In cases involving maritime and offshore accidents, there are often multiple defendants who may be responsible to a plaintiff for his or her injuries. This poses an interesting question for the victims of offshore accidents: how much responsibility should each defendant bear?
Joint and Several Liability Under the General Maritime Law
Assuming that the general maritime law applies to an offshore or maritime injury case, the defendants will be subject to “joint and several” liability. This means that each defendant who is found to be negligent (regardless of the percentage of negligence) will be responsible to the plaintiff for the entirety of his or her damages. It is important to understand that this is very different from comparative fault schemes that allocate fault amongst defendants by percentages.
To appreciate how this makes a difference, consider the following example. Assume that a plaintiff’s damages are $100,000 and two defendants are each allocated 50% of the fault for the accident. Under a comparative fault system (such as that used by Louisiana state law) in a typical personal injury case, each defendant would only be responsible for $50,000 of the plaintiff’s damages. Joint and several liability, on the other hand, would impose $100,000 of the plaintiff’s damages on each defendant. It makes no difference that one defendant may be immune from suit, such as because of worker’s compensation immunity.
The rule helps to protect the plaintiff from the possibility that one company might go bankrupt or otherwise be unable to pay its share. While the rule has been criticized over the years, it has withstood many legal challenges, with the courts continuing to extend this protection to offshore and maritime workers.
Call a Louisiana Offshore Injury Lawyer Today
If you have been injured in an offshore accident, call New Orleans maritime lawyer, Mike Mahone today at (504) 564-7342 to discuss your options. There is no charge for an initial consultation to discuss your potential case.