A Maritime Wrongful Death Attorney Will Help a Victim’s Family Receive Compensation
Each year in the United States, thousands of maritime workers are injured while on or near a vessel. Crew members, dock workers, longshoremen, and other maritime employees engage in difficult and dangerous work daily. Unfortunately, some of these accidents are so severe that they result in the worker’s death. Such accidents and untimely deaths can occur for various reasons, such as:
- Negligence of a vessel owner or operator
- Safety hazards onboard
- Mechanical issues
- Improperly trained crew
- Fires and explosions onboard
- Chemical exposures
- Weather conditions
- Failure to maintain safety standards
When the death of a loved one results from a vessel owner’s or operator’s negligence, the family of the deceased maritime worker may sue the vessel owner for wrongful death. Having a loved one killed in a work-related accident is devastating and can place substantial financial hardships on the family.
The experienced maritime wrongful death lawyers at Willis Law Firm are here for you. Call us today for a free consultation to determine if your family is entitled to compensation for the death of your loved one. We are a maritime injury firm with decades of experience, and our knowledgeable lawyers routinely fight for the legal rights of victims and their families nationwide in claims and wrongful death actions.
What You Need to Know if You Have Lost a Loved One Who Worked Offshore or in the Maritime Industry
Knowing what to do after losing a loved one can be difficult. This is especially true when your loved one worked offshore or in the maritime industry. Fortunately, families have clear rights under federal law, and families can obtain justice with an experienced lawyer on their side.
If you are grieving the loss of a spouse, child, parent or other loved one, here are the five most important facts you need to know:
1. Oil Companies, Shipping Companies and other Maritime Businesses Can – and Should – Be Held Accountable for Fatal Accidents
Many offshore and maritime jobs are among the most dangerous occupations in the United States. While many of the dangers are due to water and weather conditions, a large percentage are also due to companies’ neglect.
From ignoring safety regulations to prioritizing profits over all else, offshore and maritime companies routinely do things that put their employees’ lives at risk. Simply put, there is no excuse, and companies that are to blame for their employees’ deaths can – and should – be held accountable.
2. Families Can File Maritime Wrongful Death Claims for Onshore, Nearshore and Offshore Accidents
Regardless of where your loved one’s fatal accident happened, your family can file a claim for wrongful death. Federal maritime laws entitle grieving families to file claims for onshore, nearshore and offshore accidents.
3. There are Several Ways to Prove the Cause of a Fatal Offshore or Maritime Accident
Too often, family members assume there is nothing they can do to prove that their loved one’s employer is legally responsible. This is especially true when fatal accidents happen offshore. But, the reality is that there are several ways to determine the cause of a fatal accident regardless of where the accident happens. For example, when we represent grieving families in maritime wrongful death cases, we are frequently able to use evidence such as:
- Testimony from coworkers
- Medical records and coroner’s records
- The employer’s safety logs and other company documentation
- Evidence obtained during a post-accident investigation
- Accident reports, Coast Guard reports, photos, videos and other documentary evidence
4. You Cannot Trust Your Loved One’s Employer to Treat Your Family Fairly
While companies that are responsible for their employees’ deaths should do the right thing, most do not. In fact, most companies will fight relentlessly to avoid compensating their employees’ families. As a result, rather than trying to deal with your loved one’s employer directly, it is critically important that you hire an experienced lawyer to represent your family.
5. Your Family Can Hire a Lawyer at No Out-of-Pocket Cost
You can hire a lawyer to handle your family’s maritime wrongful death case at no out-of-pocket cost. This is known as “contingency fee” representation. Our firm handles all cases on a contingency fee basis, which means that our legal fees—if any—are calculated as a percentage of the financial compensation we recover for our clients.
Let Our Maritime Wrongful Death Lawyer Help
Maritime lawyers regularly advise on the legal rights available to families for their loved one’s wrongful death and inform them about the compensation to which they may be entitled. It is important to note that special federal and state laws apply to workers injured or killed while on a maritime-related job. Depending on the type of work your loved one was involved in and where the death occurred, your case may be governed by one or more of the following laws:
- Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act (OCSLA),
- Jones Act,
- Longshore Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act (LHWCA), or
- Other related maritime laws.
Depending on the situation, a family may be entitled to compensation for the decedent’s medical bills, lost wages, costs associated with rehabilitation before the worker’s death, and other economic losses. Rest assured, we understand how difficult and painful it can be to lose someone you love, and we will fight hard for your family.
Families’ Rights Under the Death on the High Seas Act (DOHSA)
The Death on the High Seas Act (DOHSA) is one of the primary laws that entitles families to financial compensation after fatal offshore accidents. Under DOHSA, when a fatal accident results from a vessel owner’s negligence or a vessel’s unseaworthiness, eligible family members can recover compensation for the financial costs of their loved one’s death.
When Can Families File Claims for Maritime Death Benefits Under DOHSA?
Families can file claims for maritime death benefits under DOHSA when they lose loved ones working at sea. For DOHSA to apply, the fatal accident must occur at least three miles offshore. The accident must also be the result of an “unseaworthy” condition on the worker’s vessel and/or the result of negligence on the part of the vessel’s owner or the worker’s employer.
With these conditions in mind, families can file claims under DOHSA in many different circumstances. For example, common grounds for pursuing claims under the statute include:
- Capsized and overturned vessels
- Fires and explosions onboard vessels at sea
- Mechanical failures and electrical issues
- Equipment malfunctions and failures
- Co-worker negligence and/or companies’ failure to follow safety protocols
- Failure to provide appropriate care to an injured or sick worker
In many cases, vessel owners and employers will blame workers for their own fatal injuries. While this blame is often misplaced, even if a worker is partially at fault for their own death, eligible family members can still recover partial compensation under DOHSA.
Which Family Members are Eligible to File for Benefits Under DOHSA?
Under DOHSA, only certain specific family members are eligible to file claims for maritime death benefits. Those who are eligible include:
- The victim’s spouse
- The victim’s children
- The victim’s parents
- The victim’s other dependents (if any)
What Benefits Does DOHSA Provide?
The Death on the High Seas Act entitles eligible family members to recover compensation for the financial costs they incur as a result of their loved one’s death. This is different from the Jones Act, the Longshore and Harbor Workers Compensation Act (LHWCA) and other workers’ compensation laws. It is also different from a wrongful death claim filed under state law, as DOHSA does not recover damages for families’ non-financial losses. The benefits that are available under DOHSA include:
- Loss of earnings (both current and future)
- Funeral expenses
- Counseling expenses
- Other out-of-pocket costs
How Long Do Families Have to File Claims Under DOHSA?
To seek benefits under DOHSA, eligible family members must file a claim within three years of the date of death. However, to preserve the best chance to recover maximum compensation, they should start the process as soon as possible. Waiting longer than necessary can make it more challenging to conduct an investigation and collect evidence. Additionally, it takes time to prepare a claim for compensation under DOHSA thoroughly, and an attorney will need time to do everything necessary to recover just compensation.
Was Your Loved One Killed While Working on a Vessel? Contact The Willis Law Firm For Help
Was someone you love killed while working aboard a vessel? Are you still dealing with the aftermath of the wrongful death of a family member resulting from a maritime-related accident? If so, help is available to you and your family. Contact a maritime accident lawyer at Willis Law Firm today. Call 1-800-468-4878 or email us through our online webform to find out more about your legal rights and options.