Seamen already deal with dangerous jobs, which is why it is so important for maritime employers to properly follow safety protocols. When they don’t uphold their required duty of care and provide a safe work environment, it is all too easy for sailors to be killed on the job. Whether they die directly in an accident at sea or succumb to their wounds later, the Death on the High Seas Act may help a victim’s family recover financially from the loss.

Who Can Bring a Suit Under the DOHSA in Louisiana?

There are several different federal laws in the United States covering injuries and wrongful death for people who work on or around maritime vessels. For instance, the Jones Act Flowers at a Maritime Worker's Funeralprovides a means for seaman who are hurt to seek compensation or for the family to file a suit if the seaman died close to the shore.

As the name implies, the Death on the High Seas Act instead focuses on providing a means of redress for surviving family when someone passes away due to injuries sustained further at sea. The DOHSA typically comes into play if the event that caused your family member’s death took place more than three miles from the shore. Updates to the law also now allow legal action when someone dies in a plane crash in international waters.

DOHSA does limit who can bring a suit against a negligent maritime employer or airline, however. An attorney can help the following types of relatives file a lawsuit:

  • Children
  • Other dependent family members
  • Parents
  • Spouse

What Is Covered by the Death on the High Seas Act?

This particular maritime law only applies when the employer engaged in some type of negligence, or if the ship simply wasn’t seaworthy. Depending on the circumstances of how your loved one was hurt, the DOHSA may apply when a worker dies due to situations like:

  • Breathing in dangerous fumes in small spaces
  • Boat collisions
  • Capsized or sunken vessels
  • Chemical burns
  • Continuing to use aging equipment that should have been replaced
  • Defective parts
  • Explosions or onboard fires
  • Exposure to electric shocks
  • Falling overboard
  • Failing to provide needed medical care immediately
  • Inadequate safety inspection schedules
  • Improper maintenance
  • Lack of proper training
  • Missing life boats
  • Other workers or management failing to follow established safety protocols

Why You Need a Lawyer to Pursue a DOHSA Lawsuit

Unfortunately, there are several pitfalls that can stand in the way of a successful DOHSA claim. For instance, the law features a contributory negligence clause that can reduce compensation. If a court determines the employee was 50% responsible for the accident due to their own actions while the employer was responsible for the other 50%, the amount recovered would be cut in half.

Due to the potential costs involved, the at-fault party is likely to try to argue the deceased was at least partly responsible. That’s why you should hire an attorney to investigate the accident, comb through employer records, and interview witnesses. When successful, compensation recovered by utilizing the Death on the High Seas Act specifically covers:

  • Counseling for family members
  • Funeral costs
  • Loss of financial support from the loved one who passed away

It’s important to keep in mind that the DOHSA doesn’t provide a means to recover damages for the pain and suffering experienced by the victim after being injured but before passing away. This is another crucial reason to consult an experienced lawyer, as there could be other wrongful death claims to utilize for a full and fair recovery.

DOHSA lawsuits additionally feature a strict three-year statute of limitations. That can pass more quickly than you expect, as it takes a significant amount of time to thoroughly investigate the accident, establish what occurred, and identify the negligent party responsible for your loved one’s death.

Speak With a Qualified Maritime Attorney About Protecting Your Legal Rights

If you are already dealing with an emotionally devastating situation like the loss of a family member, you shouldn’t have to wonder how you are going to cover your normal monthly bills. Schedule a consultation with the Scott Vicknair Law Firm by calling 504-500-1111 or use our contact form to find out how we can help. We want to vigorously defend your legal rights in court while holding the at-fault party responsible for your loved one’s tragic passing.