Cruise Ship Passenger Missing at Sea, Presumed Dead

A woman onboard a 15-day cruise to Hawaii intentionally jumped off the ship in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. While the details of her motivation to jump were not revealed, the spokeswoman for Princess Cruises expressed that it was clear the jump was not an accident. The ship was a 1300-cabin ship that was 650 miles northeast of Hilo, Hawaii. The ship turned around to look for the woman, but suspended the search on the second day. Security footage and a witness confirmed that the American woman in her 50s jumped of her own will.

Tragedies at sea generate questions of responsibility and options for action. Whether the death of a loved one happens off the coast of Washington or somewhere across the Pacific, many things must be considered. What, if anything, could have been done to prevent the death? Did anyone's actions contribute to the death? What options are available to alleviate the financial stress caused by the loved one's death? In maritime and admiralty law, statutes and general civil action can be used to hold cruise lines, fishing companies, and vessel owners accountable for failing in their duty to provide reasonable care to their passengers, employees, or crew members under the circumstances.

The family members of those who experience fatal injuries that occur more than three nautical miles off shore can find legal relief through the federal Death on the High Seas Act, or DOHSA. DOHSA was created by the United States to restore uniformity in maritime law after a series of inconsistent rulings that provided limited or nonexistent remedies for the plaintiffs. A spouse, child, or dependent relative may bring the suit and recover pecuniary damages like loss of support, funeral expenses, and inheritance. Proof of the damages owed to the family member because of the death must be shown with supported facts and avoid speculation by providing a reasonable amount of certainty.

Wrongful death actions may also be pursued through state court, which may expand the damages available to the family members of the deceased. Unlike the limited statutory remedies available under DOHSA, plaintiffs may be able to recover punitive damages from vessel owners or cruise lines if malicious intent is proven. When seeking damages under DOHSA, only negligence must be shown. While negligence does not involve proof of wanton conduct, it does require proof that the owners failed in their duty to provide reasonable care, and that the failure led to the death.

The Washington wrongful death maritime attorneys, John Merriam and Gordon Webb, have over 50 years of combined experience litigating and negotiating maritime and admiralty law claims. Our attorneys understand you are going through a stressful time trying to find the funds necessary to pay for funeral expenses and daily expenses. We are here to work tirelessly on your case and maximize the compensation you deserve. If your family member died while onboard as a passenger or working as a crew member, and you need to speak with one of our attorneys, call today for a free, confidential consultation at 877.800.1007.

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