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Wrongful Death

The most tragic possibility when a loved one heads off to sea is that he or she may not return. Sadly, that sometimes happens. It is especially painful when you find out that the maritime employer of your loved one exhibited negligence, which eventually caused the wrongful death of your fisherman, tugboater, longshoreman, or other maritime-employed loved one. The employer or vessel owner should be held accountable for its actions or lack thereof.

If your loved one died due to mistakes or negligence on the part of his/her employer or if the owner of the vessel he/she was on, your loved one deserves justice, and you deserve to be compensated for your loss. A maritime death can be a complicated matter, requiring a careful investigation and an in-depth understanding of the law. Nevertheless, you should act as soon as possible and learn about your legal options. Wrongful death claims allow the family of a person who has died to recover damages. There are four bodies of maritime law that addresses death claims: general maritime law, the Jones Act, the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act (LHWCA), and the Death of the High Seas Act

Maritime Wrongful Death Lawyer in Seattle, WA

If you’ve lost a loved one at sea, the maritime wrongful death lawyers at Anderson Carey Williams & Neidzwski, PLLC 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. At Anderson Carey Williams & Neidzwski, PLLC, our wrongful death maritime attorney have the experience to help you, whether your loved one’s accident occurred in the Gulf of Alaska, Bering Sea, North Pacific, Puget Sound, or the Inside Passage of Southeast Alaska. Call us today at 1 (800) 262-8529 or send an online message to set up a free consultation

At Anderson Carey Williams & Neidzwski, PLLC, an experienced Washington, Alaska, California, or Oregon maritime injury lawyer can investigate your loved one’s maritime death in the case of negligence proving wrongful death. We assist the families of loved ones who died at sea coast-to-coast and in the courts of Washington, Oregon, Alaska, and California. Our offices are located in Portland, Oregon, Bellingham and Seattle, Washington, and San Francisco, California.

Call 1 (800) 262-8529 today.


Maritime Wrongful Death Information Center


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Death on the High Seas Act Offers Recovery for Seaman’s Families

The Death on the High Seas Act (DOHSA) was passed by Congress and signed by the President in 1920. According to 46 U.S.C. § 30302, DOHSA covers the death of a vessel’s crewmember or passenger in international waters as long as:

  • The ship or vessel must have been no more than three nautical miles from the shore of the United States
  • The death was caused by negligence, unseaworthiness, or some other wrongful action or omission.

Negligence means the shipowner failed in a duty of care owed to the seaman or passenger — that he or she did not act as a reasonably prudent person would have. Unseaworthiness means that the ship was not fit for the purpose for which it was made, or that the crew hired was not sufficient, either inability or in number, to properly operate the vessel.

DOHSA covers damages that are pecuniary or financial. Pecuniary damages include loss of support, loss of services performed in the house, funeral costs (if paid by the family members), and other economic losses. Non-pecuniary damages like loss of consortium and pre-death pain and suffering are not available under DOHSA. Only the spouse, children, or dependents of the deceased may make a claim under the Death on the High Seas Act, 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 (e.g., pre-death medical expenses, funeral expenses) to families for those killed at sea, it is important to have an experienced attorney that can carefully evaluate every potential option under other types of offshore wrongful death claims. 


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Other Remedies for a Sailors’ Wrongful Death

If the death of your loved one is not covered by DOHSA, there are other legal paths to pursue compensation. Your experienced maritime injury lawyer can help you determine the best path.

 The Jones Act, also passed in 1920, covers claims of negligence causing injury to seamen. Those injuries include wrongful death. If your loved one was within three miles of the U.S. shore, he or she was in territorial waters, and DOHSA does not apply. However, the Jones Act does. Much like DOHSA, you can recover for financial losses, but likely not for the loss of consortium or other nontangible damages.

If your loved one was within three miles of the shore, general maritime law also applies to wrongful death. Under a general maritime law wrongful death claim, you may be able to recover for nonpecuniary damages, like loss of consortium. In some instances, state law may supplement an award if the loss was within three nautical miles of the coast.

If your loved one was a stevedore, longshoreman, ship repair worker, welder, crane operator, or another land-based maritime employee, you may also be able to seek compensation under the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act. The LHWCA permits negligence actions against vessels pursuant to 33 U.S.C. § 905(b).


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Additional Resources

Washington State Department of Commerce – Follow the link to learn more information about policies and actions that are helping sustain the maritime industry. Furthermore, the site provides information on the economic impact the maritime sector has on Washington, and strategies to continue to promote “maritime economic development statewide.”


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Attorney for Death at Sea Claims Serving the Pacific North West

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 Anderson Carey Williams & Neidzwski, PLLC, our experienced offshore wrongful death Seattle attorneys can help you find that justice. The maritime attorneys at Anderson Carey Williams & Neidzwski, PLLC 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.

Having an experienced maritime attorney by your side is crucial because offshore death cases are very different from onshore cases of wrongful death. 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 Anderson Carey Williams & Neidzwski, PLLC.


This article was last updated on Monday, March 2, 2020.

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  • The Maritime Law Association of The United States
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