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Can Family Of Seamen File Wrongful Death Claims?

Families of seamen killed in the course of work may have legal recourse under U.S. maritime laws. The circumstances will determine which laws you are able to file claims under.

If your loved one was killed at sea while working, an experienced maritime lawyer can help determine your rights and assist you in deciding whether to file a claim.

What Is The Death On The High Seas Act?

The Death on the High Seas Act, also known as DOHSA, is a maritime law providing for the compensation of families of seamen killed in international waters because of negligence on the part of a crew member or the vessel he was on. If the death occurred more than three miles from the coast of the United States or its territories, families may be entitled to file claims under this legislation.

Compensation can only be made to the worker’s spouse, children or dependent relatives and is limited to financial and pecuniary damages. Families may also be eligible for emotional damages under some circumstances.

Spouses may also be able to claim loss of household services, referring to the loss of help provided by the seaman in raising children and household tasks. DOHSA does not allow for loss of support, consortium and companionship damages and preempts state or other maritime laws that do.

Claims Under The Jones Act

As the name would indicate, the DOHSA is specifically for incidences of death of a seaman. If your loved one was injured while working as a seaman, he should pursue a claim under the Jones Act, which protects specific types of maritime workers who have been injured in the course of work because of negligence. There are instances, however, where a surviving spouse, children or parents can file a Jones Act wrongful death claim.

If your family member was killed in U.S. waters within a marine league of shore or while in port, the surviving family may be eligible to file a claim under this law rather than the DOHSA. In this case, the family may be eligible to claim additional damages. If negligence or claims of unseaworthiness against the vessel owner can be established, damages for loss of consortium and punitive damages may be possible.

Other Wrongful Death Laws That May Apply

The Jones Act establishes remedy for the families of seamen killed due to employer negligence. If the death was the result of negligence in part or in whole by a party other than the employer, the seaman’s family may be able to file a claim under general maritime law or state wrongful death statutes.

When the death occurs within federal waters, the wrongful death laws of the adjoining state may be applicable. However, with the many factors that go into determining not only whether a claim is possible but also what statute it should be filed under, consulting a maritime lawyer is the best course of action for the families of seamen killed in the course of their work.

If your loved one was killed in the course of his work as a seaman, contact the experienced maritime lawyers at Schechter, Shaffer & Harris, L.L.P., Accident & Injury Lawyers  today to find out if you have a case.

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