Death on the High Seas

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When a death on the high seas occurs, the potential claims arising from such an incident vary according to the facts and circumstances surrounding the incident, as well as the reason that the decedent was asea.  For instance, if a sailor dies as a result of some negligence by the shipowner, or due to an unseaworthy or defective vessel, the Jones Act, a federal statute that incorporates provisions of the Federal Employers Liability Act, makes the employer liable for the personal injury and/or wrongful death of a sailor. 

Jones Act Claims

A Jones Act claim has a statute of limitation of three years, which means that immediate family members or other persons who are legally authorized to file wrongful death actions have a three-year period from the time of the sailor’s death or other maritime injury in which to file a claim against the shipowner and/or employer.  On the other hand, some maritime industry employees are covered by the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act, part of the admiralty and maritime law in the United States that provides comprehensive workers’ compensation benefits for injured and deceased maritime workers.  Likewise, if a person dies while on a cruise ship, there may be a wrongful death claim available if the cruise line acted negligently or carelessly so as to cause the person’s death in some way.

Whether any law permits recovery for the death of a loved one while at sea is a question that may be difficult to discern.  Therefore, if you have lost an immediate family member at sea, you should immediately contact a maritime injury lawyer who is skilled in maritime law in order to safeguard your rights to any claims for compensation that may be available under applicable laws.

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