What Damages Can I Collect if a Relative of Mine Has Been Killed on the High Seas

Q
What Damages Can I Collect if a Relative of Mine Has Been Killed on the High Seas?
A
If your spouse, child, or parent has been killed in a maritime accident then you may be entitled to compensation pursuant to the Death on the High Seas Act. In order to collect damages pursuant to this law, a maritime worker must have been killed on the high seas; that is, as at least three nautical miles off the coast of the United States. Additionally, the death must have occurred because the vessel on which the worker was sailing was unseaworthy or because of an employer’s negligence.

Currently, damages are limited to compensation for the lost income of the deceased seaman. Lost income is calculated based on the wages the seaman was earning and what his or her projected lifespan would have been if not for the fatal accident.

The Death on the High Seas Act was originally enacted in 1920. The widows of the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill have appeared before Congress to demand changes to the law. The House Energy and Commerce Committee has indicated that it may consider significantly amending or repealing the law in order to allow families to recover damages for more than lost wages in future accidents.