Unfortunately, the risk of dying on the job is high for seamen, commercial fishermen, longshore workers, harbor workers, offshore workers, and other maritime workers. If you die on the job because of an employer’s negligence, your dependent loved ones have rights. They can file wrongful death lawsuits and get the compensation they are entitled to.
Jones Act Wrongful Death Claims
The Jones Act is a law that protects seamen working in the maritime industry. There are very specific qualifications that must be met to be considered a seaman and for this law to apply to you and your situation.
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If you meet the requirements of a seaman, your loved ones have the right to sue and file a wrongful death claim through the Jones Act if you die on the job. Jobs for seamen are risky, so you must know that your dependents have these rights if the worst happens.
With the guidance of a maritime lawyer, your loved ones, such as a spouse or child, can file a suit under the Jones Act to fight for compensation. The burden of proof is low, and it only needs to be shown that negligence contributed to the accident to any degree.
The kind of compensation your loved ones may need includes:
- Money to cover funeral expenses
- Lost wages
- Non-economic damages
The Jones Act specifically targets accidents in which an employer can be found negligent. If an action of your employer could have prevented your death, your loved ones are entitled to these benefits.
Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act (LHWCA) Claims
Many maritime workers are not covered under the Jones Act because they don’t qualify as seamen. These include people who work in harbor areas, in ports and dockyards, and whose work contributes to the maritime industry, even though they don’t go out to see ships and other vessels.
Harbor and port workers are covered under the LHWCA. This law also includes rights for the dependent loved ones of those who die on the job.
If your dependents need to file a claim under the LHWCA, unlike under the Jones Act, this law does not require them to prove negligence. If you die doing your job, they are entitled to compensation:
- The LHWCA allows widows to receive 50 percent of their deceased spouse’s average salary. These benefits last until that person’s remarriage or death.
- Dependent children receive one-sixth of the deceased worker’s average salary.
- This benefit is the same for all dependent children but cannot exceed two-thirds of the average salary in total.
- If the widowed spouse remarries or dies and benefits stop, the benefits to the dependent children increase to 50 percent of the average wage. These benefits last until a child is 18 or 23 if studying as a full-time student.
The Death on the High Seas Act (DOHSA)
The DOHSA is another law protecting seamen. The Jones Act can compensate dependents when a worker dies anywhere on the job. The DOHSA covers dependents when the seaman dies three or more nautical miles out to sea from the coast of the U.S.
Like the Jones Act, dependents filing a claim under this law must be able to prove that their loved one died because of a wrongful act or negligence related to the vessel being unseaworthy.
Unseaworthiness is broadly defined. The burden of proof for this law is relatively low. Dependents are entitled to receive money to cover the lost financial support from the deceased’s wages, funeral expenses, and money to compensate for pain and suffering, including coverage for mental health care related to the death.
Statute of Limitations and Eligibility
All of these laws that allow dependents to file wrongful death suits have statutes of limitations. If you lost a loved one to a maritime job, make sure that you file your claim promptly. Ensure you know when your time will run out to take advantage of the law and get the money you owe.
There are also eligibility requirements for these laws and time frame limitations. The benefits allowed are limited to dependents, children, and spouses. Ex-spouses may not seek compensation.
Family members other than children and spouses may be eligible for benefits if they depend financially on the deceased. This could include siblings, grandparents, and others.
When you lose a loved one to a maritime job, it’s a difficult situation. You have experienced a personal loss but also have practical matters to consider. It isn’t easy to navigate the world of maritime law, even if you are not grieving.
Find a good lawyer to represent you, help you file your claim, and make your case for compensation. With an experienced maritime lawyer, you can rest assured that you will be eligible, file before the statute of limitation, and get as much compensation as you deserve for your terrible loss.