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Understanding the Death on the High Seas Act (DOHSA)

Maritime workers put their lives on the line every day doing dangerous but very important work. Sadly, accidents happen, and sometimes those accidents tragically claim lives.

While this risk is a harsh reality of offshore work, there used to be no federal cause of action for a tort victim who died in a maritime accident. Thankfully, the laws have changed to provide remedies for lives lost in offshore accidents.

One of those laws is the Death on the High Seas Act (DOHSA).

Answers to Common Questions About the Death on the High Seas Act:

1. What is the DOHSA?

The DOHSA is a federal law that gives the personal representative of a person who dies on the high seas a claim for damages against the responsible person or vessel.

2. Where does the DOHSA apply?

The Death on the High Seas Act applies to conduct that occurs beyond one marine league (or three miles) of shore. Importantly, the test for the application of the DOHSA is where the conduct occurred, not where the victim actually passed away. This means that there can still be a DOHSA claim even if the decedent was injured on the high seas but didn’t actually die until being on land or within three miles of shore.

3. What damages can a plaintiff recover under the DOHSA?

One of the downsides of the DOHSA is that the recoverable damages are limited. Unlike with a traditional wrongful death claim, a DOHSA plaintiff cannot recover damages for loss of love and affection from the deceased. Instead, a plaintiff can only recover damages for economic losses (ex. lost financial support).

4. Who can recover DOHSA damages?

Damages under the DOHSA can only be recovered by the wife, husband, parent, child, or dependent relative of the deceased.

5. How long do you have to bring a DOHSA claim?

Just like with a Jones Act claim, a claim under the Death on the High Seas Act is subject to a three year statute of limitations.

Call a New Orleans Maritime Lawyer Today

If you or a loved one has suffered an injury in an offshore or maritime accident, The Mahone Firm can help you in this difficult time. Call (504) 564-7342 to discuss your potential case with a New Orleans maritime lawyer.



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