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What is a both-to-blame collision clause?

On Behalf of | Feb 12, 2024 | Maritime Law |

Ships carrying cargo sometimes collide with other ships for various reasons. Sometimes determining responsibility for the collision can be difficult or impossible.

When two ships collide, either one or both were likely negligent. Rather than go through the complicated process of determining or apportioning liability, carriers can include a both-to-blame collision clause in their marine insurance policy.

Marine insurance policies are a necessity in today’s maritime industry

These policies provide coverage to vessels for losses sustained from collisions, sinking, being stranded, fire, piracy or other hazards, including illegal acts by a vessel’s crew or master.

A both-to-blame collision clause states that both ship owners share the responsibility for a collision if the accident was caused by negligence. The purpose of the clause is to keep the protections carriers have under the Hague-Visby Rules.

These rules state that if a carrier exercises due diligence and maintains a seaworthy ship they are not liable for claims resulting from an accident caused by negligence.

It is common for both vessels to share some responsibility in a maritime accident but a both-to-blame collision clause can protect both vessels even if one vessel is negligent.

How a both-to-blame collision clause works

For example, two ships collide due to the second ship’s negligence, the owners of the first ship have a valid claim for the damage sustained because of the second ship.

However, the both-to-blame clause allows the second ship to claim 50% of damages from the first ship. Although this means the first ship receives only half the cost of their damages, they can pass the cost on to the owner of the goods.

When both ships are equally negligent, both can claim 50% of liability from the other.

The overall goal of the both-to-blame collision clause is to equally distribute damages after a collision, regardless of the degree of each party’s fault.

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