What are the limitations of the Death on the High Seas Act?

On Behalf of | Apr 3, 2024 | Maritime Wrongful Death |

Losing a loved one due to a maritime wrongful death may be difficult to accept. As the victim’s family mourns, they may pursue justice through the Death on the High Seas Act (DOHSA).

This federal law allows a victim’s family member to hold a vessel or person responsible for the wrongful death. They may bring a civil action in admiralty if the victim’s demise was due to neglect, default or a wrongful act on the high seas.

Distance restrictions

The DOHSA only applies to wrongful deaths that happened farther than 3 nautical miles from the United States shore. It does not cover deaths in internal waters, including the Great Lakes and waters within a state’s territory.

Economic damages

A family member may receive “fair compensation” for economic damages like medical fees, lost wages and future earnings. The family member could be the victim’s spouse, child, parent or dependent relative.

However, they cannot seek noneconomic damages for emotional wounds, mental pains and loss of comfort, care and companionship. The law states only one instance when a family member can claim noneconomic damages. The death must be due to a commercial aviation accident that was over 12 nautical miles from the U.S. shore.

Contributory negligence

Meanwhile, a victim’s family may receive less than their expected amount if there was contributory negligence. A victim can partly cause a wrongful death accident because the maritime workplace is a high-risk environment.

According to the DOHSA, the court will reduce the amount based on the degree of negligence. The victim’s family should not worry so much, though, because contributory negligence will not prevent them from receiving damages.

Fighting for justice

When a maritime tragedy befalls your family, you have to muster enough strength to accept the situation and move on. You also need fortitude to persevere in seeking justice for your loved one and your family.