Law Offices of Charles D. Naylor
839 S. Beacon Street, Suite 311
San Pedro, CA 90731
The sea has attracted people for work, play and transportation from the earliest of times. Seamen, fishermen, and other maritime workers such as off shore oil workers spend much of their lives at sea earning a living and supporting their families.
Cruising on passenger ships is a popular vacation activity for people of all ages. Recreational boaters love the freedom of setting their own course, and the smell of salt air. Ships operating as ferries, service boats and supply boats provide a vital transportation function in many parts of the world.
But there are dangers at sea that the most careful and experienced seaman, traveler, or boater can't always avoid.
People die at sea from many causes:
The remedies that are available for death at sea depend in part, on whether the person killed was a seaman.
Families of Cruise Line passengers and other non-seamen, where death was caused by an incident at sea, may be relegated to the limited remedy available to dependent survivors under the Death on the High Seas Act (DOHSA); or they may be able to sue for wrongful death or even punitive damages under state or other federal maritime laws. When a death is caused by a negligent act or omission which occurs on the "High Seas" (three nautical miles (5.56 U.S. miles) from the shore of any state, or the District of Columbia, or territories or dependencies of the United States) DOHSA will ordinarily apply.
Under DOHSA the personal representative of the decedent may file a lawsuit for damages in state or federal court for the exclusive benefit of the decedent's spouse, parent, child, or dependent relative. Damages under DOHSA are limited to the pecuniary loss only of the eligible survivors. No recovery is allowed for loss of society, love and affection, companionship or for mental anguish. Recovery is allowed for the monetary value of loss of nurture to children and loss of services provided by the decedent.
Where the negligent act or omission causing death occurs in the territorial waters of any state, maritime law allows the application of state wrongful death laws to supplement the remedies available under DOHSA. Many state wrongful death statutes allow a monetary recovery for loss of society and other non-pecuniary damages precluded by DOHSA.
The Jones Act and the Death on the High Seas Act apply to seamen, and both acts provide the family of seamen with a right to sue for damages for wrongful death. For seamen, however, these federal statutes preempt state wrongful death laws, with the result that the families of seamen are allowed to recover only for their pecuniary loss. Recovery is allowed for the monetary value of loss of nurture to children and loss of services provided by the decedent.
Maritime wrongful death law is a patchwork of federal statutes, regulations, and state laws.
Statute of Limitations for Seaman's Injury / Death Claims
Whether filed in state or federal court, the statute of limitations for maritime injury/death claims is three years from the date of the injury/death. If, however the United States is a party defendant, the statute of limitations is two years from the injury/death. In cases where the United States is a party, and the seaman was employed by the Maritime Administration (MARAD), the Clarification Act requires the filing of an administrative claim at least 60 days prior to the expiration of the 2 year statute of limitations.
LONGSHORE INJURY HOTLINE
CHARLES D. NAYLOR
Admiralty & Maritime Law
PETER S. FORGIE
GEORGE M. JONES
Admiralty & Maritime Law