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Understanding the Law of General Average and the Affects on All Parties Involved

Some maritime laws are common throughout time and across nations—the law of general average is one of those regulations. First found in use hundreds of years ago, this maritime law states that when a captain is forced to destroy some or all of the vessel’s cargo in order to save the ship, the losses incurred will be shared proportionally among all of the parties involved in the ship, including all merchants.

General average does not take fault into account. It also does not take into account whose cargo was lost and whose remains intact—all parties involved in the venture contribute an equal share.

The law of general average contains three elements:

  1. The ship, crew and cargo face an imminent, common, and inevitable danger.
  2. The captain voluntarily jettisons or destroys a portion of the cargo in order to avoid the danger and save the ship, as well as the remaining cargo.
  3. The danger is successfully averted thanks to the actions of the captain.

Here are just a few examples of general average:

  • Jettisoning cargo to refloat a stranded vessel.
  • Extinguishing a fire on board.
  • Discharging cargo in order to make repairs.
  • Jettisoning cargo to prepare for a storm that may cause capsizing.
  • Discharging cargo to prevent excessive listing of the vessel.
  • Intentional grounding for the common safety of the ship and crew.

Fast Facts: General Average

  • Importers will be involved in a general average claim once every eight years on average.
  • A general average claim may take up to four years to clear up.
  • The law of general average was officially established in 1890 and amended in 1994.

General Average Insurance Claims

General average claims can rise into the millions of dollars. Typically, because multiple parties are involved, general average claims can be extremely complex. If you are a merchant or shipper involved in a maritime accident and general average claim, you may wish to work with a maritime insurance attorney at Voss Law Firm. Call us today for free initial consultation:  888-614-7730. 

If No Recovery No Fee Guarenteed

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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