A loved one’s death is difficult, to say the least. The pain becomes unbearable if the death in question is sudden and preventable. Unfortunately, it is not uncommon for a seaman, just like any other professional in a high-risk occupation, to sustain fatal injuries while at work.
If you have lost a loved one at sea, you may be wondering whether you can sue for damages. You can, but it’s important to understand that maritime wrongful death laws differ from the traditional wrongful death claims under state laws.
Circumstances of a loved one’s death do matter
Depending on the circumstances of your loved one’s demise, you may file a claim under either The Jones Act or The Death on the High Seas Act. Each of these Acts comes with specific requirements, merits and limitations.
Filing a wrongful death claim under The Jones Act
The Jones Act is a federal law that protects seamen who are hurt or killed at work as a result of employer or co-worker negligence. To file a wrongful death claim under this act, you must be the decedent’s immediate family member (spouse, child or parent) or estate administrator. Additionally, the decedent must have spent at least 30% of their work on a seagoing vessel. You have up to 3 years to bring a wrongful death claim under The Jones Act.
Filing a wrongful death claim under The Death on the High Seas Act
The Death on the High Seas Act, just like The Jones Act, is a federal law that protects seamen. To file a wrongful death under this claim, you must be the decedent’s spouse, child or parent or estate administrator. Next, the wrongful death in question must have occurred outside 3 nautical miles of the U.S. shoreline. Finally, you must prove negligence. And just like the Jones Act, you must bring the claim within three years from the date of your loved one’s death.
Seamen face some of the most difficult work conditions in the world. If a loved one dies at sea due to negligence, you may have a right to seek justice and damages.