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Maritime Law: Beware of the Boat That Comes to Help in an Emergency (English/Spanish)


I received a very frustrating phone call the other day from an individual that owned a small open fisherman that found himself in a predicament and he wanted my help. He was enjoying himself in the South Florida waters, when he found himself in an emergency situation and his vessel capsized; thankfully with no injury to himself or anyone else aboard. He did the right thing and called the U.S. Coast Guard on Channel 16 VHF-FM (156.8 MHz). Almost immediately, a commercial salvor arrived to help.
 
This individual went on and continued to do the right thing by doing what most maritime lawyers recommend, negotiate the terms before the marine assistance company attempts to assist. This was done and agreed and the salvor tied his line to the vessel. Unfortunately, in the course of his assistance, the salvor grounded the vessel he was attempting to salve in a marine sanctuary. What he did next is astounding--he untied the vessel and took off, leaving this poor man worse off than when he first called the Coast Guard.
 
A salvor may be liable for additional damage caused by its fault in performing salvage. Where the rub comes in is that there is a split of authority as to whether simple negligence or gross negligence/willful misconduct is the standard of proof. As professional salvors are held to the standard of experts, that standard should more easily fall into the category of gross negligence while other "helpers" that are not salvors will be held to the standards of reasonable seamen.
 
This sad case is a wake up call for those individuals that insist on operating their watercraft without insurance. If this man would have had insurance, his insurer would certainly paid for the damage and then gone after this errant salvor for negligent salvage. This man also did not have a towing plan, a sort of AAA for boats, that he could call if he gets himself into a "situation". While there is a difference between towing and salvage under the law, these plans assist boat owners in narrowing the distinction by requiring that marine assistance companies distinguish between simple towing and/or soft groundings and the more serious and expensive salvage efforts where distress or danger exist.
 
Towing assistance provides help for breakdowns and light groundings. The far more expensive salvage claims are covered only by marine insurance policies. If the salvor wants to do the job but does not know what the cost will be but will make claim afterwards, the final amount will be decided one of three ways -- negotiation with your insurance company; binding arbitration or;  through litigation in federal admiralty courts. It pained me to tell this man that because he did not have insurance, litigation was essentially his only option.

The best protection against a salvage bill or a negligent salvor is adequate insurance. Boaters should make sure the policy provides for salvage up to the full value of the boat, not a percentage of its value and that there is no deductible for salvage costs.

I am happy to review any insurance policy you may have that you will be relying on in meeting the potential risks of boating. If you are interested in contacting me, you may do so at mov@chaloslaw.com
 
Spanish Translation
 
Cuidado con el Bote Que Viene a Ayudar en Caso de Emergencia
 
Recibí una llamada telefónica muy frustrante el otro día de un individuo que poseía un pequeño pescador abierto que se encontró en una situación difícil y quería mi ayuda. Estaba disfrutando de las aguas del sur de la Florida, cuando se encontró en una situación de emergencia y su buque naufragó, afortunadamente sin lesiones a sí mismo o a cualquier otra persona a bordo. Él hizo lo correcto y llamó a la Guardia Costera de los EE.UU. en el canal 16 de VHF-FM (156.8 MHz). Casi de inmediato, un salvador comercial llegó a ayudar.


Este individuo siguió y continuó haciendo lo correcto, haciendo lo que más abogados marítimos recomiendan, negociar las condiciones antes de la empresa de asistencia marítima intenta ayudar. Así se hizo y estuvo de acuerdo y el salvador ató su línea al bote. Por desgracia, en el curso de su asistencia, el salvador encallo el bote que estaba tratando de salvar en un santuario marinoLo que hizo a continuación es increíble - que desató el bote y se fue, dejando a este pobre hombre peor que la primera vez que llamó a la Guardia Costera.


 
Un salvador puede ser responsable de los daños adicionales causados ​​por su culpa en el desempeño de salvamento. Cuando el problema se presenta en es que hay una división de la autoridad en cuanto a si la mera negligencia o negligencia / intencional falta grave es el estándar de la prueba. Como salvadores profesionales se mantienen al nivel de expertos, esa norma debería caer más fácilmente en la categoría de negligencia grave, mientras que otros "ayudantes" que no son salvadores se llevará a cabo a las normas de los marineros razonable.


 
Esta triste caso es una llamada de atención para las personas que insisten en hacer funcionar su bote sin seguro. Si este hombre hubiera tenido seguro, su compañía de seguros sin duda sería pagado por los daños del bote y luego va tras este salvador errante de salvamento negligente. Este hombre tampoco tenía un plan de remolque, una especie de AAA para los barcos, que podía llamar si se pone a sí mismo en una "situación". Si bien existe una diferencia entre el remolque y salvamento conforme a la ley, estos planes ayudan a los propietarios de botes en la reducción de la distinción, al exigir que las empresas de asistencia marinos distinguir entre los esfuerzos de rescate más serios y costosos en los que son mas sencillo y / o encallos en suave arena.

Asistencia de remolque proporciona ayuda para las averías y varadas luz. Las demandas de rescate mucho más caros están cubiertos sólo por las políticas de seguro marítimo. Si el salvador quiere hacer el trabajo, pero no sabe cuál será el costo, sino que hará reclamar después, la cantidad final se decidirá una de tres maneras - negociación con su compañía de seguros, arbitraje o, a través de litigios en el ministerio de marina federal tribunales. Me dolió decirle a este hombre que, debido a que no tenía seguro, el litigio era esencialmente su única opción.


La mejor protección contra un proyecto de ley de rescate o un salvador negligente es un seguro adecuado.
Los navegantes deben asegurarse de que la políza prevé rescatar hasta el valor total del bote, no un porcentaje de su valor, y que no hay deducible para los gastos de salvamento.
 

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