, 04:54 PM   #12
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The article did not get into the specifics of the case. It could and may well be a civil suit for loss of life from a third party. Claim against both boat owners. Often you will find the shot-gun approach to these type suits.
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Old 04-17-2015, 05:22 PM   #13
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Now I am seeing the whole enchilada. Thanks for the explanation on this.
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Old 04-17-2015, 06:08 PM   #14
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Hi All,

Just my thoughts and happy to be wrong. Firstly whenever anyone dies in an accident [ I hate calling them that ] someone must be held accountable.

My thoughts on the Colregs which I am relearning at the moment, the smaller boat apparently was not at anchor and therefo0re was not required to carry an anchor light at the masthead but as such it may then have to be considered to be underway and should have shown nav light appropiate for its`size.

Professional fishing boats have a series of light which they must display while working but not so with pleasure or smaller craft.

There may be a loophole in the regs which do not at first appear to cover a small private boat drift fishing.!!!

he courts will try to use the wisdom of Soloman to share the blame as equitibaly as possible. In this case I suspect that the deaths of the two fishermen would have complicated this matter greatly and taken much searching of the rules to find the right solution.

Bottom line for all of us, be careful out on the water, it is an unforgiving enviornment.

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Old 04-17-2015, 07:51 PM   #15
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It depends on the state in which the case was brought to the courts. Some states only require 51% of blame for them to liable and other states have the percentage se higher. So it all depends on what state.
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Old 04-18-2015, 08:02 AM   #16
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Too bad car wrecks aren't scored the same way.
Actually that happens quite frequently in auto crash Civil Litigation cases, at least here in Florida. Really depends on the facts of the crash...and the prowess of the attorney's, insurance adjusters, and their experts. One of my reconstructionist is involved in these sort of cases regularly.

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The article did not get into the specifics of the case. It could and may well be a civil suit for loss of life from a third party. Claim against both boat owners. Often you will find the shot-gun approach to these type suits.
dan
We handled a loss of life case a few years back where one young person was killed and another severely injured. Without getting into the details of the case, they were doing something ignorant, in front of a vessel much larger than them, and considerably less maneuverable.

The crash was investigated by FWC jointly with the USCG. The criminal side was handled by the State, while the civil litigation was held in Federal Court. Two separate animals, joined at the hip by a common cause.

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It depends on the state in which the case was brought to the courts. Some states only require 51% of blame for them to liable and other states have the percentage se higher. So it all depends on what state.
True unless the case was held in Federal Court.
Did the article mention?

Someone mentioned that they hate to use the word "accident" in these cases, but that's usually what they are.

In Florida, in auto cases, we changed to the term "crash" years ago, rather than "accident." Unless the operator(s) were acting in a totally reckless and negligent, it's still an "accident", an unintentional act. If the operator is operating in a reckless manner, then it would likely also become a criminal investigation as well.

In the aforementioned case, had either party been "reckless" in their actions, manslaughter charges, the taking of a life through culpable negligence, could have been brought.

HTH?

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Old 04-20-2015, 12:10 PM   #17
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The court almost always assigns partial blame to both parties in the case of a collision. Maintaining a proper lookout is often cited for both vessels.
Exactly. This is an extremely common thing with maritime cases, and is completely contrary to what we are used to from automobile experience.

With an accident on a public road, in the United States, it is usual for one party or the other to be assigned blame. One has "right of way" and the other is at fault for the accident. On the water there is no such thing as "right of way" (despite the fact that HUGE numbers of boaters use the term!). The operators of both boats have the responsibility to do whatever they must to avoid a collision.

That said, just because blame is assigned 60/40 does not necessarily mean that all expenses will be split 60/40. That often is the way it is done, but there are also times when one or the other party is charged for a larger (or smaller) percentage of the costs than their percentage of the blame. So, short answer to that part of the original question is, it depends.
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Old 04-20-2015, 03:12 PM   #18
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Rule 14 (US inland)


(d) Notwithstanding Rule 14(a), a power-driven vessel operating on the Great Lakes, Western Rivers, or waters specified by the Secretary, and proceeding downbound with a following current shall have the right-of-way over an upbound vessel, shall propose the manner of passage, and shall initiate the maneuvering signals prescribed by Rule 34(a)(i), as appropriate.


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Old 04-20-2015, 04:16 PM   #19
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Rule 14 (US inland)


(d) Notwithstanding Rule 14(a), a power-driven vessel operating on the Great Lakes, Western Rivers, or waters specified by the Secretary, and proceeding downbound with a following current shall have the right-of-way over an upbound vessel, shall propose the manner of passage, and shall initiate the maneuvering signals prescribed by Rule 34(a)(i), as appropriate.


Navigation Rules Online
Nuff said!
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Old 04-20-2015, 07:07 PM   #20
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