Passed by Congress in 1920, DOHSA (Death on the High Seas Act) allows family members to file for damages against the negligent owner of a vessel on behalf of maritime workers killed while on the job and out to sea. Even though DOHSA was intended to apply to cases involving vessels sailing beyond the three-nautical mile limit off the coast of the United States, its territories or dependencies, the law also covers fatal aircraft crashes in international waters.
Legal Remedy Under DOHSA
In cases of fatal sea and aircraft accidents that occur beyond U.S. territorial waters, the deceased’s surviving family members are entitled to file a DOHSA suit to obtain legal remedy for their loss. Typically, a DOHSA compensation claim in New Orleans covers:
- Funeral expenses
- Loss of existing or expected financial support
- Counseling expenses
- Other financial costs caused by the death
Although the Death on the High Seas Act resembles Jones Act provisions about employers’ negligence and vessels’ states of unseaworthiness, its scope is not limited to providing legal remedy to seamen. The DOHSA coverage of legal remedy rights is granted to two groups:
- Workers or passengers on a vessel who are killed beyond the three-mile territorial limit
- Workers or passengers on commercial airliners who are killed beyond the 12-mile international waters limit
If a lawsuit filed under DOHSA results in compensation, any financial proceeds go only to family members of the deceased. The DOHSA list of qualified beneficiaries is clearly defined and can’t be changed or expanded. Currently, only the following are eligible for legal remedy in DOHSA lawsuits:
- Dependent family members
When filing a lawsuit under DOHSA, the plaintiff must prove that either negligence or poor judgment of a vessel’s owner caused the death of their loved one, or that the vessel was not seaworthy. In cases of airline crashes at sea where DOHSA applies, similar causality issues of negligence, bad decisions, or airworthiness are considered. Though there are many types of incidents in New Orleans that are covered under DOHSA law, the most common are:
- Overturned or sunken vessel
- Onboard fire or explosion
- Defective equipment or mechanical error
- Failure to follow safety procedures
- Failure to give appropriate medical care
- Incompetence in the training of personnel
DOHSA Statute of Limitations and Decedent’s Contributory Negligence
As in all maritime injury cases, lawsuits filed under DOHSA are controlled by the three-year statute of limitations. A case must be filed within this time period because DOHSA lawsuits are often complex and require a great deal of preparation. The process of calculating lost wages and future lost earnings is complicated, and establishing who is at fault requires careful examination of physical evidence and documentation.
If the deceased was partly at fault for the incident that led to the death, DOHSA rules do not rule out any financial remedy to the family. However, contributory negligence is a factor that can be considered in cases where DOHSA applies. As a result, the amount of the award may be reduced in proportion to the level of contributory negligence by the decedent.
For more information on DOHSA regulations, refer to the House of Representatives official U.S. House Report 106-32.
FAQs: Death on the High Seas Act
What is the Death on the High Seas Act (DOHSA)?
The Death on the High Seas Act (DOHSA) is a federal law that provides a legal remedy for wrongful death cases that occur beyond three nautical miles from the United States coastline. With this act in place, a victim’s family members can seek compensation following a wrongful death by working with our Scott Vicknair, LLC, team.
Who is covered under the Death on the High Seas Act?
DOHSA covers the families of individuals who have died as a result of accidents, acts of violence, or negligence that occurred on the high seas. Generally, this act only applies to the deaths of maritime employees, passengers on ships or airplanes, and offshore workers.
What types of damages can be claimed under DOHSA?
Under DOHSA, eligible family members can seek compensation for economic and non-economic damages. Economic damages can include funeral costs, lost wages, and medical expenses (for example, if the slain victim died later in a hospital). Non-economic damages may cover emotional distress, loss of companionship, and pain and suffering resulting from the death of a loved one.
What is the statute of limitations for filing a DOHSA claim?
The statute of limitations for filing a DOHSA claim can vary depending on certain restrictions or regulations. Generally, the time limit to file a claim is within three years from the date of the death. However, it is important to consult with an attorney experienced in maritime law to understand the applicable statute of limitations for your case.
Can I file a DOHSA claim if the accident occurred within U.S. territorial waters?
No, DOHSA does not apply to accidents that occur within U.S. territorial waters. In such cases, other applicable laws, such as state wrongful death statutes or general maritime laws, may govern the legal process. Our Death on The High Seas Act attorneys can help determine if you qualify or not.
What factors are considered in determining negligence under DOHSA?
For establishing negligence, as illustrated by DOHSA, it must be shown that the death was caused by a wrongful act, negligence, or a specific problem with the vessel. Negligence refers to a failure to exercise reasonable care, resulting in harm. Factors such as lack of maintenance, inadequate safety measures, or failure to follow established maritime regulations can be evidence of negligence.
Can multiple parties be held liable under DOHSA?
Yes, DOSHA can apply to multiple parties. Liability can be attributed to the owner, operator, charterer, or other parties involved in the operation, maintenance, or management of the vessel. Additionally, manufacturers of defective equipment or parts that contributed to the death may also be held accountable.
Can I file a DOHSA claim if the death was due to natural causes?
DOHSA generally covers deaths resulting from accidents, acts of violence, or negligence. If the death was solely due to natural causes, it may not fall under the scope of DOHSA. However, if negligence or unseaworthiness of the vessel contributed to or worsened the natural causes, a DOHSA claim might be possible. Consulting with an experienced attorney from our team can help determine if you have a case or not.
How can a New Orleans attorney assist with a DOHSA claim?
An attorney experienced in maritime law and DOHSA can provide invaluable guidance throughout the legal process. They can evaluate the circumstances surrounding the death, gather evidence, negotiate with insurers or responsible parties, and advocate for your rights in court if necessary. An attorney can also help determine the potential damages you may be entitled to and work to achieve a fair settlement.
Is it necessary to hire a maritime attorney for a DOHSA claim?
It’s not legally required to hire an attorney to file a DOSHA claim, but it is highly recommended. Maritime law is complex and requires specific expertise. A skilled attorney can navigate the intricacies of DOHSA, ensure your rights are protected, and help maximize the potential compensation you may receive.
The Importance of Hiring an Attorney for a DOHSA Claim
When it comes to pursuing a Death on the High Seas Act (DOHSA) claim, hiring an experienced New Orleans attorney can significantly impact the outcome of your case. Let’s explore some essential reasons to hire a DOSHA attorney:
- Knowledge of Maritime Law: Maritime law can be extremely complicated. An attorney well-versed in maritime law understands the intricacies of DOHSA and can navigate the complexities involved in pursuing a claim. They have a deep understanding of the specific rights, remedies, and limitations provided by DOHSA, ensuring that your case is handled with expertise.
- Investigation and Evidence Gathering: A qualified attorney can help you build a strong case, ensuring a better compensation amount. An experienced attorney has the resources and knowledge to conduct a comprehensive investigation into the circumstances surrounding the death. They can collect vital evidence, such as accident reports, medical records, witness statements, and expert opinions, to support your claim. This meticulous approach enhances the strength of your case and increases the likelihood of a favorable outcome.
- Negotiation Skills: Many DOHSA cases call for negotiations between both parties—the victim’s family and the insuraunce companies. A skilled attorney knows how to effectively negotiate on your behalf, advocating for your rights and ensuring that you receive fair compensation. They have experience dealing with insurance companies and their tactics, helping to level the playing field and prevent you from being taken advantage of during settlement discussions.
- Litigation Expertise: While settlements are common, some DOHSA claims may require litigation to pursue the compensation you deserve. In such cases, having an attorney with litigation experience is invaluable. They understand the legal procedures, deadlines, and requirements involved in filing a lawsuit. With their expertise, they can guide you through the litigation process, present a compelling case in court, and fight for your rights before a judge and jury.
Contact a New Orleans Attorney Regarding the Death on the High Seas Act
You need to contact an attorney quickly if you or a loved one died or were seriously injured during a job that takes place on or near water. Schedule a consultation with the Scott Vicknair law firm today to find out how we can help protect your legal rights.