The Jones Act Death & Survival Claim
The Jones Act provides a remedy for the wrongful death of a seaman or crewmember that dies due to the negligence of an employer, ship’s master or fellow crewmember. Having previously represented shipping, cruise line and marine insurance companies for 19 years, the board certified maritime attorneys at the law firm of Brais Law Firm are in a unique position to protect the families of seamen, crew members and certain oil field workers. The lawyers at the law firm of Brais Law Firm with offices in Miami, Florida, Boston, Massachusetts and Houston, Texas are here to help the families of seamen, crew members and certain oil field workers as a result of an accident causing death.
There is no Jones Act “negligence” remedy for unseaworthiness. If the event causing death occurs beyond the territorial waters of any State or U.S. territory, the seaman’s representative may also bring an action for unseaworthiness under DOHSA. If the event causing death occurs within territorial waters, the crew member’s representative may join with the Jones Act negligence claim a general maritime wrongful death claim for unseaworthiness. The Jones Act wrongful death & survival law suit must be brought by the estate’s personal representative against only the seaman / crewmember’s employer.
Frequently Asked Questions (“FAQs”) – Jones Act Seaman Wrongful Death
Who may Bring a Wrongful Death Action Under the Jones Act?
A: The personal representative of a seaman / crewmember who died, may bring a wrongful death claim under the Jones Act on behalf of the surviving widow or husband and children; and, if none, then the decedent’s parents; and, if none, then the next of kin dependent upon the deceased seaman.
Who can be Beneficiaries Under the Jones Act?
A: The Jones Act allows recovery on behalf of the decedent’s beneficiaries. Beneficiaries have been determined to include:
- Surviving spouse – A wife or husband who was married to the decedent at the time of death. Common law spouses (as long as their common law marriage complies with the applicable state law) have been held to be a surviving spouse. Divorced spouses, however, are not deemed to be beneficiates.
- Children – Biological children as well as stepchildren who have suffered pecuniary losses due to the death have been held to be beneficiaries.
- Parents – Dependent parents are considered beneficiaries. Non-dependent, however, parents are not beneficiaries.
- Siblings – Siblings who are dependent on the decedent may be deemed dependents.
When Must I File a Jones Act Claim?
A: For wrongful death cases under the Jones Act, a claim must be filed within 3 years of the date of death.
What Types of Damages are Recoverable Under a Jones Act Wrongful Death & Survival Claim?
A: Unlike DOHSA, the Jones Act provides both wrongful death and survival remedies. Under this theory, the following damages are available:
- Financial Support and Contribution – The financial contributions that the decedent would have made to his spouse and dependents over the course of his/her work life expectancy less any amount determined to be for the care and maintenance of the decedent personally.
- Loss of Services – The monetary value of services the decedent would have provided to the beneficiaries around the home.
- Nurture to Dependent Children – The value of care, guidance and training to the decedent’s children.
- Funeral Expenses – Funeral expenses are allowed to the point actually paid by the beneficiaries.
- Pre-Death Pain and Suffering – Monitory value of the conscious pain and suffering cause by the negligent act the decedent felt prior to his death are recoverable under the survival provisions of the Jones Act.
- Lost Past & Future Wages –Wages lost over the course of his/her work life expectancy unless DOHSA applies.
- Pre-Death Medical Expenses – Out of pocket expenses paid towards the decedent’s medical expenses.
What Types of Damages are NOT Recoverable Under Jones Act Wrongful Death & Survival Claim?
A: Like DOHSA, a wrongful death Jones Act claim is limited to pecuniary loses, to wit:
- Loss of Society and Consortium are not recoverable.
- The Decedent’s Loss Future Earnings are not recoverable when DOHSA applies.
- Punitive Damages are not recoverable.
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