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Loss of life and injury on the high seas - Captain of Costa Concordia on trial

By Principal Lawyer, Occupiers and Public Liability

It has long been tradition on the high seas that if a ship goes down, the captain will be the last person to leave the ship. Heroics and romantic ideals to one side, there is a good reason for this in that not only does a ship essentially belong to the captain as he is in charge, he has a duty to those on board ship to provide them with safe passage and has a responsibility therefore that if the ship is going down, those on board are safely looked after before the captain finally leaves the ship. 

Leaving also to one side the fact that the trial against the captain of the Costa Concordia is still on-going, the fact of the matter is that the captain left his ship when others were still on board and was already safely on dry land when 32 passengers and crew lost their lives.  

I am quite sure the Italian Courts will come to the right decision as to the penalty which the captain should now serve.

I have prepared a blog previously on the difficulty in bringing a claim involving a maritime accident, that Special Drawing Rights apply so that the level of compensation that is available is limited save in circumstances where the person in charge, in this case the captain, can be shown to have acted recklessly with knowledge of the outcome of what his recklessness might cause.

Only in such circumstances will a Court then allow the limit on compensation that is payable to all the Claimants (as being a maximum whether or not there is one Claimant or 100 Claimants), to be put to one side and for compensation then to be unlimited.

I have little doubt that such arguments are now being raised against the parent company, The Carnival Corporation, and that significant claims will be made by those who were injured and the surviving relations of those who were killed.  

One of the sad factors of this case other than the significant injuries and loss of life, is that there is (I understand) a possibility that there may have been a greater loss of life in that others may have died who were not listed as passengers or crew.  

The reality is, that it is possible the death toll may have been even higher. 

Read more about Accident at Sea Claims and Fatal Accident Claims.