Many of New Orleans’ families have a loved one whose job requires travel in the Gulf of Mexico. Unfortunately for these families, they do not have the same rights as those on land if that family member dies due to the negligence of his or her employer while in international waters.
One of the few positive changes that may come out of the BP oil spill is that this unfair law may be about to change.
Currently, if a family member is killed while working in international waters, the rights of the family to recover damages are governed by the federal Death on the High Seas Act. Under this law, the only individual who can sue for the wrongful death of a loved one is the spouse, and the damages that may be sought are basically limited to strictly economic damages, such as loss of future income.
Other family members, such as children or siblings, may not seek compensation, nor may the spouse seek compensation for damages such as loss of companionship. These limitations do not usually apply to individuals who suffer a wrongful death on land.
In fact, the U.S. Congress has previously amended the Death on the High Seas Act to allow families of plane crash victims over international waters to recover non-economic damages, but did not extend the same rights to the families of maritime workers.
This disparity now may finally be coming to an end. In early June, a bill entitled the Survivors Equality Act was introduced in the U.S. Congress to remedy this law. Primarily motivated by the recent deaths of BP workers while at sea, it would extend many of the same rights available on land regarding the recovering of non-economic damages to family members of those who die in international waters.
If you or a family member has been injured, or has lost a family member or spouse while working in the Gulf, was killed, please feel free to contact us at 504-581-6411 or 877-581-6411. We would be happy to answer any questions you might have.