Q: My spouse was lost during a storm at sea. Am I eligible to receive death benefits?
Yes, if your spouse is covered under one or more types of maritime law. Both the Death on the High Seas Act and the Jones Act provide death benefits. Maritime workers frequently endure dangerous work conditions, and they may be killed due to injuries, ship collisions, and sinkings.
Death on the High Seas Act
If the death occurred at least three nautical miles away from shore, the Death on the High Seas Act (DOHSA) can provide benefits to the worker’s dependants. The victim’s spouse, parents, children, and dependant relatives are permitted to file claims. Qualifying for benefits under DOHSA requires proof of negligence or wrongdoing, such as the operation of a vessel that isn’t seaworthy.
There are two areas of recovery in conventional wrongful death claims that are unavailable for lawsuits under DOHSA:
- The deceased’s medical expenses. Since the family of the victim doesn’t pay his medical expenses before he dies, they don’t qualify for reimbursement under DOHSA.
- Pain and suffering. Since the suffering of the victim prior to his death is non-economic in nature, it isn’t covered under DOHSA.
The Jones Act
The Jones Act protects a worker’s dependants by providing a way to sue an employer after an accident in which the employer is negligent. It offers death benefits for seamen, including crew members of all types. The worker’s dependants will need to show that his employer was negligent, and that the employer’s negligence was at least partly responsible for the accident that killed him. His family may pursue death benefits under the Jones Act by suing the employer.
Death benefits can cover:
- Loss of future wages.
- Loss of companionship.
- Funeral expenses.
You Need an Attorney
The exact amount of compensation you may receive will vary depending on the type of applicable maritime law. You need an experienced attorney to help you determine the type of claim that is most appropriate for your case. To learn more, contact the law offices of Steve M. Lee, P.C., by clicking the Live Chat button on this page.