Unfortunately, working at sea aboard vessels, along docks or on oilrigs is a dangerous job.
Surviving family members who have buried a loved one killed in a maritime accident are often left with emotional devastation, confusion and unanswered questions. In addition to the grieving process, survivors become vulnerable to the victim’s employer and insurance carrier eager to settle the claim for an amount far less than the value of the claim.
In addition to strict statutes and laws designed to offer protection to those working at sea, there have also been significant improvements in technology and safety equipment. Even so, working on the open waters continues to be a dangerous occupation. Unfortunately, many maritime wrongful deaths could be avoided if shipping companies, ship owners and employers provided better training to their crew and captains.
Maritime laws regulate employers working on or around open waters to provide a seaworthy vessel and a safe environment for all crewmen to perform their duties. When a mariner is killed on the job, surviving family members can seek financial compensation through a maritime wrongful death suit to cover their losses. If negligence or unseaworthiness of a vessel can be proven to be the cause of death, survivors can file additional claims for recompense.
Under maritime law, there are three specific opportunities for surviving family members to file a wrongful death claim for compensation. These include the Jones Act, the Death on High Seas Act, and the Longshore and Harbor Worker’s Compensation Act.
The Jones Act: Rights Afforded to the Family of a Deceased Maritime Worker
Since 1920, some form of the Jones Act has been enforced, providing compensable relief to maritime workers injured or killed while working on water. Survivors must prove two specific elements to receive compensation including:
- The deceased victim was contributing to the vessel’s mission or function, where at least 30 percent of their duties were vessel-associated
- The victim’s death occurred while performing duties while permanently assigned to the vessel and negligence or vessel unseaworthiness directly caused the victim’s death
Additional compensation might also be recovered by surviving family members when allegations can be established that the vessel owner is liable for its unseaworthiness or any negligence the killed the victim.
Death on High Seas Act
Pecuniary compensation through the Death on High Seas Act (DOHSA) is available if the deceased seaman, captain, deck hand or other crewmember was killed farther than three miles from the shoreline. Dependent relatives including spouses and children can apply for nearly every type of financial recompense with the exception of compensation for emotional trauma and loss of companionship.
Surviving children can file a claim for damages when the death of a parent occurs on the open sea. Available compensation might involve a loss of moral and physical training, nurturing, education and nutrition. If the deceased’s employer, the owner of the vessel or other party is directly responsible for negligence or unseaworthiness, they can be held legally liable for compensation.
Survival Benefits Under the Longshore and Harbor Worker’s Compensation Act
Survival benefits through the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act (LHWCA) are available to family members of a loved one killed while performing duties as a longshoreman or harbor worker. However, all claims must be filed within a strict time limitations, with notification of no more than 30 days from the date of the victim’s death, or no more than 30 days once the beneficiary becomes aware of the victim’s death. This act works much like the Jones Act with one major difference – it is not required that the deceased victim contributed to the vessel’s function or work.
Hiring an Attorney to Prosecute the Death of a Maritime Worker
Survivors have a legal right to seek recompense for the loss of a loved one killed at sea. These include:
- The loss of all wages prior to death along with lost future financial support
- All accident-related medical expenses of the victim prior to death
- Compensation for any accident-related pain or suffering the victim endured prior to their death
Wrongful death claimants can include spouses, children, siblings, parents and other relatives.
Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers can answer any question about the rights of all surviving family members seeking compensation in a maritime wrongful death case. Our skilled attorneys at (888) 424-5757 offer a free initial consultation to provide various legal options to obtain recompense. We can assist you in holding all parties at fault for the death accountable for their negligence.