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What do You Need to Know About the Death on the High Seas Act?


Posted On behalf of Simien & Simien on Oct 25, 2017 in Maritime

placing flowers on a graveThe Death on the High Seas Act (DOSHA) provides a legal remedy to family members when a loved one dies on a ship due to its unseaworthiness or his or her employer’s negligence. The law allows you to file a lawsuit to attempt to recover compensation for your losses, including funeral expenses, lost financial support and other damages.

If you lost a loved one at sea, you should contact one of our trusted maritime attorneys to determine if you can pursue compensation through a DOHSA lawsuit. Our compassionate Baton Rouge maritime attorneys understand that it is incredibly painful to experience the loss of a loved one at sea. That is why we are committed to fighting for your rights and pursuing all of the compensation your family deserves after this tragedy. Contact us today so we can discuss your options during a free, no-obligation consultation.

Can I File a DOSHA Claim?

You cannot file a DOSHA lawsuit unless your case has certain elements:

Role of Negligence

DOHSA only applies to deaths on the high seas that were caused by a wrongful act, neglect or default. In other words, your attorney must establish that the shipowner acted unreasonably in maintaining or operating the vessel.

Although negligence must be established on a case-by-case basis, many DOSHA claims involve such factors as:

  • Failing to follow safety procedures
  • Failing to provide proper medical care
  • Improper training
  • Fires or explosions on the vessel
  • Overturned vessels

Contributory Negligence

Another factor in DOHSA claims is negligence on the part of the victim. DOSHA does not bar the family from recovering compensation if the victim acted negligently. However, the court considers the extent of the decedent’s contributory negligence and reduces the amount of recovery based on this apportioned amount.

For example, if the decedent was 40 percent responsible for the accident and the family suffered $100,000 of damages, the recovery is reduced by $40,000.

Who Can File a Claim?

The personal representative of the decedent’s estate files a claim for the benefit of the decedent’s spouse, child, parent or dependent relative.

Applicable Vessels

DOSHA covers the rights of workers and passengers on vessels such as:

  • Oil rigs
  • Commercial fishing boats
  • Commercial aviation
  • Cruise ships
  • Chartered boats
  • Tour boats
  • Ferries

However, DOSHA excludes some types of vessels from coverage, including:

  • Offshore drilling rigs
  • Privately-owned aircraft and non-commercial helicopters

Distance from Shore

To make a valid DOSHA claim, you must be able to prove that the death occurred at least three nautical miles from the United States shore. Aviation accidents must have occurred at least 12 nautical miles from shore in order for the family to recover.

DOSHA Compensation

DOSHA provides for the pecuniary losses the family suffers. Examples of damages covered by DOSHA include:

  • Funeral expenses – This covers the costs the family incurred to provide a proper funeral for their loved one.
  • Loss of financial support – This covers financial support that the decedent would have provided for his or her family had the accident not occurred.
  • Loss of services – This element of damages factors in services provided to the family, such as cooking, cleaning and childcare.
  • Loss of inheritance – This is the amount of inheritance that the decedent would have been able to provide to his or her beneficiaries over the course of his or her normal life expectancy.

DOSHA Statute of Limitations

Families have a limited amount of time to pursue their claim because there is a three-year statute of limitations for DOSHA claims. This means you have three years from the date of your loved one's death to file a lawsuit. If you miss the deadline, you will be unable to pursue compensation under DOHSA.

Contact an Experienced Maritime Attorney

If your loved one died at sea and you believe you may have a DOSHA claim, it is important that you contact an experienced maritime attorney.   

Filing a claim of this nature can be quite complex. A maritime attorney can help you navigate this type of complicated claim and explain each step of the process. He or she can also conduct a comprehensive investigation and help ensure your claim is filed before the statute of limitations runs out.

At Simien & Simien, we provide a free initial consultation, so there is no risk to discuss your claim with an experienced legal advisor. If you decide to move forward with your claim, you are only responsible for legal fees if we recover compensation on your behalf.

Contact us at (800) 374-8422 to get started today.