Death on the High Seas Act (DOHSA)

When a loved one passes away, it is devastating for the family members left behind. It is not uncommon for the family to experience financial difficulties, as the decedent may have provided a significant source of income. If the death involved a seaman, the surviving family members may be able to file for benefits under the Death on the High Seas Act (DOHSA).

Benefits Under the Death on the High Seas Act

A claim may be filed based on the DOHSA if the seaman’s death was caused by a wrongful act, neglect, or default that occurred on the high seas. Benefits are available for surviving family members if an employer’s negligence or unseaworthy vessel caused the death. To be eligible to file a claim, the accident must have taken place on the high seas beyond three miles (a marine league) from the shore of any U.S. state, the District of Columbia or U.S. territory or dependency. This law allows the decedent’s spouse, parent, child or dependent relative to sue the vessel, person or corporation for damages. If a decedent’s actions contributed to the accident, which caused his or her death, the amount of compensation awarded to the family may be reduced.

Compensation may be recovered for pecuniary (monetary) loss caused by the death of the seaman. Damages are calculated based on the estimate value of the financial benefit that the decedent would have provided. A spouse can be compensated for the actual value of the decedent’s financial contribution to the household. The amount the spouse receives will take into account the cost of caring for the decedent. Children may also recover the value of the care and guidance they would have received from the deceased parent.

The Death on the High Seas Act also covers deaths that resulted from commercial airline crashes. The amount of damages that may be awarded are limited. These types of cases are complex and require the expertise of an experienced Death on the High Seas Act attorney.

Filing a DOHSA Claim

There is a statute of limitations as to when a DOHSA claim can be filed. A lawsuit must be filed within 3 years of the date the accident occurred. It is crucial for family members to consult with a Death on the High Seas Act attorney immediately following the death of a loved one. An experienced Death on the High Seas Act lawyer will be able to go over the details of the accident and prepare a strong case against the negligent party. Contact our law firm for a free consultation regarding your DOHSA case.