Click to call now!
firm logo

Can I File Suit Against a Sea Vessel?

July 05, 2022

Can I File Suit Against a Sea Vessel?

If you were hurt in an accident involving a sea vessel that was caused by the negligence of the vessel’s owner or operator, you normally might file a lawsuit against the owner/operator to recover compensation. However, various circumstances might make it infeasible to file suit against the person or entity that owns or operates the vessel, such as being unable to locate the owner/operator, not being able to obtain jurisdiction over a foreign owner/operator, or the owner/operator not having sufficient financial resources to compensate you in a lawsuit. In these circumstances, you might also have the option of filing a lawsuit against the vessel itself. While most people are familiar with filing lawsuits against people and corporations, suits can also be filed against property. However, the process of filing a lawsuit against a sea vessel is not quite the same as filing suit against the person or company that owns the vessel. This makes it critical to work with an experienced maritime accident lawyer to ensure that your rights are advocated for. 

How Do You File a Lawsuit Against a Sea Vessel?

A lawsuit against a sea vessel is typically called an admiralty action in rem. An action is considered “in rem” when the suit is filed against a piece of property, such as a ship. This differs from a traditional lawsuit, called an in personam action, in which the suit is filed against a person or entity. To file an in rem suit against a sea vessel, a claimant will usually first need to have a maritime lien on the ship. As with all other kinds of admiralty claims, the lawsuit must be filed in federal court. If the vessel is located in U.S. territorial waters, the suit typically must be filed in the federal district court covering the waters where the vessel is located. 

Once an in rem lawsuit is filed, the court will confirm the validity of the claimant’s maritime lien and issue an order to “arrest,” or seize the vessel. The claimant is required to make a cash deposit to cover the costs of arresting the vessel and maintaining security and insurance. The vessel’s owner is entitled to a prompt hearing in which the owner may contest the validity of the lien and appropriateness of the seizure. The vessel owner or operator may also choose to reach an agreement with the claimant to supply a bond to have the vessel released. If the vessel’s owner or operator fails to object to the seizure or does not post a bond or other security, the court can order the vessel sold by the U.S. Marshal.

When Would You File a Suit Against a Vessel?

You might choose to pursue a lawsuit against a sea vessel when the vessel’s owner is responsible for losses you sustained due to an accident or incident. An in rem action against a sea vessel can be pursued either alone or in conjunction with an in personam action against the vessel’s owner or operator. Pursuing an in rem action may be an option to pursue when you cannot locate the vessel’s owner or operator to serve them with a lawsuit. An in rem suit might also be your only option for financial recovery when the vessel’s owner or operator may not have sufficient financial assets to compensate you for your losses, and the vessel itself may be the only substantial asset the owner or operator has. 

What Happens If You Obtain a Judgment Against a Sea Vessel?

If you win an in rem action against a sea vessel, you may collect your judgment from the proceeds if the vessel was sold, or from the bond or other security that the vessel owner or operator posted to have the vessel released. The compensation that can be recovered in an in rem action is limited to the amount of your maritime lien. But the lien will be discharged even if the compensation you obtain does not cover the amount of the lien. However, if you pursue an in rem action in conjunction with an in personam action against the vessel owner or operator, you will have the option of pursuing a deficiency judgment against the owner/operator if the security/bond or proceeds from the sale of the vessel are not enough to cover your losses. 

How Can a Maritime Attorney Help Me in a Suit Against a Sea Vessel?

Pursuing a lawsuit against a sea vessel rather than a shipowner or shipping company can be a complex process that might not always represent the best option for recovering compensation. That is why you should turn to a maritime law attorney who can help you in an in rem action against a vessel by:

  • Evaluating the facts and circumstances of your case to determine whether filing a lawsuit against a sea vessel represents a good option for recovering compensation on your behalf
  • Ensuring you understand the process of and your obligations in an in rem suit against a vessel.
  • Obtaining the necessary maritime lien to authorize you to proceed in a suit against a vessel
  • Filing your lawsuit in court and representing you during the litigation proceedings, including court hearings to arrest/seize the vessel or to establish a bond or security for the vessel’s release
  • Advocating on your behalf in court and at trial to secure a judgment in your favor to collect from the bond/security or proceeds from the sale of the vessel
  • Pursuing a deficiency judgment against the vessel owner/operator if you also pursued an in personam lawsuit against them as well

Contact The Law Offices of Preston Easley for a Free Consultation to Discuss Your Legal Options for Recovering Compensation in a Maritime Accident 

If you were injured in a maritime accident, you may have various legal options for pursuing financial recovery. Reach out to a maritime accident attorney from The Law Offices of Preston Easley today for a free, no-obligation case evaluation to learn more about the process of filing a lawsuit against a maritime vessel to get the compensation you deserve.

Schedule Your Free

Cases We Handle

  • maritime worker working on ship

    Longshoremen & Shipyard Workers

    Longshoring and shipyard work are very dangerous occupations. Workers in these fields, along with marine construction workers, are covered by the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act, a very generous no-fault workers’ compensation system. It covers medical expenses, temporary disability, permanent disability and vocational rehabilitation.

    Read More
  • sea vessel docked at US shore

    Jones Act Seamen

    A seaman is a member of the crew of a vessel or group of vessels under common ownership or control. The vessel can be anything from a raft to a cargo ship. We represent seamen who work aboard recreational vessels, tugboats, dredges, barges, skiffs, workboats and cargo ships. We also represent seamen who are marine construction workers

    Read More
  • Diving

    We represent people who have been injured in SCUBA diving accidents and Commercial diving accidents. We also handle diving boat accidents. Diving can be very dangerous. We successfully represented a commercial diver who was seriously injured while cleaning the propeller of a U.S. Navy ship at Pearl Harbor

    Read More
  • accident at construction site and hard hat on floor

    Construction & Industrial Accidents

    Construction and industrial sites can be very dangerous. Although you generally cannot sue your own employer for a construction site or industrial accident (generally workers’ compensation is your exclusive remedy against your employer) there are many circumstances in which you can file a third party lawsuit against an entity other than your employer for an unsafe condition at a work site which causes you to be injured

    Read More
  • Forklift and Crane Injuries Lawyer

    Crane & Forklift Accidents

    The Easley firm has extensive experience with crane and forklift accidents and workplace accidents involving dangerous equipment and machinery. These accidents can be caused by operator error and they can be caused by the unsafe and defective condition of the equipment

    Read More
  • auto accident involving two cars on a city street

    Motor Vehicle & Truck Accidents

    Motor vehicle accidents can result in serious injury and death. These kinds of accidents can involve automobiles, trucks, motorcycles, bicycles, pedestrians and unsafe road design and unsafe road conditions

    Read More
  • Catamaran Injuries Attorney

    Passenger Vessel Accidents

    Passenger accidents are common on recreational vessels, catamarans, tour boats and cruise ships.  They are frequently caused by rough sea conditions and unsafe conditions aboard the vessels.  The Easley firm has extensive experience in the field of maritime law.  We have made new law in the field of maritime law with numerous precedent setting decisions in the State Appellate Courts, the Ninth Circuit Federal Court

    Read More
  • Defense Base Act

    The Defense Base Act is an extension of the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act which covers civilian employees of U.S. defense contractors injured overseas, including war zones. The Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensations Act as extended by the Defense Base Act is a very generous no fault workers’ compensation system

    Read More

Areas Where We Practice

Preston Easley is a graduate of the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, MD. He served five years of active duty as a Naval officer — three years as a deck officer on a fast frigate and two years as a patrol boat skipper. Mr. Easley also served aboard a tank landing ship in the reserves.




Let Us Get You The Compensation You Deserve

Preston Easley is an experienced lawyer with considerable expertise in handling federal and state personal injury cases. He will aggressively seek the maximum amount of compensation you are entitled to receive. Attorney Easley represents victims of serious and fatal accidents involving cars, trucks, construction projects and maritime work.

Construction Workers We Help

  • Crane and Forklift Operators
  • Pile Drivers
  • Scaffold Workers
  • Iron Workers
  • Carpenters
  • Electricians
  • Operating Engineers
  • Electricians

Maritime Workers We Help

  • National Steel and Shipbuilding Company (NASSCO) Shipyard Workers
  • Manson Construction Company Workers
  • Manson Dredging Workers
  • Dutra Dredging Workers
  • Commercial Divers
  • Scuba Divers
  • Commercial Fisherman
  • Government Maritime Claims Against the Navy, Army Corps of Engineers, or the US Coast Guard, etc.
  • Marine Construction Workers
  • Offshore Oil and Gas Workers
  • Seamen
  • Shipyard Workers
  • YYK Enterprises, Inc.
  • Pacific Tugboat Service
  • Long Beach Container Terminal
  • Tugboat, Dredge, Longshoremen, and Ferry Workers
  • Barge Crews and Barge Workers
  • Marisco Limited
  • HL Welding
  • SSA Marine
  • Catalina Express
  • R.E. State Engineering
  • Shimmick Construction
  • Nova Group
  • American Scaffolding
  • Safway Scaffolding
  • Kirby Tugs
  • Crowley Tugboats
  • P&R Water Taxi
  • Continental Maritime
  • Pacific Ship Repair
  • Seaward Marine
  • Healy Tibbitts
  • General Construction
  • BAE Shipyards
  • South Coast Welding
  • Matson
  • Pasha
  • Hawaii Stevedores, Inc.
  • McCabe, Hamilton & Renny
  • Young Brothers
  • Sause Bros.
  • Foss Maritime
  • Fenix Marine Services
  • ITS
  • Total Terminals
  • TraPac
  • PCMC
  • Maersk
  • Yang Ming
  • China Overseas Shipping
  • Evergreen

Boating Accidents

  • Catamaran Accidents
  • Charter and Tour Boats
  • Cruise Ship Accidents
  • Passenger Accidents
  • Jet Ski and Personal Watercraft
  • Motorboat Accidents
  • Recreational Accidents
  • Scuba Diving Accidents
  • Speed Boat Accidents
  • Yachts and Sail Boat Accidents
  • Repair Accidents
  • Crew Accidents
310-773-5207© 2024 Preston Easley. All Rights Reserved.Disclaimer.Site Map.