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How the Death on the High Seas Act can affect Louisianans

Louisiana laborers who toil at sea have higher rates of injury and death than most workers. Fishermen, oil-rig workers and dockworkers can be injured or killed in boat collisions or on oil platforms. In many cases, they or their families have trouble obtaining fair compensation to cover the costs of medical treatment, lost income and loss of companionship. These victims, however, may be able to find legal help through the federal Death on the High Seas Act of 1920.

Any offshore worker who is injured beyond three nautical miles from the U.S. coastline has the right to file a lawsuit under the act against the person or vessel responsible, if negligence or unseaworthiness is a factor. A court will, however, consider any contributory negligence by the worker when establishing overall negligence and setting the amount of compensation.

If the worker dies during court proceedings, his or her attorney or personal representative can act as plaintiff in pursuing compensation. In cases where foreign governments might have jurisdiction, a case can still be presented before U.S. admiralty courts without the worker losing the right to recover compensation.

The Death on the High Seas Act does not apply to ship personnel working on the Great Lakes between the United States and Canada, or on waters within any state. The act also does not affect Louisiana state laws regulating surviving family members' rights to recover compensation for the death of a loved one.

Anyone who thinks he or she deserves compensation for pain and suffering after an offshore injury may want to seek the advice of a professional attorney who understands this aspect of maritime law. The counsel can help a plaintiff understand his or her legal rights and options. Recovering fair compensation to cover medical and other expenses caused by an injury is an avenue that can be pursued by those who have been injured at sea.

Source: Law.Cornell.edu, "46 U.S. Code Chapter 303 - Death on the High Seas," Accessed on Feb. 4, 2015

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