Written by attorney Dennis Michael Mcelwee

Would A Seaman's Family Be Able To File A Wrongful Death Suit?

Families of seamen who lost their lives in the course of work may have legal protection under United States maritime laws. The circumstances will determine which laws you're able to file claims under.

If your loved one lost his life at sea while working, an experienced maritime attorney can help determine your rights and support you in deciding whether to file a claim.

The Death On The High Seas Act Defined

The Death on the High Seas Act, also known as DOHSA, is a collection of maritime laws providing for reparations to family members of seamen killed in international waters due to negligence on the part of a coworker or the vessel. In the event that the death took place more than 3 miles from the coast of the United States or its territories, family members may be entitled to submit complaints under this legislation.

Settlement may only be given to the worker's spouse, children or dependent relatives and is restricted to financial and pecuniary damages. Family members could also be eligible for emotional damages in some circumstances.

Wives and husbands might also be able to claim loss of household services, referring to the loss of assistance given by the seaman in raising children and performing household functions. DOHSA doesn't allow for loss of support, consortium and companionship damages and preempts state or other maritime laws that do.

Jones Act Claims

As the name suggests, the DOHSA is exclusively for death incidences of a seaman. If your family member was injured as a seaman, he should seek a case under the Jones act law, which protects specific sorts of maritime workers who have been hurt in the line of work due to negligence. There will be times, however, when surviving family members will be able to file a Jones Act wrongful death claim.

In the event that your family member was killed in U.S. waters within a marine league of shore or while in port, the surviving family could be permitted to file suit under this law as opposed to the DOHSA. In this situation, the family members can be entitled to claim additional damages. If carelessness or claims of unseaworthiness against the vessel owner are recognized, reparation for loss of consortium and punitive damages might be possible.

Other Wrongful Death Laws That May Apply

The Jones Act sets forth remedy for the families of seamen who died as a result of employer negligence. In the event that the incident was because of negligence in whole or in part by a party other than the employer, the seaman's family members could be able to file claim under general maritime law or state wrongful death statutes.

When the death takes place inside federal waters, the wrongful death laws of the abutting state may be applied. All the same, with the many factors that go into deciding whether a legal claim is possible and what statute it should be submitted under, asking a maritime lawyer is the advisable solution for the families of seamen who lost their lives in the course of their work.

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