Invoking Fishing Vessel Insurance Exclusions for Maritime Injuries

July 9, 2020

From time to time we encounter situations in which the injuries our clients have suffered are allegedly not covered by a vessel owner’s liability insurance policy. In some cases this may be because of what is called an “exclusion’, which is essentially a clause in an insurance policy that identifies specific causes of action as not being covered by the relevant insurance provisions.

In a non-maritime context, assuming such an exclusion is valid and enforceable, many attorneys would not be interested in taking a case given the lack of available insurance to cover any damages that they might get for their clients. In the maritime context, as noted in this space previously, there are additional avenues pursuant to which a person injured by a vessel owner’s negligence can secure recovery for their claims even in the absence of insurance. More specifically, these rules include supplemental admiralty rules which are procedural rules that apply in federal court and allow an injured seaman the right to seize and take possession of the vessel and its appurtenances, either at the outset of the litigation or after a verdict has been reached.

Although the value of a vessel depends on a variety of factors and in many cases falls somewhere between five-hundred thousand and a million dollars, the law recognizes that “appurtenances” includes the permits that the vessel owner has procured for their fishing business. The value of these permits can exceed five million dollars (related article). This is important to keep in mind that, given even in the absence of insurance, an aggressive attorney can take hold of the vessel and its permits as security for his/her client’s claims. This is unique to maritime law and makes the impact of an exclusion virtually irrelevant, provided that an injured seaman hires the right attorney, i.e. one who has no problem invoking the power of these rules to seize vessel when doing so is in the best interest of their clients. Again, as noted in a prior blog, we do not hesitate to invoke these rules and attach/arrest these vessels when it is in our client’s best interest to do so and are quite familiar with the supplemental rules of admiralty which gives us the authority and flexibility to do so.

If you or a loved one have been involved in a maritime injury and wonder if this may apply to your situation in deciding to seek remedy for your injures please do not hesitate to contact us.