The risk of being caught in an accident and being injured is higher in maritime jobs than in any other industry. The risk of dying on the job is also very real for seamen, commercial fishermen, longshore workers, harbor workers, offshore workers, and other people in the maritime industry. True accidents, like those caused by rough waters or bad weather are possible, but so too are accidents caused by someone’s negligence.
If you die on the job because of negligence that can be pinned to your employer, your dependent loved ones have rights. They can file wrongful death lawsuits and get the compensation to which they are entitled. Anything from an unseaworthy vessel to inadequate training for a job can be considered negligent and may lead to a deadly accident. Know that if the worst happens, experienced maritime lawyers can help your loved ones fight for compensation.
Wrongful Death Claims under the Jones Act
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. If you to meet the requirements of a seaman, your loved ones have the right to sue and file a wrongful death claim through the Jones Act in the event that you die on the job. Jobs for seamen are risky and dangerous, so it is important for you to 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 kind of compensation your loved ones may need includes money to cover funeral expenses and to cover your lost wages which they depended on for living expenses. The Jones Act specifically targets accidents in which an employer can be found negligent, so if your death could have been prevented by an action of your employer, your loved ones are entitled to these benefits. The burden of proof is low and it only need be shown that negligence contributed to the accident to any degree.
Longshore and Harbor Worker’s 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 on ships and other vessels. These workers are covered under the LHWCA, and the law also includes rights for 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 died doing your job, they are entitled to compensation. The LHWCA allows for 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 salary. 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 an additional law protecting seamen. The Jones Act can provide compensation for 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 has a broad definition and 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, money for 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 in a timely manner. Each law has its own statute of limitations that determines when you are no longer eligible to file. Make sure you know when your time will run out so that you can take advantage of the law and get the money you are owed.
There are also eligibility requirements for these laws, in addition to the 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 were financially dependent 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 you also have practical matters to consider. It isn’t easy to navigate the world of maritime law, even if you were not grieving. It’s important that you find a good lawyer to represent you and to 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, that you will file before the statute of limitation runs out, and that you will get as much compensation as you deserve for your terrible loss.