Two Ships Travelling in Thick FogA collision between two vessels at sea can be a traumatizing and deadly experience. In some cases, only one vessel is moving—the other suffers damage and losses simply because it is in the moving vessel’s path. These accidents are known as allisions, and they can be just as devastating to the vessels and crew members in the crash.

What Causes an Allision?

An allision is a maritime accident where a vessel strikes a stationary object. Although modern ships use global positioning systems (GPS), radar, and other navigational technology, allisions are still common throughout the world. These accidents may happen due to poor judgment, inattention, or other human error.

You may have an allision injury case if your vessel collided with:

  • Another vessel. Two ships that are passing close to one another are required to follow the accepted Rules of Navigation, and both have a duty to avoid collisions. The vessels should stay in communication to determine which vessel will “stand-on” and which will “give-way.” If the “give-way” vessel doesn’t take action to avoid a collision, the “stand-on” vessel must do everything possible to prevent an impending collision. These crashes are especially likely in foggy, windy, or stormy weather.
  • A stationary object. An allision doesn’t necessarily involve two vessels. It can involve any object that isn’t in motion, such as a dock, buoy, bridge, or island. The moving ship is generally found to be at fault in these situations, even if it was unmanned at the time of the collision. If a vessel breaks loose from its moorings in a storm and strikes a tethered sailboat, the owner of the vessel would likely be found liable.
  • A fixed platform. Vessels that veer off course or travel too close to the shore may crash into oil platforms or drilling rigs, resulting in fires or explosions. In addition to severe burn injuries and fatalities, these crashes can cause oil spills that can take millions of dollars in cleanup and restoration.

Who Is Responsible for an Allision Injury?

Many different federal rules and statutes could apply when a vessel strikes a stationary object. If the vessel was in navigable waters when the accident occurred, all U.S. maritime laws should apply when determining liability for the damage caused by the crash.

There are a number of ways to get payment for the costs of an allision injury, including:

  • The owner of the at-fault vessel. The crewmember or shipowner of the vessel that caused the allision is liable for any damages that result. A previous allusion case led to the creation of the Oregon Rule, which presumes liability against the vessel that was moving. However, the owner of the moving vessel can defend against the Oregon Rule by proving that the stationary vessel caused the accident, or that the accident was unavoidable. If the owner of the moving vessel can prove that the other vessel was partly to blame, the court could assign a portion of liability to each vessel.
  • The Jones Act. Maritime workers who spend the majority of time at sea are likely covered for work-related injuries under the Jones Act. This workers’ compensation law provides maintenance and cure payments to injured seamen, and also allows them to sue their employers for negligence if the employer failed to provide a safe work environment.
  • Shipowners. Jones Act seamen also have the right to sue the shipowner for unseaworthiness if the allision was caused by unsafe conditions aboard the vessel.

If you or someone you love has been injured while serving on a ship, it is vital that you contact the experienced maritime injury attorneys at Hofmann & Schweitzer as soon as possible. Call 1-800-3-MAY-DAY or fill out our online contact form today to set up a consultation. To learn more about what to do after an accident at sea, download your complimentary copy of our guide, Are You a Seaman Injured in a Maritime Accident? Know Your Rights.


Paul T. Hofmann
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Focused on personal injury, with an emphasis on maritime, railroad and construction worker tort claims.