Michelle Otero Valdés, B.C.S
Michelle Otero Valdés is an admiralty and maritime trial attorney as well as an internationally recognized authority on marine insurance who has been providing skilled and practical guidance since 1994. As a Florida Bar board certified lawyer representing a vast range of maritime interests, she has published articles relating to admiralty and maritime law and blogs regularly on issues affecting the maritime industry. She also frequently serves as a lecturer for continuing legal education courses and commercial trade organizations.
Born and raised in Central Florida, Michelle has always loved the sea. In fact, every weekend throughout her childhood not spent sailing or rowing was spent fishing, shrimping or scalloping. It was during those years of her youth that Michelle developed a personal appreciation for the maritime industry.
Michelle first attended Florida International University College of Business where she earned a bachelor’s degree in international business and management. She then graduated with a Juris Doctorate degree from St. Thomas University School of Law. During her years in law school, Michelle worked as a volunteer for Casa Marina, now known as Seafarer’s House in Port Everglades, providing visiting mariners with practical care and spiritual support. Michelle also worked as a law clerk for a maritime plaintiff’s firm, primarily handling crewmember cases against their employers. Upon graduating from law school, Michelle began working as an associate at a maritime defense firm in Miami. For the first three years of her career, Michelle handled primarily personal injury cases such as water born and land side injuries involving port workers, shipboard casualties, incidents involving brown water vessels and Florida state workers compensation claims.
According to Michelle, the aspect that sets her apart from most other attorneys is her in-depth understanding of client perspective. She credits this ability to the experience she gained when she left her first job as a lawyer to work as an in-house claims executive for Thomas Miller, at the time, the largest marine insurer in the world. For over eight years, Michelle handled third-party liability matters including thru transport (TT), protection and indemnity (P&I) and freight, demurrage and defense (FDD) claims for the South American syndicate of the UK Club. “I was able to get into the nitty gritty of the day-to-day handling of a matter outside of litigation, and I learned a lot about managing litigation costs,” says Michelle. She also discovered that to fully understand what a client wants out of a case, it is essential to take the time to learn his or her perspective.
In 2006, Michelle went back into private practice as a partner with a big maritime firm in Miami, where she held many of the same responsibilities as her former in-house position but with the added practice of yacht and marina work. Michelle remained in the marine department of that firm for eight years before finally deciding to venture out on her own.
Michelle has been an independent attorney since 2012, owning a hybrid style firm that is affiliated with Chalos & Co in Miami. Michelle investigates and defends cases nationwide against the United States Department of Justice and handles other admiralty cases in federal court. Michelle handles other maritime matters in Florida state courts. Michelle’s many specialties include maritime casualties; marine pollution claims under The Oil Pollution Act of 1990; The International Convention on Civil Liability for Oil Pollution Damage; defense of maritime death and personal injury claims; passenger and crew claims; commercial maritime contracts and transactions; claims coverage evaluations; salvage and Special Compensation P&I Club Clause claims; cargo claims and recoveries; P&I and FDD insurance claims; freight forwarder/non-vessel-operating common carrier liability claims; yacht disputes; and other marine industry disputes.
Michelle Otero Valdés, B.C.S.
Chalos & Co, P.C.