Death On The High Seas Act (DOHSA)

Death on the High Seas Act (“DOHSA”) applies to any death occurring beyond 3 nautical miles from the shore of any State or U.S. Territory. Having previously represented shipping, cruise line and marine insurance companies for 19 years, the board certified maritime attorneys at the law firm of Brais, Brais & Rusak are in a unique position to protect the families of cruise ship passengers, crew members and oil field workers whose family member died while working or traveling at sea. The lawyers at the law firm of Brais, Brais & Rusak with offices in Miami, Florida, Boston, Massachusetts and Houston, Texas are here to help the families of cruise ship passengers, crew members & oil field workers as a result of a shipboard or offshore accident causing death.

Liability under DOHSA may be based upon negligence, unseaworthiness if the decedent was a seamen, intentional conduct, and strict or products liability. This Act applies to all decedents no matter if they are maritime workers or non-maritime workers. Only the personal representative of the deceased individual can bring a DOHSA action, and that action is pursued on behalf of, or for the benefit of, the decedent’s spouse, child(ren), parents or other financially dependent relative. DOHSA actions only provide for the recovery of monetary damages (i.e., burial costs and lost wages) and does not provide for recovery of non-pecuniary damages (i.e., care, comfort, and companionship of the lost loved one and punitive damages are also not available) or pre-death pain and suffering of the deceased.

DOHSA, originally enacted by Congress in 1920, is drastically outdated, in need of repeal, and inconsistent with modern age concepts of insurance and self-insurance through Protection & Indemnity Clubs. Additionally, DOHSA is inconsistent and treats the families of certain decedents differently from others even if both deaths occur in the same locations. Subsequent to an April 2000 amendment, family members of individuals killed in airplane crashes at sea are able to recover for the grief, bereavement, and mental anguish of the dependents as well as loss of society and consortium and state law remedies for pain and suffering and punitive damages are not precluded. These changes came about following the 1996 TWA 800 crash. Depending upon a rig’s proximity to the U.S. or a territory of the U.S., DOHSA may apply to a death occurring on an offshore drilling rig, failing which the death claim will be governed by the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act, 43 U.S.C. §§ 1331-1356 and by the laws of the adjacent state.

The attorneys at the law firm of Brais, Brais & Rusak have the experience to protect your rights, the compassion to serve your needs, and the skill to obtain the compensation you deserve. To reach our lawyers you may click email the firm, call 1-800-499-0551 from within the U.S., Skype BraisLaw worldwide or click Contact Us to select and complete a form for a free evaluation of your case.


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