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What is general average as it pertains to maritime law?

General average is a long-time maritime law concept that splits the losses of a vessel between all invested parties equally—under certain circumstances.

More specifically, if a captain must jettison or destroy some of the cargo aboard his or her ship in order to secure the safety of the vessel, the crew, and the remaining cargo, it does not matter who the damaged or destroyed cargo belonged to specifically. Instead, everyone involved with the ship would pay for the losses equally.

For example, if a vessel must jettison cargo to prevent capsizing, it is important that the crew works immediately and quickly to throw cargo overboard in order to protect the ship, save the crew, and save the remaining cargo. They should not need to stop and consider whose cargo they are jettisoning. Because the jettisoned cargo saved the remaining cargo as well as the ship, it is sensible that all cargo owners make up for the lost cargo equally.

Is there ever a time when general average is not used?

There are some cases in which general average is not used. For example, if someone is directly at fault for the damaged or lost cargo, they may be held fully responsible for the expenses in some cases. In addition, if an accident at sea or a delay causes an indirect loss, the law of general average is not used. Finally, general average is not used if the ship is never in direct peril or if the loss of the cargo does not save the ship from peril.

Do you have a question about a general average claim or another maritime claim involving lost or damaged cargo? Call the Voss Law Firm today to speak with one of our attorneys: 888-614-7730.

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