Casualty Investigation – Litigation Support
The investigation of marine casualties is one of our main areas of expertise and experience. Whenever a marine casualty occurs, liabilities can arise through contract, tort or statute. Often, liability can be routinely established and a course of action determined without the need for outside assistance.
In many cases, however, liability may not be clear-cut – information may be lacking, evidence unavailable, crucial pieces of the jigsaw missing. Before meaningful legal advice can be obtained or strategies developed, it is sometimes essential that these missing jigsaw pieces be brought together. Our role in these cases is to identify and gather information - and in particular - evidence - that will enable our clients to determine liabilities with a high degree of confidence and so achieve a satisfactory and early result with the minimum of disruption to their business relationships.
We have witnessed the evidence we have obtained in marine disputes withstand varying levels of attack in negotiations, mediations, arbitration and court hearings - both in the UK and abroad. We know how evidence is used and the relative value of different kinds of evidence. Most importantly, we know how to get it.
We have dealt with many types of casualties, including:
Collisions + Allisions
Groundings, Strandings + Founderings
Salvage, Towage, Pollution + Wreck removal
Fire + Explosions
Hull + Machinery damage
Cargo Loss + damage
Piracy + Phantom Ship fraud
Shipyard + Terminal accidents
Total losses ATL + CTL
Loss of Life + Personal injury
Mega Yacht casualties
Casualty Investigation – Safety Analysis BACK TO TOP
We apply some of the same techniques we use in gathering evidence in the marine claims arena – such as cognitive interviewing and witness empathy – in matters where the emphasis is on safety improvement rather than attribution of blame.
Such matters include flag State accident investigations, where we supplement and support the flag State authority's existing investigation framework, or an accident investigation set up by a ship owner or manager as part of his statutory obligations.
Unskilled investigators often overlook the human factor, both as a cause and a consequence of marine casualties. We believe our ability to detect self-serving motivations and other factors influencing behaviour, together with our understanding of the trauma that can affect those involved in marine accidents, are second to none and bring tangible benefits to our work.
Casualty Management BACK TO TOP
We like casualty management because it gets us out of the office.
Increasingly, casualties attract a wide range of interested parties and may require the skills of a number of different disciplines. The more active stance of Port and Coastal States of recent times can add to the complexity of handling and co-ordinating these varied and often conflicting interests.
In all that we do we aim to protect and enhance our client's position. To that end we are frequently required to take on a casualty management role when attending live casualties as investigators. Equally, we can act solely as casualty managers if the client requires. We are used to dealing and working with surveyors, superintendents, salvors, repairers, specialist experts and local lawyers, as well as the apparatus typical of any self-respecting police state. The client's team alone can easily exceed the number that can be counted on two hands. Naturally, everyone expects unfettered access to the Master, who may have recently experienced enough excitement to last the rest of his lifetime. If not protected, most Masters will accept these demands with good grace, such that extreme fatigue and stress and deteriorating performance are the almost inevitable consequences.
In addition to the obvious technical and organisational skills, casualty management requires good inter-personal skills, including decency, humour and assertiveness. The ability to win arguments by shouting the loudest, by having the longest unblinking but squinty stare, etc, is also helpful on occasion.
There are a number of ways we can assist clients in casualty management, from assembling the client's team and co-ordinating their activities, acting as a bolt-on to the client's existing crisis management structure, to working to the requirements of the client's legal advisors. We believe flexibility and responsiveness are important aspects of our approach.
Post-Casualty Analysis BACK TO TOP
Whether we have obtained information and evidence ourselves or whether the client has provided us with evidence such as documents, statements and experts reports, our legal case handling experience combined with our technical understanding allows us readily to analyse evidence and assist in determining liabilities.
Much of our time is spent analysing documents and other forms of evidence in relation to issues of causation, negligence, due diligence, seaworthiness, quantum and privity within the context of contracts of carriage and of insurance. Our comprehensive reports are written in plain English and contain a level of detail and analysis that is commensurate with the size, value and complexity of the subject matter.
If the client requires, we will in addition to our conclusions provide advice on corrective action and/or our recommendations on further conduct or handling of the matter.
Claims Consultancy BACK TO TOP
We are on hand to assist clients with their claims handling. We provide a legally aware consultancy, which enables us to bring together the technical and legal issues arising from marine claims. We do not have a fixed procedure or a "one size fits all" approach to our claims consultancy. We do not insist on taking control away from the client. On the contrary, our aim is to add value by assisting the client to achieve the best result with the optimum use of its own resources.
In the initial stages of a claim we can obtain, gather and analyse evidence. After handing the "ammunition" over to the client our involvement may come to an end.
However, if the client chooses, thereafter we can recommend, appoint and instruct surveyors, experts, solicitors, Counsel and foreign lawyers on behalf of the client and if necessary co-ordinate the activities of these service providers. For example, we are frequently used to assist experts to produce reports for use in litigation by highlighting the contentious issues and ensuring the experts deal with them objectively and comprehensively. We can advise or represent clients in settlement negotiations, London arbitrations and other forms of alternative dispute resolution.
Marine Consultancy BACK TO TOP
We also offer a straightforward marine technical consultancy dealing with:
Risk Assessment of Terminals, Fleets + Unique Marine Projects
Dry + Liquid Cargoes
Cargo Stowage, Handling and Securing issues
Safety of Navigation
ISM, Safety + QA Management systems
Repair invoice reviews
Regulatory + Certification issues
Review of Class documentation
Ship Maintenance + Repair
Laytime + Demurrage
Offhire + Bunker quality
Root Cause Analysis
Expert Opinion Work BACK TO TOP
When we worked as marine investigators + consultants with a firm of English solicitors our ability to act as expert witnesses was restricted. Now that we are independent consultants we are able to provide clients with expert witness services within our areas of marine expertise.
In addition to acting as investigators in a particular matter we can now in appropriate cases continue to act on behalf of the client in the roles of expert witnesses - experts, who see and gather the evidence first-hand. How good is that!
Clients should, however, bear in mind, as we do, that expert witnesses have an overriding duty to assist the Court. Objectivity and independence are vital in ensuring that our clients do not make expensive mistakes.