Maritime work is one of the most dangerous occupations in the world. Whether employees work on the open water, oil platforms, the shore, or inland waterways, a sudden accident can have fatal consequences. When these accidents happen, the families of Jones Act seamen have the right to seek justice and compensation on behalf of a relative killed on the job.

Claims for Wrongful Death Under the Jones Act Brought by the Estate of the Seafarer

The Jones Act is a federal law that allows employees on vessels to sue their employers for negligence. The right to sue after an injury at sea doesn’t disappear if the victim is killed. Instead, the right survives the deceased, and this survival passes to the employee’s next of kin, and they, further, can sue for the loss of pecuniary support they suffer due to the seafarer’s death.

If a Jones Act seaman is killed due to illness, vessel collisions, capsizing, explosions, falls overboard, or after suffering an injury aboard a ship, families may collect both wrongful death and survivor benefits under the law. Only the personal representative of the deceased seaman’s estate may file the claim, but surviving spouses, children, and dependent parents or siblings may all be entitled to collect as beneficiaries of the deceased crew member’s death benefits.

A claim for compensation for the wrongful death of a seafarer can offer a great deal to a family after a loss, including:Maritime Injury Lawyer Hofmann & Schweitzer

Financial support.

In addition to the loss of the support a family member would have provided over the course of their lifetime, a claim can be made for the financial value of the loss of services the decedent would have provided. This component of compensation provides to the dependent beneficiaries the monetary value of the services your loved one would have provided around the house, such as home and car repairs, gardening and landscaping services, childcare, and maintenance.

Loss of a parent.

Families may recover the value of the loss of future care, guidance, education, and nurturing of the decedent’s children, including adult children, in certain circumstances.

Funeral expenses.

Death benefits could pay for expensive funeral or burial expenses and the costs of holding a memorial service.

Survival Claim to the Estate.

Compensatory damages may be awarded for the conscious pain and suffering of the decedent before he died. Compensation can include an amount for the psychological and emotional trauma suffered prior to death.

Related medical expenses.

A claim may also be made for any medical costs or out-of-pocket expenses the seafarer incurred prior to death.

Claims for Wrongful Death Under the General Maritime Law for Vessel Unseaworthiness Brought by the Estate of Seafarer

An additional claim the estate of a deceased seafarer can assert is one for the unseaworthiness of the vessel on which he/she worked. The estate of a deceased seaman whose death occurred in service to the ship may also sue for the same compensatory damages as under the Jones Act when the death was caused by his/her vessel’s unseaworthiness. Unseaworthiness is defined as the vessel, or its appurtenances, being not reasonably fit for its intended purpose. Furthermore, an improperly skilled or trained crew, and in particular the vessel’s officers, can also render a vessel ‘unseaworthy.’ As in all personal injury or wrongful death cases, your attorney still has to show a causal connection between the crew’s or the owner’s negligence, or the unseaworthy condition, and the event that caused the injury or death. And there is no “double recovery” because both negligence and unseaworthiness are shown to have caused the fatal injuries or illness.

While no amount of money could ever replace a loved one, compensation obtained for Jones Act negligence or a vessel’s unseaworthiness may help ensure that you and your relatives aren’t forced to endure financial burdens in addition to your grief.

Let Us Advise You During This Difficult Time

If you lost someone close to you in a maritime accident, you will need to file paperwork and jump through administrative hoops to get the compensation you need to provide for your family. One of the many benefits of working with an experienced maritime injury attorney is that he or she has the experience to take on the fight of asserting a claim for damages that you will likely need to survive. Competent maritime counsel will make sure your claim is asserted within the time the law permits and will get involved in immediately investigating what happened to cause you to lose your loved one.

The dedicated legal team at Hofmann & Schweitzer can listen to your story, outline your options, and explain your next steps at no cost to you. Call us at 800-3-MAY-DAY (800-362-9329) or fill out our online contact form today to set up your no-obligation consultation. To learn more about these types of claims, start reading your complimentary copy of our guide, Are You a Seaman Injured in a Maritime Accident? Know Your Rights.


Paul T. Hofmann
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Focused on personal injury, with an emphasis on maritime, railroad and construction worker tort claims.