The impact that the loss of a family member has on survivors cannot be understated. To find out that the death was preventable, and occurred as a result of negligence or poor maintenance is equally devastating.

Wrongful death claims allow the family of a person who has died to recover damages. There are four bodies of maritime law that address wrongful death claims: general maritime law, the Jones Act, the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act (LHWCA), and the Death on the High Seas Act.

Below, we’ll go over how wrongful death claims work, what the family’s rights are, and how having a knowledgeable lawyer can make a difference.


Unseaworthiness Wrongful Death Claim Lawyers

If you’ve lost a loved one at sea, the maritime wrongful death attorneys at BoatLaw, LLP (formerly Anderson Carey Williams & Neidzwski) can help you recover for your losses and fight for the justice you and your loved one deserve.

We will do our best to ensure that you are compensated to the fullest extent of the law.

Call us today at 1-800-262-8529 or send an online message to set up a free consultation.

Our offices are located in Portland, Oregon; Bellingham and Seattle, Washington; and San Francisco, California.


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What Is a Wrongful Death Claim?

Unseaworthiness refers to the condition of a vessel that is not reasonably fit for its intended use or lacks proper equipment and safety measures for its crew. One common cause of death is the failure to maintain equipment properly, leading to malfunctions. For instance, outdated or poorly maintained safety gear, like life vests and rafts, can directly contribute to fatalities during emergencies.

Another significant factor is inadequate crew training and understaffing, which can result in mishandling of critical situations, such as a crew being unable to execute a proper evacuation procedure during a fire. Structural failures also play a critical role; a vessel with a compromised hull integrity might take on water and sink, leaving crew members with little chance of survival.

Additionally, inadequate safety protocols for dealing with hazardous conditions, like heavy weather or navigating through ice-infested waters without proper ice-classification, can lead to disastrous outcomes.

A vessel must provide a safe working environment for its crew, and failure to meet this standard exposes the vessel owner to liability for any injuries or deaths that occur as a result.

An unseaworthiness wrongful death claim is a legal action that the family of a maritime worker can take if their loved one dies because of unsafe conditions on a vessel. If a worker’s death is linked to the vessel’s poor condition, their family can seek compensation for their loss.


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What Damages Can a Family Receive?

In cases of wrongful death due to unseaworthiness, families can seek damages that encompass not only the financial but also the emotional toll of such a loss.

Loss of Financial Support – this compensates the family for the financial contribution the deceased would have made had they lived. It includes future earnings, benefits, and any other forms of financial support, ensuring the family’s economic stability is preserved.

Medical and Funeral Expenses – families can recover costs related to the medical treatment of the deceased before their death, as well as funeral and burial expenses. This aspect of compensation helps alleviate the immediate financial burden faced by the family.

Loss of Consortium and Companionship – compensation for loss of consortium and companionship addresses the impact on the spouse, children, or parents of the deceased. It acknowledges the major grief and loss of emotional support, love, and companionship resulting from the wrongful death.

Pain and Suffering of the Deceasedif the deceased suffered before their death, the family might be entitled to compensation for their loved one’s pain and suffering.

The principle of comparative negligence applies in wrongful death claims, affecting the total compensation the family can receive. Specifically, if the deceased was found to be partially at fault for the conditions leading to their death, the damages awarded to the family could be reduced by the victim’s proportion of fault.


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Who Can File a Wrongful Death Claim?

Immediate family members, like spouses, children, or dependent relatives, can file an unseaworthiness wrongful death claim.

This legal action is designed to provide them with financial compensation for their loss. It acknowledges the emotional and financial impact of losing a loved one who was a maritime worker, ensuring that families have a way to seek justice and support following a tragic incident linked to unseaworthy conditions.


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How Does an Unseaworthiness Wrongful Death Claim Differ from the Death on the High Seas Act?

An unseaworthiness wrongful death claim is distinct because it specifically concerns deaths caused by a vessel’s unseaworthy condition, exclusive to maritime employment. This is different from other legal actions that might not require the employment relationship or specific cause of death to be linked to unseaworthy conditions.

Unseaworthiness wrongful death claims under the Death on the High Seas Act (DOHSA) offer a way for families to pursue compensation when a loved one dies because of conditions on a vessel that are not suitable for their intended use. DOHSA applies to deaths occurring more than three nautical miles from the U.S. shoreline, attributing liability when negligence or a vessel’s unseaworthy condition leads to a seafarer’s death.

Compensation under DOHSA is limited to economic damages, like medical costs incurred before death, funeral expenses, and the loss of financial support the deceased would have provided. Non-economic damages, like loss of companionship, are not recoverable under this act. Claims must be filed against the ship’s owner and are restricted to direct financial dependents, like spouses and children.

Only the spouse, children, or dependents of the deceased may make a claim under the DOHSA, and the claim must be brought against the ship’s owner. As a result of DOHSA being extremely limited and not offering recovery for non-pecuniary compensation, it is important to have an experienced attorney who can carefully evaluate every potential wrongful death claim remedy.


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Exclusions and Limitations

Yes, there are several exclusions and limitations. The claim must be filed within three years from the date of death, and the deceased must have been considered a seaman, meaning they contributed to the function of a vessel or its mission and spent a significant amount of their time at sea. Additionally, the death must be directly linked to the vessel’s unseaworthy condition.


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What Documentation Is Required to Support an Unseaworthiness Wrongful Death Claim?

Supporting an unseaworthiness wrongful death claim requires several documents. These include the deceased’s employment records to prove their status as a seaman, documentation of the vessel’s condition, and evidence of its unseaworthiness. Medical records and autopsy reports showing the cause of death, along with witness statements describing the incident and unsafe conditions, are also important.

Financial records to demonstrate the economic impact on the deceased’s family may be needed to support claims for compensation.


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How Does a Maritime Injury Lawyer Help

A maritime injury lawyer plays a major role in an unseaworthiness wrongful death claim by guiding the victim’s family through the complex legal process. They start by evaluating the case to determine its viability, including assessing the evidence of unseaworthiness and the link to the wrongful death. The lawyer then prepares and files the necessary legal documents, representing the family in negotiations with the vessel owner or their insurance company. If the case goes to court, the lawyer will present the evidence, argue on behalf of the family, and try to obtain the maximum possible compensation.

The lawyer also advises the family on legal strategies, potential outcomes, and the best course of action, considering the specifics of their case. This includes calculating the damages the family can get, like lost wages, funeral expenses, and loss of companionship, ensuring that the family’s financial and emotional losses are adequately addressed. With their knowledge and experience in maritime law, the lawyer provides support to the family at every step.


Back to top

Additional Resources

Proceedings on Unseaworthiness

The U.S. Code outlines the legal procedures for addressing claims of unseaworthiness. It describes the process for filing complaints, conducting vessel examinations, and the penalties for violating the law. The law tries to ensure that vessels are safe for seamen and the environment by describing the steps for handling complaints about a vessel’s fitness for voyage.

The Dutra Group v. Batterton

The Dutra Group v. Batterton case, adjudicated by the United States Supreme Court, concerns whether punitive damages are available to a seaman in a personal injury case alleging a breach of the general maritime duty to provide a seaworthy vessel. The Court concluded that a plaintiff cannot recover punitive damages on a maritime claim of unseaworthiness, highlighting the legal limits on compensation for maritime injuries and clarifying the scope of remedies available under maritime law.


Back to top

Hire a Wrongful Death Claim Lawyer

Your loved one deserves justice. The maritime employer or vessel owner responsible for the negligence that caused your loved one’s death should be held accountable, and you need compensation to cover the expenses involved in such a tragic event.

At BOATLAW, LLP, our experienced offshore wrongful death Seattle attorneys can help you find that justice. The maritime attorneys at BOATLAW, LLP represent seamen and their families in personal injury and wrongful death cases for maintenance and cure, breach of warranty of seaworthiness, and claims under the Jones Act.

Call us today at 1-800-262-8529 or send an online message for a free consultation with the Seattle, Bellingham, Portland, and San Francisco maritime injury attorneys of BOATLAW, LLP.


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stated. To find out that the death was preventable, and occurred as a result of negligence or poor maintenance is equally devastating.

Wrongful death claims allow the family of a person who has died to recover damages. There are four bodies of maritime law that address wrongful death claims: general maritime law, the Jones Act, the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act (LHWCA), and the Death on the High Seas Act.

Below, we’ll go over how wrongful death claims work, what the family’s rights are, and how having a knowledgeable lawyer can make a difference.


Unseaworthiness Wrongful Death Claim Lawyers

If you’ve lost a loved one at sea, the maritime wrongful death attorneys at BoatLaw, LLP (formerly Anderson Carey Williams & Neidzwski) can help you recover for your losses and fight for the justice you and your loved one deserve.

We will do our best to ensure that you are compensated to the fullest extent of the law.

Call us today at 1-800-262-8529 or send an online message to set up a free consultation.

Our offices are located in Portland, Oregon; Bellingham and Seattle, Washington; and San Francisco, California.


Back to top

What Is a Wrongful Death Claim?

Unseaworthiness refers to the condition of a vessel that is not reasonably fit for its intended use or lacks proper equipment and safety measures for its crew. One common cause of death is the failure to maintain equipment properly, leading to malfunctions. For instance, outdated or poorly maintained safety gear, like life vests and rafts, can directly contribute to fatalities during emergencies.

Another significant factor is inadequate crew training and understaffing, which can result in mishandling of critical situations, such as a crew being unable to execute a proper evacuation procedure during a fire. Structural failures also play a critical role; a vessel with a compromised hull integrity might take on water and sink, leaving crew members with little chance of survival.

Additionally, inadequate safety protocols for dealing with hazardous conditions, like heavy weather or navigating through ice-infested waters without proper ice-classification, can lead to disastrous outcomes.

A vessel must provide a safe working environment for its crew, and failure to meet this standard exposes the vessel owner to liability for any injuries or deaths that occur as a result.

An unseaworthiness wrongful death claim is a legal action that the family of a maritime worker can take if their loved one dies because of unsafe conditions on a vessel. If a worker’s death is linked to the vessel’s poor condition, their family can seek compensation for their loss.


Back to top

What Damages Can a Family Receive?

In cases of wrongful death due to unseaworthiness, families can seek damages that encompass not only the financial but also the emotional toll of such a loss.

Loss of Financial Support – this compensates the family for the financial contribution the deceased would have made had they lived. It includes future earnings, benefits, and any other forms of financial support, ensuring the family’s economic stability is preserved.

Medical and Funeral Expenses – families can recover costs related to the medical treatment of the deceased before their death, as well as funeral and burial expenses. This aspect of compensation helps alleviate the immediate financial burden faced by the family.

Loss of Consortium and Companionship – compensation for loss of consortium and companionship addresses the impact on the spouse, children, or parents of the deceased. It acknowledges the major grief and loss of emotional support, love, and companionship resulting from the wrongful death.

Pain and Suffering of the Deceasedif the deceased suffered before their death, the family might be entitled to compensation for their loved one’s pain and suffering.

The principle of comparative negligence applies in wrongful death claims, affecting the total compensation the family can receive. Specifically, if the deceased was found to be partially at fault for the conditions leading to their death, the damages awarded to the family could be reduced by the victim’s proportion of fault.


Back to top

Who Can File a Wrongful Death Claim?

Immediate family members, like spouses, children, or dependent relatives, can file an unseaworthiness wrongful death claim.

This legal action is designed to provide them with financial compensation for their loss. It acknowledges the emotional and financial impact of losing a loved one who was a maritime worker, ensuring that families have a way to seek justice and support following a tragic incident linked to unseaworthy conditions.


Back to top

How Does an Unseaworthiness Wrongful Death Claim Differ from the Death on the High Seas Act?

An unseaworthiness wrongful death claim is distinct because it specifically concerns deaths caused by a vessel’s unseaworthy condition, exclusive to maritime employment. This is different from other legal actions that might not require the employment relationship or specific cause of death to be linked to unseaworthy conditions.

Unseaworthiness wrongful death claims under the Death on the High Seas Act (DOHSA) offer a way for families to pursue compensation when a loved one dies because of conditions on a vessel that are not suitable for their intended use. DOHSA applies to deaths occurring more than three nautical miles from the U.S. shoreline, attributing liability when negligence or a vessel’s unseaworthy condition leads to a seafarer’s death.

Compensation under DOHSA is limited to economic damages, like medical costs incurred before death, funeral expenses, and the loss of financial support the deceased would have provided. Non-economic damages, like loss of companionship, are not recoverable under this act. Claims must be filed against the ship’s owner and are restricted to direct financial dependents, like spouses and children.

Only the spouse, children, or dependents of the deceased may make a claim under the DOHSA, and the claim must be brought against the ship’s owner. As a result of DOHSA being extremely limited and not offering recovery for non-pecuniary compensation, it is important to have an experienced attorney that can carefully evaluate every potential wrongful death claim remedy.


Back to top

Exclusions and Limitations

Yes, there are several exclusions and limitations. The claim must be filed within three years from the date of death, and the deceased must have been considered a seaman, meaning they contributed to the function of a vessel or its mission and spent a significant amount of their time at sea. Additionally, the death must be directly linked to the vessel’s unseaworthy condition.


Back to top

What Documentation Is Required to Support an Unseaworthiness Wrongful Death Claim?

Supporting an unseaworthiness wrongful death claim requires several documents. These include the deceased’s employment records to prove their status as a seaman, documentation of the vessel’s condition, and evidence of its unseaworthiness. Medical records and autopsy reports showing the cause of death, along with witness statements describing the incident and unsafe conditions, are also important. Financial records to demonstrate the economic impact on the deceased’s family may be needed to support claims for compensation.


Back to top

How Does a Maritime Injury Lawyer Help

A maritime injury lawyer plays a major role in an unseaworthiness wrongful death claim by guiding the victim’s family through the complex legal process. They start by evaluating the case to determine its viability, including assessing the evidence of unseaworthiness and the link to the wrongful death. The lawyer then prepares and files the necessary legal documents, representing the family in negotiations with the vessel owner or their insurance company. If the case goes to court, the lawyer will present the evidence, argue on behalf of the family, and try to obtain the maximum possible compensation.

The lawyer also advises the family on legal strategies, potential outcomes, and the best course of action, considering the specifics of their case. This includes calculating the damages the family can get, like lost wages, funeral expenses, and loss of companionship, ensuring that the family’s financial and emotional losses are adequately addressed. With their knowledge and experience in maritime law, the lawyer provides support to the family at every step.


Back to top

Additional Resources

Proceedings on Unseaworthiness

The U.S. Code outlines the legal procedures for addressing claims of unseaworthiness. It describes the process for filing complaints, conducting vessel examinations, and the penalties for violating the law. The law tries to ensure that vessels are safe for seamen and the environment by describing the steps for handling complaints about a vessel’s fitness for voyage.

The Dutra Group v. Batterton

The Dutra Group v. Batterton case, adjudicated by the United States Supreme Court, concerns whether punitive damages are available to a seaman in a personal injury case alleging a breach of the general maritime duty to provide a seaworthy vessel. The Court concluded that a plaintiff cannot recover punitive damages on a maritime claim of unseaworthiness, highlighting the legal limits on compensation for maritime injuries and clarifying the scope of remedies available under maritime law.


Back to top

Hire a Wrongful Death Claim Lawyer

Your loved one deserves justice. The maritime employer or vessel owner responsible for the negligence that caused your loved one’s death should be held accountable, and you need compensation to cover the expenses involved in such a tragic event.

At BOATLAW, LLP, our experienced offshore wrongful death Seattle attorneys can help you find that justice. The maritime attorneys at BOATLAW, LLP represent seamen and their families in personal injury and wrongful death cases for maintenance and cure, breach of warranty of seaworthiness, and claims under the Jones Act.

Call us today at 1-800-262-8529 or send an online message for a free consultation with the Seattle, Bellingham, Portland, and San Francisco maritime injury attorneys of BOATLAW, LLP.


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