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The Death on the High Seas Act (DOHSA) allows the family of offshore workers who died on the high seas (which is three nautical miles from the US shoreline) to seek compensation. 

It is important to note that this Act is relatively limited, which is why hiring a seasoned maritime law attorney is vital to your case. Here at The Maritime Injury Law Firm, George Vourvoulias has handled offshore accident cases in New Orleans, Louisiana and throughout the Gulf Coast.

If you live in Louisiana and need to file a claim under DOHSA, here are some things you should know.

The Death on the High Seas Act and its scope

Congress adopted the Death on the High Seas Act in 1920 to serve as a uniformed law that would remedy deaths that occurred on the high seas. 

Before Congress put this provision in place, families could not take any action federally for the wrongful death of loved ones. The law is now listed under 46 U.S.C. §30301 to §30308.

According to 46 U.S.C. §30302, “When the death of an individual is caused by wrongful act, neglect, or default occurring on the high seas beyond three nautical miles from shore of the United States.” 

The courts have interpreted this to mean that the accident site itself – not where the death occurs or where the wrongful act which caused the accident occurred – should be on the high seas.

This means that the DOHSA also covers plane crashes that happen within 12 miles of the US shoreline, for example.

If a wrongful death occurs within three miles of the US shoreline, families can file a claim through the Jones Act – which provides wrongful death and survival provisions. Sometimes, third-party claims arising from the descendant’s death may also fall under DOHSA. Generally speaking, the Jones Act is much broader than DOHSA and covers far more.

Damages covered by the DOHSA

The DOHSA covers pecuniary losses only which means it is limited to the losses sustained by the individual that died – only. These losses are more easily calculated – such as the loss of financial support from the decedent.

The DOHSA is limited to the following relatives of the decedent:

  • Spouse, 
  • Parent, 
  • Child, or 
  • Dependent relative

It is important to note that the DOSHA does not cover survival actions. This means that under the DOHSA, surviving family members cannot request damages for expenses such as pre-death medical expenses and funeral expenses. 

It also does not permit the recovery for pre-death pain and suffering or financial loss incurred by a spouse. However, an experienced attorney, such as The Maritime Law Firm, can help you take a look at your case to see if any exceptions apply.

When does a DOHSA claim need to be filed in Louisiana?

A DOHSA claim must be filed within a predetermined time limit, called the statute of limitations.

Whether filed in Louisiana court or federal court, the statute of limitations for DOHSA claims is 3 years from the date of the death. However, it is necessary to file for such a claim as soon as possible.

The Maritime Injury Law Firm can make sure you file your claim on time, per regulation, to ensure you do not miss out on what your family is entitled to due to a technicality.

Contact The Maritime Injury Law Firm for your free consultation today

Compensation under DOHSA depends on your ability to prove that the vessel owner or responsible party’s negligence caused your family member to pass.

Here at The Maritime Injury Law Firm, we understand the pain you must feel from losing your loved one and will help you navigate all aspects of your case.

Our knowledge and experience in maritime law can help ensure you and your family receive all you deserve. Contact us today to schedule your free and confidential consultation.

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