Death on the High Seas Act
As anyone who has worked around the maritime industry can attest, working on a ship can sometimes be dangerous. Vessel workers can be killed in any number of ways while at sea, including by falling, being exposed to hazardous chemicals, being injured by vessel machinery, and drowning. Unfortunately, more often than we perhaps would like to admit, these injuries are brought about by conditions caused by the vessel, including unsafe procedures and sloppy maintenance. What is more, often these injuries occur on the open seas, when the vessel is far from the jurisdiction of the United States.
Fortunately, Congress has acted to ensure that the families of vessel workers and others who died due to the wrongful acts of vessels on the high seas can seek the appropriate damages from the ship-owner. The Death on the High Seas Act provides that, when an individual dies due to the wrongful act (including negligence) of a vessel on the high seas outside the territorial limits of the United States, the victim’s family can bring an admiralty action to recover damages. The language of the Act states that it applies only to parties such as the victim’s spouse and children, who are dependent on the victim for support. Moreover, the Act says that it applies only in cases where the vessel was over three nautical miles away from the continental United States.
The language of the Death on the High Seas Act expressly limits recovery to pecuniary damages. Pecuniary damages are for things like loss of support and loss of services. To provide an example, if a victim was working on a vessel carrying toxic chemicals and died on the high seas because his employer did not have hazmat suits available to protect the victim from the chemicals in case of a spill, the victim’s family would likely be able to bring a claim back in the United States under the Death on the High Seas Act and win an award consisting of the wages that the worker would have been able to pay the family, had he not died. Of course, the victim’s family would have to produce documentation establishing wages, the value of lost services, and the like.
If you have a family member who died on the high seas and you suspect that their death was caused by the wrongful actions of whoever owned the vessel they were on, you may wish to contact an experienced maritime attorney to go over the facts of your case. You may be eligible to win thousands of dollars in damages from the vessel under the Death on the High Seas Act.
If you or a loved one have been injured, Call Carabin Shaw at 1.800.862.1260. We Can Help.