Who is Responsible if My Loved One Died Working Offshore?
If you have suffered the tragedy of losing a loved one in an offshore accident, you no doubt have many questions about your rights under the law. No one should lose their life on the job, and if someone else is to blame for your family member’s death, they deserve to be held responsible for their actions. No amount of money can restore what you have lost. But, you should not bear the financial burden of your loss, and taking action may help prevent other accidents in the future.
Several laws provide remedies for the surviving family members of offshore workers. Depending on exactly what happened, these laws may entitle you to recover damages from a variety of responsible parties.
Survivor and Wrongful Death Claims Under the Jones Act
The Jones Act is a federal law that provides special protections for offshore workers meeting the statute’s definition of a “seaman.” By extension, it also provides protections to close family members in the event of a seaman’s death. Specifically, the Jones Act allows spouses, children, parents and siblings to file claims for compensation based on the loss of their loved ones. Each family member is likely to have different losses; but, generally speaking, the damages available to surviving family members may include:
- Reimbursement or payment of their loved one’s pre-death medical expenses
- Compensation for their loved one’s pre-death pain and suffering
- Recovery of funeral expenses
- Compensation for loss of income due to their loved one’s untimely death
- The financial support and contributions that they would have received during their loved one’s lifetime
- The monetary value of services their loved one would have provided over their lifetime had they survived the accident
The Jones Act covers claims against the seaman’s employer. While most employment-related claims are either governed by ordinary wrongful death or workers’ compensation laws, the Jones Act actually makes it easier for surviving family members of deceased seamen to pursue claims for wrongful death.
Claims Under the Death on the High Seas Act
If your loved one was killed in an accident that occurred more than three miles offshore, you may be able to assert a claim under a special law known as the Death on the High Seas Act (DOHSA).
Like the Jones Act, DOHSA allows certain family members to obtain compensation from their loved ones’ employers. Unlike the Jones Act, however, DOHSA is not strictly limited to employment-related claims.
Claims Under General Maritime Law
If DOHSA does not apply, you may be able to assert wrongful death claims for negligence or unseaworthiness under general maritime law. This is referred to as a Moragne action. These actions may be brought against parties other than the employer.
When Someone Other than Your Loved One’s Employer is to Blame
Indeed, your loved one’s employer may not be the only party responsible for your loved one’s death. On fishing boats, cruise ships, tankers, and other vessels, workers face numerous risks from a variety of different sources. Since the Jones Act allows for recovery even if the seaman’s employer was only partially (even just one percent) to blame, when we represent families in maritime fatality cases we conduct thorough investigations in order to identify all of the causes that contributed to the fatal accident. Likewise, in cases subject to DOHSA or general maritime law, we seek to hold all responsible parties accountable for our clients’ losses.
You may have no way of knowing all of the factors that contributed to your loved one’s death. Defective products, negligent ship captains, reckless deck workers, and a variety of other causes could all have played a part. By working with an experienced offshore injury attorney, you can ensure that you hold all of the responsible parties accountable and fight for the full compensation you deserve.
Schedule a Free Consultation at Our Offices in Houston, TX
Nick Morrow and John D. Sheppard are experienced Houston Jones Act lawyers who can help you seek maximum compensation for your loss. To discuss your wrongful death claim under the Jones Act, DOHSA or other applicable laws, call 800-489-2216 or contact Morrow & Sheppard LLP online today.