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Average in United Kingdom

Definition of Average

In accordance with the work A Dictionary of Law, this is a description of Average :

1. (in marine insurance) A loss or damage arising from an event at sea.

2. A reduction in the amount payable under an insurance policy in respect of a partial loss of property. All marine insurance policies are subject to average under the Marine Insurance Act 1906; other policies may be subject to average if they contain express provision to that effect (an average clause).

In maritime law, the expression general (or gross) average is used in relation to certain acts, to the losses they cause, and to the rights of contribution to which they give rise. A general-average act consists of any sacrifice or expenditure made intentionally and reasonably to preserve property involved in a sea voyage. For example, the jettisoning of some of a ship’s cargo to keep it afloat during a storm is a general-average act. The loss directly resulting from a general-average act is called general-average loss and is borne proportionately by all whose property has been saved. The owner of jettisoned cargo, for example, is entitled to a contribution from other cargo owners as well as the shipowners; such a contribution is called a general-average contributio The principle of general average is common to the laws of all maritime nations, but the detailed rules are not uniform. To overcome conflict of law, a standard set of rules was agreed in the 19th century at international conferences of shipowners and others held at York and Antwerp. These, known as the York-Antwerp rules, do not have the force of law, but it is common practice to incorporate them (as subsequently amended) in contracts of *affreightment, thereby displacing national laws. The basic principle is that an insured who has suffered a general-average loss may recover the whole of it from his underwriters without enforcing his rights to contribution; these become enforceable by the underwriters instead.

By contrast, particular average (also called simple or petty average) relates purely to marine insurance. It consists of any partial loss that is not a general-average loss (for example, the damage of cargo by seawater). It is therefore borne purely by the person suffering it and is frequently covered by a policy only in limited circumstances. A ship sold free from average is free from any claims whatsoever.


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MacCallum, 'Average' (lawi.org.uk 2015) <https://lawi.org.uk/average/> accesed 2022 May 20

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Schema Summary

  • Article Name: Average
  • Author: MacCallum
  • Description: Definition of Average In accordance with the work A Dictionary of Law, this is a description of Average : 1. (in marine [...]

This entry was last updated: January 15, 2015


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