Maritime work is dangerous. Mariners are constantly exposed to the perils of the sea, resulting in accidents which can tragically claim lives. Thankfully, there are laws that provide remedies for the surviving families of seafarers who lose their life as a result of offshore accidents.
What Is the Death on the High Seas Act?
The Death on the High Seas Act (DOHSA) provides recovery for the death of any person caused by wrongful act or negligence occurring on the high seas beyond 3 miles from the shore of any state. It was passed by Congress in 1920 as a way for families to receive damages for seamen killed in international waters. The initial law limited damages to spouses, children and dependent family members of the deceased seaman, but the act has been amended over the years and now encompasses spouses, children, parents and dependent family members.
DOHSA includes any maritime accident that results in wrongful death, such as vessel sinking, cruise-ship accidents and even airline disasters at sea. Claims may be based on unseaworthiness, as vessel owners owe their seaman a duty to provide a “seaworthy” vessel, one that is reasonably fit for its intended use. This duty extends to all parts of the vessel, including its crew; thus, unfit crew members constitute an unseaworthy condition and can be the basis of a claim. Other claims may be based on negligence and/or improper judgment by the vessel owner, including the failure to follow safety procedures or the failure to provide the appropriate medical care. The key point for any claim made under DOHSA is that the death was due to negligence by the vessel owner, employer, or a crew member.
Damages under DOHSA are limited to pecuniary damages, and may include the loss of financial support, loss of inheritance, the financial equivalent to the guidance and support a child would have received from a parent, the value of household services (i.e. cooking, cleaning, home maintenance), and funeral expenses. The act does not allow for the collection of damages associated with their grief, mental anguish, or the loss of consortium (i.e. love and affection).
If you have lost a loved one while working at sea, you may be entitled to compensation. For more details and for a free legal consultation, please contact the experienced maritime attorneys at The Lambert Firm, PLC. The Lambert Firm, PLC is committed to fighting for the rights of grieving families in the wake of these tragic offshore accidents.