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Death on the High Seas Act

Death on the High Seas

Unfortunately, deaths occurring on the high seas are not uncommon. With maritime workers in such a dangerous line of work, family members may experience unfathomable loss.

The Death on the High Seas Act ensures that maritime workers and their family members receive the support they need. In such a complex area of law, it’s important to get a qualified attorney to assist you through this tough time and protect your rights. 

What Is the Death on the High Seas Act?

Since 1920, the Death on the High Seas Act has permitted recovery of damages by family members of a seaman killed in international waters. The Death on the High Seas Act also extends to protect areas when an airline disaster occurs over high seas beyond twelve nautical miles of the territorial limit of United States waters. 

The purpose of the DOHSA was to hold employers accountable for implementing proper measures required for a safe working environment. 

The only family members that qualify to sue under this high seas act include the decedent’s spouse, parent, children, or dependent relative. Outside of these familial classifications, you may not bring a claim under the Death on the High Seas Act. 

Hazards of Maritime Work

Maritime workers complete hazardous tasks daily. Some of the most common causes of maritime deaths include:

  • Equipment malfunctions, 
  • Falls and drowning accidents, and 
  • Material handling accidents.

Employers must provide a safe work environment for maritime workers to prevent injury or death. 

Maritime workers face much greater hazards than the average worker. For example, maritime transportation workers are nearly six times more likely to suffer a fatal injury than workers in other industries, and those in commercial fishing are more than 28 times more likely to do so.

Therefore, it’s important to understand the risks of maritime work. Many may believe maritime worker injuries occur due to high seas, inclement weather, or other uncontrollable factors. However, more common risks of injury and fatality to maritime workers occur when they are undertaking a routine task.

Negligence Under the Death on the High Seas Act

Only those worker deaths caused by faulty sea vessels or negligence may bring a claim under the Death on the High Seas Act. While difficult to prove, examples of negligence under the DOHSA may include:

  • Inadequate safety inspections of sea vessels, 
  • Failure to provide enough lifeboats for passengers and crew,
  • Failure to replace deteriorating equipment, 
  • Failure to provide adequate safety gear and equipment, and
  • Providing unsafe conditions on vessels.

Qualifying members may also bring a claim if equipment on the boat is improperly designed, unreasonably maintained, or cannot work and a death results. 

Other causes of action may be available for recovery under the Death on the High Seas Act, such as:

  • Misrepresentation, 
  • Negligent misrepresentation, 
  • Intentional conduct, and
  • Wrongful death or injury caused by defective products.

Limitations exist to bringing a claim under the DOHSA. These limitations apply to deaths or injuries occurring on foreign soil. 

What Are My Damages?

The current or expected value of economic benefits received from the deceased person determines a claim for damages under the Death on the High Seas Act. These damages include:

  • Loss of financial support—the financial support that a spouse, children, or others would have received throughout the decedent’s life, minus care and maintenance of the deceased;
  • Loss of services—the value of services that the decedent would provide to family members if living;
  • Loss of inheritance—the decreased monetary value of the decedent’s estate to dependents; and
  • Funeral expenses—the cost to family members to undertake arrangements after the decedent’s passing.

The DOHSA limits damages to pecuniary losses. Therefore damages like pain, emotional distress, or loss of consortium are not recoverable. 

Contact Us  

Losing a loved one because of a maritime accident leaves family members reeling as they wonder what to do next.

The attorneys at Grossman Attorneys at Law provide the care and understanding families deserve during such a hard time. We keep clients informed of all developments, and we always have concern for your needs.

A claim under the Death on the High Seas Act represents a complex area of law requiring the support of an attentive attorney. Contact our office for a free consultation. We are here day and night. Contact us today!

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