Houston Maritime Wrongful Death Lawyers
The law requires maritime employers to maintain safe working conditions in the work environment for their employees. Failure to maintain proper maritime safety precautions leaves room for hazards that can lead to devastating accidents that may result in injuries, illnesses, or even death.
Surviving family members of maritime workers who die at sea due to someone else’s negligence can seek compensation for economic losses thanks to the Death on the High Seas Act (DOHSA).
The Houston maritime death lawyers at Johnson Garcia boast 35+ years of experience handling maritime and personal injury cases. Our knowledgeable legal team can help you recover fair compensation for the wrongful maritime death of your loved one. To arrange a 100% free initial consultation with a seasoned DOHSA attorney, call us at 832-844-6700.
What Are the Common Hazards of Maritime Work?
According to Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) reports, the number of reported injuries for shipyard work is more than double that of the construction industry. This makes working in the maritime sector one of the most dangerous occupations.
Maritime employees on offshore sites face many hazards, including:
- Exposure to fumes in enclosed spaces
- Rough seas and dangerous weather
- The risk of falling overboard
- Explosions of machinery
- Chemical burns
With such dangerous work conditions in the maritime industry, maritime employees need to understand maritime law and the rights it affords them. If the death of someone you love was related to any of these accidents or any other incident, understanding the DOHSA and how it can benefit you is crucial.
What’s the Difference Between DOHSA and the Jones Act?
Unlike the Death on the High Seas Act, the Jones Act has an occupational necessity — this is the primary distinction between the two laws. The Jones Act only covers maritime employees. But to qualify for coverage, the employee must have contributed to the vessel’s operation. This implies that when a wrongful death occurs on a cruise ship, people who work on the vessel will be covered, but regular citizens will not be covered since this law only covers the vessel’s employees.
DOHSA, on the other hand, covers everyone, including regular citizens on a maritime vessel who die outside of the three nautical miles of the territorial coast of the U.S. Families of passengers who are not workers aboard a ship or any other vessel may qualify for DOHSA benefits in the event of a death on the high seas as long as the vessel is three miles from the shore.
At Johnson Garcia, our Houston maritime death lawyers know the ins and outs of maritime law and can distinguish between the Jones Act and DOHSA to help families know their rights under different admiralty laws and fight for the compensation they deserve.
How Can Surviving Family Know They Have a Case Under the Death On High Seas Act?
Under the Death on the High Seas Act, liability may be based on negligence, product liability, intentional conduct, or unseaworthiness if the deceased is a seaman. DOHSA applies to all people who get killed at sea, regardless of whether they are maritime workers or not. The law only allows the decedent’s personal representative to bring a DOHSA action for the benefit of the deceased person’s children, spouse, parents, or other survivors.
Keep in mind that DOHSA applies to all maritime deaths that occur beyond three miles offshore. Whether the victim was a maritime worker or a passenger, their personal representative could have a legitimate DOHSA case if the cause of their death was an unseaworthy vessel or the ship owner’s negligence.
You know you have a case under DOHSA if:
- The victim’s death occurred while they were aboard a vessel that was more than three nautical miles offshore.
- The death occurred more than 12 nautical miles offshore aboard a commercial aircraft.
If you lost a parent, spouse, or loved one in a maritime accident, Johnson Garcia’s Houston maritime death lawyers can be your lifeline to justice. Our legal team can sift through the specifics of your maritime injury claim and determine if you have a valid case under the DOHSA. Don’t hesitate to seek our help in seeking the compensation you deserve.
What Damages Are Provided by DOHSA?
Typically, a DOHSA compensation claim covers financial damages, including:
- Funeral and burial costs
- Counseling expenses
- Loss of current or expected financial support
- Other financial costs caused by the death
As per the Death on the High Seas Act, 46 U.S. Code Ch. 303, you could qualify for the following damages if your claim undoubtedly proves that the responsible party was negligent:
- Fair compensation for the financial loss suffered by the individual for whose benefit the DOHSA action is brought.
- The court allocates compensation among the people in the claim according to the loss that each sustained.
Unlike state wrongful death laws, DOHSA limits the damages to financial losses sustained by the decedent’s qualifying family members. Eligible beneficiaries under DOHSA include:
- Dependent relative
Each member of the decedent’s family who suffered a loss as a result of their death may pursue damages in the claim. While no amount of money can resurrect your dearly departed, a Death on the High Seas Act claim can give bereaved families the financial security they need to move forward.
DOHSA doesn’t allow the recovery of non-economic damages such as loss of consortium by the decedent’s spouse. This can drastically reduce the total compensation available to surviving family members. For this and many other reasons, please consult our Houston maritime death lawyers to ensure you get all the damages you qualify for.
While the Death on the High Seas Act has been a helpful piece of legislation for offshore workers, it has notable restrictions. Unfortunately, DOHSA only covers financial compensation for a maritime worker’s death.
Also, DOHSA supersedes all other laws when it applies. In other words, the surviving family of a deceased maritime worker cannot bring claims under general maritime law and state law in conjunction with DOHSA. However, DOHSA does not replace the Jones Act.
The time limit for filing a DOHSA claim is three years from the date of a maritime injury or death. However, if the U.S. is a defendant in the maritime death case, the deadline is only two years.
How to Prove Negligence After a Maritime Death
Proving negligence after a maritime death can be complicated and overwhelming for a novice, mainly because the death in question occurred at sea. Proving negligence requires an in-depth investigation and strong evidence that the at-fault party failed to act with proper care under the circumstances.
To prove negligence after a maritime death, you must be able to show that:
- The accident was the cause of the victim’s death.
- Another party — individual or entity — was responsible for the death.
- The at-fault party caused the victim’s death by failing to exercise reasonable care.
Instances of negligence under the Death on the High Seas Act include:
- Poor safety inspections
- Inadequate number of lifeboats for passengers and crew
- Failure to provide personal protective equipment (PPEs)
- Failure to replace old equipment
- Hazardous conditions on the vessel
Suppose equipment on a vessel is improperly designed, poorly maintained, or does not function properly. In that case, the vessel may be rendered unseaworthy.
The Houston maritime death attorneys at Johnson Garcia are well-versed in maritime law. We can help you prove negligence by collecting vital evidence and showing that the shipowner or any other party failed to exercise reasonable care, resulting in the death of your loved one.
Contact Experienced Maritime Death Lawyers in Houston to Assist With Your DOHSA Claim
Having fought for maritime injury and death victims for over 35 years, Johnson Garcia boasts extensive experience in all areas of maritime law, including the Jones Act and DOHSA. Our Houston maritime lawyers are ready to fight and protect your rights and interests, even if it means taking your case to trial.
Johnson Garcia is 100% dedicated to helping the families of maritime death victims recover just compensation after losing their loved ones. We take pride in helping our clients recover not just financially but also mentally, emotionally, and physically. Contact our Houston maritime death lawyers at 832-844-6700 for a free, confidential case review.