Dock Worker Dies from Head Injury after Falling From Ship

A dock worker in Bangladesh was working on a ship when he suddenly slipped and fell into the sea. His fellow seamen rescued him and discovered a severe head injury. Despite being taken immediately to the hospital, the worker died from his injuries. Whether it is in Washington or Bangladesh, the death of a loved one working on a ship or the docks is difficult for the surviving loved ones. The sudden grief can be overwhelming to family members, and it can be difficult to know what legal remedies are available to you to help pay for funeral expenses or medical bills (if any), and make up for the lost wages of the deceased seaman.

The Jones Act, or Merchant Marine Act, details the remedies available to the family members of the deceased seaman or estate of the seaman. This statute was written to compensate for the losses incurred when a family member dies in the course of employment at sea. Some of the benefits provided include loss of companionship, burial or cremation costs, and future earnings. Punitive damages may be available if there was willful and wanton conduct by the vessel owner that resulted in the death. Willful and wanton conduct means that the ship owner knew of or should have known about something like unsafe conditions on the ship that were present because the owner purposefully left the vessel in disrepair. If a ship owner's conduct was willful and wanton, then punitive damages may be available to the family.

Other statutes may apply, depending on where the death of the seaman occurred. If the death happened when the vessel was a marine league off the U.S. Coast, then the Death on the High Seas Act, or DOHSA, applies. Negligence or default by the ship owner must be shown by the party filing suit. The relief available includes pecuniary and non-pecuniary damages like funeral expenses and loss of companionship. Unlike the compensation available under the Jones Act, punitive damages are not available.

All workers should be provided a safe place to work. The obligations of the ship owner can be determined by the employment contract signed by the seaman. A ship owner should ensure through its agreements and practices on the ship that workers are able to work reasonable hours and stay well-rested. Failure to provide a safe environment is a breach of the owner's duty to provide a seaworthy vessel and reasonable care.

If you have had a loved one killed while working onboard a ship or as a longshoreman, contact the Washington maritime wrongful death attorneys John Merriam and Gordon Webb. Their combined 50 years of experience in maritime law and 15 years of experience as seamen provide both with the tools needed to aggressively litigate and negotiate a wrongful death claim on behalf of the family and estate. If you would like to speak to one of our attorneys, available in Seattle and Bellevue, then contact our office for a free, confidential consultation at 206-729-5252 for the Seattle office or 425-454-3800 for the Bellevue office.

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