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Death on the High Seas Act (DOHSA)
The Death on the High Seas Act or DOHSA, provides for compensation to the family of a seaman who is killed in international waters due to the negligence of a crew member or the vessel.
Damages Under DOHSA
Benefits under DOHSA can only be paid out to the spouse, children or dependent relatives of the deceased seaman. Damages available under DOHSA are limited to financial or pecuniary damages. These will be awarded after subtracting the costs of maintaining the seaman himself. However, families of seamen may also be eligible for emotional damages under certain circumstances.
Spouses may also be eligible to claim the value of the household services provided by the seaman. Loss of household services refers to loss of help provided by the seaman in looking after the children, helping raise the children together, shopping for groceries, and a number of other household tasks. In such cases, the damages will be arrived at by taking the number of hours that the seaman would've provided the services had he lived, and multiplying them with a monetary value for those services.
However, DOHSA does not allow for damages for loss of support, consortium and companionship. Additionally, the Act preempts any state or maritime laws that allow for recovery of loss of consortium damages. In 2000, DOHSA was amended to cover aviation accidents that occurred more than 12 nautical miles from US shores.
Not every maritime lawyer will be skilled in the application of specialized laws like the Death on the High Seas Act. The maritime attorneys at Schechter McElwee Shaffer & Harris have spent decades doing exactly that - applying DOHSA, the Jones Act, LHWCA, and other maritime laws to individual cases. If you are the spouse or child of a seaman killed more than three nautical miles from US shores, you may be eligible to file a claim under DOHSA. Contact a DOHSA lawyer at our firm for a free evaluation of your case.