Everything You Need to Know About Fatal Diving Accidents and Wrongful Death Claims
Diving accidents very rarely prove to be fatal. But when a diver loses his life on the job, his surviving family is left to carry on and pick up the pieces—and knowing this sort of death is uncommon is no comfort.
According to recent data taken from the Annual Divers Alert Network and a 2013 study from the National Center for Biotechnology Information, fewer than 100 divers a year suffer fatal accidents. However, within this small set we can see some alarming patterns:
- Isolation risks. Divers were alone in more than 85% of fatal incidents.
- Surface dangers. Approximately a quarter of diver deaths stemmed from an error or problem that occurred on the surface before the dive. Furthermore, 50% of fatally injured divers die once they have surfaced.
- Health risks. One-tenth of divers who experience fatal injuries are unfit to dive.
Causes of Diver Tragedies and Wrongful Deaths
A wrongful death, in the most simplest of terms, occurs when a person is fatally injured due to the negligence of another. This negligence can include a lack of responsibility for safety, inadequate maintenance of tools and equipment, poor training, or intentional errors.
Diving errors and accidents can occur as a result of a variety of poor factors. The most common include inadequate or broken equipment, poor training, overlooked health risks, and a general inattention to safety. Unfortunately, these factors are abundant in maritime work, as crew and employers are often overworked, fatigued, and pressured to get the job done as quickly as possible. Sadly, the drive for speed overwhelms the need for safety and efficiency, leading to catastrophic accidents and wrongful deaths.
Maritime Law Coverage
When a wrongful death occurs on the high seas or as a result of maritime work, the legal system looks to maritime law for compensation of the diver’s family. When it comes to maritime wrongful deaths, there are three different statutes that can provide some sort of relief to the diver’s survivors:
- The Jones Act. When a seaman loses his live in a work-related accident, the Jones Act provides compensation to his spouse and dependents. The surviving family has the legal right to pursue and collect damages against negligent employers whose actions resulted in a fatality.
- Death on High Seas Act. The Death on High Seas Act (DOHSA) provides financial coverage for a seaman’s family, as long as the mariner was killed at least three miles away from shore. Unfortunately, damages for loss of companionship and emotional trauma are not covered.
- The Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act (LHWCA). The LHWCA allows surviving family members of the deceased diver to be eligible for benefits for divers who do not work aboard a vessel. The claim must be filed within 30 days of when the death was made aware of to the family.
Importance of Contacting an Attorney After a Fatal Diving Accident
When a diver loses his life at sea, his grieving family must contend with two different types of law—the legal rights of the plaintiff who is accused of negligence as well as maritime law. When a diver loses his life as a direct result of maintenance failures, defective equipment, negligence, or employer error, his family has the right to pursue a wrongful death claim under maritime laws long as the circumstances of the death fall within the laws’ regulations.
Maritime law can be extremely difficult to understand and interpret, especially when the incident occurred as a work-related accident or near shore. However, an experienced attorney who has spent decades helping victims and their families of maritime accidents can help you stay afloat in your hour of need. Steve Lee is that attorney.
Diving injuries are much fairly common, even as fatal diving incidents are rare. You need to know that you and your family are protected against any and all possibilities. Contact our Houston office today to speak with a qualified maritime attorney about your legal options in the event of a diving accident. We’ll be able to help you better understand your family’s rights as well as keep you afloat while the insurance companies try to drag you down. A simple phone call can be the lifesaver you need in your time of distress. Call now!