If you have lost a loved one who worked in the maritime industry, you may be entitled to compensation for your loss. However, maritime wrongful death claims are different from regular wrongful death claims under state law. Depending on the circumstances of the death, you may need to file a claim under the Jones Act, Death on the High Seas Act or the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act. Each of these laws has its own requirements, benefits and limitations.
The Jones Act
The Jones Act is a federal law that protects seamen who are injured or killed due to the negligence of their employer or co-workers. A seaman is someone who spends at least 30% of their work time on a vessel or fleet of vessels in navigation. To file a wrongful death claim under the Jones Act, you must be the spouse, child, parent or dependent relative of the deceased seaman.
You must prove that the employer or co-worker was negligent and that their negligence contributed to the death. Negligence can include failing to provide a safe work environment, adequate training, proper equipment or medical care. You must file your claim within 3 years of the death.
The Death on the High Seas Act
The Death on the High Seas Act is a federal law and kicks in for deaths that occur within three nautical miles of the United States. This law covers seamen, as well as passengers, tourists and other maritime workers. To file a wrongful death claim under DOHSA, you must be the spouse, child, parent or dependent relative of the deceased person.
You must prove that the death was caused by the wrongful act, neglect or default of another person or entity. This can include negligence, unseaworthiness, product liability or intentional harm. You must file your claim within three years of the death.
The Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act
LHWCA is a federal law that provides workers’ compensation benefits to maritime workers who are not seamen. This includes dock workers, shipyard workers, harbor workers and offshore oil rig workers. To file a wrongful death claim under LHWCA, you must be the spouse or child of the deceased worker. If there is no spouse or child, other dependent relatives may be eligible.
You do not need to prove fault or negligence to receive benefits under LHWCA. You only need to show that the death occurred in the course of employment and was related to maritime work. You must file your claim within one year of the death.