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Marine Salvage Attorney: How Marine Salvage Claims Work


What You Need to Know About Marine Salvage Claims

As any marine salvage attorney can tell you, one of the most important decisions in making a claim for is what type of claim to make. The salvor first has to know if the services provided in Tampa even fall within the category. We have previously stated that in order for there to be a marine salvage, there must be the three necessary elements:

  1. A marine peril
  2. Voluntary service rendered
  3. Success in whole or in part

But one other aspect is that there must be maritime jurisdiction over the incident. A general rule of thumb in this respect is that, were the services provided in the saltwater context, it is difficult to imagine a scenario where maritime law would not apply in Florida. But maritime law may also apply in certain freshwater contexts. Consider the Okeechobee Waterway. This is an approximately 150-mile-long canal built by the Army Corp of Engineers, which runs from the East coast of Florida at Stuart through Lake Okeechobee and ends at Punta Rassa, about 150 miles south of Tampa near Ft. Myers. Where a freshwater system connects bodies of water, they can also sometimes be considered under maritime jurisdiction. If you are unsure, talk to a marine salvage attorney.

Making a Maritime Salvage Claim

Why is this important to a maritime salvor? Because again, in order to claim that they have recovered a vessel, the event must have occurred in what the courts call “navigable water.” The short answer is that usually, a fully enclosed freshwater lake is not going to support maritime jurisdiction (i.e., no recovery claim there). However, where a body of water connects other bodies of water—like the Okeechobee Waterway—maritime law might apply. Whether maritime law applies has a large impact for the salvor as to the salvor’s rights and has an impact as to any potential recovery. A marine salvage attorney can help you determine if you have a strong case in Tampa.

Insurers are too willing and eager to tell you why you should be paid a minimal amount for the recovery services you provide. They will tell you there was no marine peril or that the peril was not that big of a deal. They will tell you that the owner of the vessel did not have coverage—or that it is very limited. The insurers will try to convince you that you have not even performed a rescue. Part of that argument by the insurer may have to do with the idea of where the services occurred. Unless you have performed your services over maritime waters, as many in Tampa are, you cannot make a claim for maritime salvage. This is where a marine salvage attorney truly benefits you if you run into trouble at sea.

Marine Salvage in Recent News

I mentioned the Okeechobee Waterway, as there was a recent event there where an 85-foot power catamaran ran aground inside the Waterway. The catamaran, known as “Hull 200, ” was headed from Alabama to New York City where it would be used as a high-speed passenger ferry. Cutting through the Waterway can save approximately 165 miles from going around the tip of Florida; however, the depth fluctuates. So the question is whether extracting this vessel would have been a maritime salvage?

Yes, under existing law, it would likely meet all of the three elements for marine salvage. It would also meet the requirement of occurring over navigable waters. It may be that the owner of the vessel already had a contract in place with a company to render assistance in the event of peril. Under that scenario, there would not be voluntary service. So, if the catamaran’s owners already had a contract with a company before the grounding, there would not be a maritime salvage in that case. However, as a marine salvage attorney could tell you, it would not be because of the location, it would be because the owners had already made prior arrangements for assistance if anything happened to the vessel.

Need Legal Advice? Call a Marine Salvage Attorney

For maritime salvors in Tampa, it is extremely important as to what you say, what you write, and your actions in pursuing a recovery claim. All of these factors can greatly reduce a salvor’s recovery, or increase a salvor’s recovery if you do it right.

The preceding is not meant to be legal advice, but is general information. Each scenario is different. If you have questions for a marine salvage attorney in Tampa, call us at the 888-BOAT-LAW number. There is never a charge to discuss your case.

We are ready to help you.

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