Recovery through Death on the High Seas Act

If you are the spouse or child of a maritime worker who spends hours away from home and doing vessel work, you may have wondered what would happen in the case of the unthinkable, if the maritime worker died while far away, at sea, in the line of duty. While deaths at sea are always difficult for the maritime worker’s loved ones, Congress has passed the Death on the High Seas Act to assist families by providing financial support to widows and children of the maritime worker.

The Death on the High Seas Act covers a wide range of maritime workers; however, the Act does not cover oil rig workers, who have their own compensation system for injuries and wrongful death. It applies to most other seamen, if they comply with the important provision that the vessel where the incident occurred was beyond the territorial waters of the United States. It may also apply to mere passengers on board a ship.

The Death on the High Seas Act is triggered when the maritime worker dies as a result of the vessel doing something wrong, including being unseaworthy (having defects that are dangerous or using an incompetent crew). To recover under the Death on the High Seas Act, there has to be a mistake of some kind made by the vessel or its crew. If the maritime worker also made a mistake that contributed to his death, there is still a possibility for recovering money under the Death on the High Seas Act, though the award may be reduced due to the mistakes of the maritime worker. Examples of vessel incompetence that may lead to a Death on the High Seas Act claim may include things like when a vessel is in such bad condition that it sinks or capsizes, or when crew incompetence leads a vessel to catch on fire, or any number of incidents where someone did something wrong leading to the death of a maritime worker.

An action under the Death on the High Seas Act may be brought by the widow, children, or financial dependents of the deceased maritime worker. These parties are entitled to recover a number of benefits. For example, the widow of the deceased maritime worker may recover the wages the deceased worker would have brought in to the family, had he not died (with adjustments for the costs of living for the deceased worker). Funeral costs and counseling expenses may also be covered.

If you have a loved one who has died on the open seas, and the vessel carrying your loved one had something wrong with it or did something wrong which contributed to the death, you may be eligible for a large award under the Death on the High Seas Act. You may wish to contact an experienced offshore injury lawyer to review the facts surrounding your case and discuss the best way to secure as large of an award as possible.


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