The Death on the High Seas Act

April 06, 2011 @ 05:24 PM -- by

As a Texas Death on the High Seas Act lawyer, I focus on the details involved in this ancient act. The Death on the High Seas Act (DOHSA) was originally passed in 1920 to make it easier for widows of seamen to recover damages for future earnings when death occurs in international waters. When a seaman dies as a result of an employer's negligence or because of an unseaworthy vessel, the worker's family may file for benefits under this Act. The incident must occur on the high seas beyond a marine league (three miles) from the shore of any state, the District of Columbia, or U.S. territory or dependency. The decedent's wife, husband, parent, child or dependent relative may file the claim.

 Death on the high seas may be caused by numerous things, such as drowning, explosions, fires, collisions, allisions, capsizing, or shipwrecks. Under the Death on the High Seas Act, the decedent’s family members may not recover the damages which are available for wrongful death and survival actions. Under the Act, the court apportions the financial recovery among the various seafarer’s beneficiaries in accordance with the beneficiaries’ proportionate loss.

The damages under the Death on the High Seas Act are limited to pecuniary (economic) damages. These economic damages will include lost wages, as well as monetary and household support, including funeral expenses. Unfortunately, compensation for loss of consortium (comfort and society and such) and pain and suffering before death are not recoverable under the Act. There are negligence and unseaworthiness claims which may be asserted against other responsible parties, such as contractors, subcontractors, and vessel owners. The Death on the High Seas Act also encompasses commercial aviation accidents involving fatalities which are beyond twelve (12) nautical miles from United States’ shores. A Death on the High Seas Act suit must commence within three years from the date of the seaman’s death.

Contact Texas Death on the High Seas Act attorney Scott Nelson if you need help with matters involving this Act.