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Can I use the “Act of God” COGSA defense?

When cargo is damaged or lost during transit, it is critical to determine who was at fault for the incident. The Carriage of Goods by Sea Act, also known as COGSA, outlines 17 different reasons that the vessel owner is not liable for damaged cargo. One of those reasons is an “Act of God”—but what exactly is considered an Act of God? When can you use that defense after a lost or damaged cargo incident?

According to law, an Act of God is considered "an accident that is due directly and exclusively to natural causes without human intervention and which no amount of foresight or care reasonably exercised could have prevented. The accident must be one occasioned by the violence of nature, and all human agency is to be excluded from creating or entering into the cause."

In other words, an Act of God could be an earthquake, hurricane, or other severe storm. Extreme conditions, such as high winds and high seas may also be considered an Act of God.

However, it is important to understand that even if the cargo was destroyed, damaged, or lost in a severe storm, the vessel owner may still be liable if a shipper can prove negligence. For example, if the vessel operator steered the ship into a storm after being warned of the weather event, the vessel operator may be found negligent.

It can be difficult to know if the weather event that affected your cargo is considered an Act of God under the law. Consult with a marine insurance claim attorney at Voss Law Firm to better understand your case and your liability. Call today to schedule an appointment: 888-614-7730.

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The Voss Law Firm, P.C. represents clients on a local, national and international basis. We proudly serve companies and individuals along the Gulf Coast and around the globe on a contingency fee basis. Our law firm collects nothing unless we recover on our client's behalf.

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