Sandy Hook Pilot Dies in Boarding Accident By Michael Joseph on March 30, 2020

While many people see romance in working in the maritime industry or taking a cruise for a vacation, there are quite a number of hazards that can befall both workers and vacationers alike if proper safety measures aren’t taken. Though many of these hazards are avoidable, they nonetheless happen on a fairly regular basis.

On December 30, 2019 at approximately 0430, Sandy Hook Pilot Captain Dennis R. Sherwood was involved in an incident while boarding a container vessel inbound to the Port of New York & New Jersey. He sustained injuries after falling from an accommodation ladder and was evacuated to a local hospital where his injuries proved to be fatal. Prior to the incident, Captain Sherwood had been piloting vessels in and out of the Port of New York & New Jersey for over 35 years. The incident is being investigated by the United States Coast Guard. However, the Coast Guard did not specify which boat was involved in the accident. In 2014 as well, four Sandy Hook pilots were injured after the America class boat Wanderer collided with a containership.  Our New York City maritima lawyers who hande Death on the High Seas cases know that many mariners have lost their lives to the hazards of the sea and this is another tragic maritime fatality. 

For professional mariners the two main laws that apply to a fatality while working on the water are the Jones Act and the Death on the HIgh Seas Act. The Death on the High Seas Act, which is commonly referred to as DOHSA, applies “when the death of an individual is caused by wrongful act, neglect, or default occurring on the high seas beyond three nautical miles from shore of the United States”. 46 U.S.C. §30302. Courts have interpreted this provision to refer to the site of an accident on the high seas, not to where death actually occurs or where the wrongful act causing the accident may have originated.  For deaths which occur within the three mile limit, New York state wrongful death law applies.  The Jones Act, which allows for damages for conscious pain and suffering applies, so long as the injury occurred on navigable waters, and allows for pre-death pain and suffering. Our New York maritime worngful death lawyers usually bring Jones Act claims for pre-death pain and suffering, along with Death on the High Seas Act claims in the same lawsuit. 

DOHSA Allows Pecuniary Damages Only

DOHSA allows the decedent’s spouse, parent, child, or dependent relative to recover for “pecuniary loss” sustained by those individuals. Pecuniary losses are damages that can be calculated with some degree of precision, such as loss of financial support from the decedent. This can include the monetary value of loss of guidance and education form a parent, as well as the finanical benefiits that the person who died would have provided throughout the course of their life. 

In contrast to the vast majority of wrongful death and survival statutes, DOHSA does not allow for recovery of any damages suffered by the decedent. This means that pre-death medical expenses and funeral expenses are generally not recoverable since these are damages incurred by the decedent or the decedent’s estate, and not his or her family members. Damages under the Act are extremely limited, and unlike most other wrongful death and survival provisions, DOHSA prohibits recovery of non-pecuniary damages. Non-pecuniary damages are damages such as the decedent’s pre-death pain and suffering, and loss of consortium suffered by the decedent’s spouse. In non-DOHSA death cases, non-pecuniary damages often comprise the lion’s share of the case value. The unavailability of such damages under DOHSA can result in what many would consider unfairly low compensation for the families of those killed at sea. However, these damages can be recovered under the Jones Act and the General Maritime Law of unseaworthiness, which allows for pain and suffering, damages for dangerous conditions aboard a vessel. So our New York City maritime attorneys who hande accident at sea cases, know  how important it is to bring all causes of action, such as the Jones Act, the General Martime Law doctrine of Unseaworthiness and the Death on the High Seas, in one lawsuit.

If your spouse or parent died while working on a ship or was lost at sea, our NYC maritime lawyers, offer free consultations and have the knowledge of the unique aspects of the maritime law to get  you the recovery that you deserve. 



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The Law Office of Michael H. Joseph, PLLC

Law Office of Michael H. Joseph, PLLC

The Law Office of Michael H. Joseph, PLLC, has been helping injured victims recover compensation for their injuries for over a decade. Our attorneys are members of several prestigious organizations, including: 

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