Accidents

In other words, what Section 1 appears to mean is that the court must apportion liability in proportion to the degree in which each vessel was at fault, unless it is impossible to do so. Under the common maritime law and before the introduction of the 1911 Act, damages resulting from a collision were divided equally regardless of any specific percentage of faults attributed against either vessel – the ‘equally divided damages’ rule. It can be seen, therefore, that Section 1 of the 1911 Act is a major departure from this previous rule. Today, only if the evidence is not sufficiently clear to apportion specific percentages should blame and damages be divided equally. In The Linde (1969) blame was apportioned equally in a situation where, although each vessel was guilty of three serious faults, there was, looking at the case as a whole, no clear preponderance of blame. As Section 1 of the 1911 Act only has relevance to the establishment of the degrees of blame of the vessels respectively and actually at fault, it does not restrict the right of any innocent vessel to sue either of the two negligent vessels jointly or severally for its entire loss. Section 1 is concerned with damage to property and has no application to personal injury or loss of life. The position of the personal injury/loss of life claimant differs from the claimant in respect of property damage. Where death has resulted, the cause of action for wrongful death will, if British jurisdiction is contemplated, be framed within the provisions of the Fatal Accidents Act 1976. Section 2 of the 1911 Act reserves to the defendant any right he may have to limit his liability and/or any other defence which might be available to him.