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Everything You Need to Know About the Death on the High Seas Act


wrongfuldeathWhen the Death on the High Seas Act (DOHSA) was enacted in 1920, there was no compensation for wrongful death under maritime law. Historically, the act only provided financial compensation. Today, the act covers damages for the pain and suffering that the deceased’s family endures. The key point for any claim made under the Death on the High Seas Act is that the death was due to negligence by the vessel owner, employer, or a crew member.

The act only covers deaths which occur at sea 3 miles or more from any state or U.S. territory. If a seaman is injured at sea, goes to the hospital, and later dies, he will not be covered unless a lawsuit is pending for other maritime laws or personal injury action for the same injury which is why you’ll need the help of an experienced Nationwide Death on the High Seas Act Attorney. In addition to these stipulations, the wrongful act that caused the death must be traditionally maritime in nature. The death must also be proven to be related to injures caused by the defendant (employer, vessel owner, crew member), not from unrelated causes.

A personal representative for the deceased must bring the claim on behalf of any financial dependents. The damages awarded in a DOHSA claim may include the amount of financial benefit any dependent would have received had the decedent lived. This may include:

  • Financial support a person might have provided a spouse, minus the amount needed to support him or herself.
  • The financial equivalent to the guidance and support a child would have received from a parent.
  • The value of household services the deceased might have provided.

Punitive damages (a financial award to the plaintiff that punishes the defendant) are not recoverable under DOHSA. Other claims that may be part of a wrongful death suit, however, may provide for punitive damages on behalf of the decedent’s family.

Commercial aviation accidents 12 miles or more from the U.S. shoreline may also be eligible for compensation under DOHSA, according to an amendment made in 2000. DOHSA does not cover private and corporate aircraft, however, and does not apply to offshore drilling rigs.

DOHSA act claims are normally filed as part of a wrongful death suit, and the law surrounding these actions is complex. Only an experienced maritime lawyer  with experience handling Death on the High Seas Act cases can provide the information necessary to determine the best course of action after a person has died on the job at sea. The Maritime Injury Attorneys at Lapeze & Johns have the experience needed to bring a DOHSA claim to the most beneficial settlement for clients. They have tried many DOHSA related cases in Texas, Louisiana, and throughout the Gulf Coast with success. Claims involving DOHSA are usually taken to court to prove pecuniary loss through testimony to support the claim.

A family has three years to file a DOHSA claim from the date of action, which is normally the same as the date of death.

If your loved one or someone you know has died while working at sea, call the skilled offshore injury attorneys at Lapeze & Johns. A qualified maritime injury attorney can provide the answers you need to determine whether a DOHSA claim is right for your family. Lapeze & Johns’ attorneys understand the difficult time you are going through, and they can provide the compassion and understanding you need to navigate the difficult waters of a legal claim after the death of a loved one. They will fight aggressively for your right to compensation, and there may be multiple claims that could result in financial damages for your loss.

Death on the High Seas Act (DOHSA)

We have intimate knowledge of maritime injury law and the details that surround DOHSA claims. With our assistance, you won’t be subjected to more exposure than necessary with the courts, insurance adjusters, or employers. Our priority is to make the cases surrounding death bearable for the survivors.