How soon can someone missing at sea be declared dead?

On Behalf of | Apr 21, 2022 | Maritime Wrongful Death |

When someone goes missing at sea, the search and rescue teams work tirelessly to find them. But what happens if they aren’t found? How long do their loved ones have to wait before they can declare them dead?

Families need closure, and they may also need financial assistance due to the absence of their loved ones. What are the rules for declaring someone dead, and what are the exceptions?

What happens when someone goes missing at sea?

Going missing at sea is a frightening prospect. If someone falls overboard, or if a boat becomes lost in a storm, the chances of survival are slim. Even in areas with heavy maritime traffic, a search and rescue operation can take days or even weeks to locate a missing vessel. And for someone lost at sea, the elements quickly become their biggest enemy. Sun exposure and dehydration are major threats, and hypothermia is also a danger in cold water.

California law states that a person must be missing for five years before being declared deceased. However, as an exception to that rule, the court can hold a presumptive death hearing to declare the missing person dead. A ruling is typically made based on circumstantial evidence.

When a loved one is missing at sea, it can be hard to find closure and move on. When you are grieving, it may be challenging to know which steps you need to take to have them declared dead and allow you to receive benefits. You may want to contact someone who can guide you through the process.