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What is the Death on the High Seas Act?

On Behalf of | Jan 26, 2023 | Maritime Law |

Many California residents enjoy a lucrative and exciting career in the maritime industry. However, maritime work carries a higher risk of injury and death than many other industries, and because of that, there are laws to protect workers and their families.

One of these laws is the Death on the High Seas Act (“DOHSA”). This law allows family members of a seaman killed in international waters to recover damages. The number of damages varies with each case but is meant to be a fair amount of compensation for the loss.

The purpose of DOHSA is to encourage maritime employers to maintain a safe working environment.

Common causes of maritime deaths

There are many potentially dangerous situations that maritime workers on offshore sites face. Equipment malfunctions, such as machinery explosions, falling overboard or even piracy can cause death.

It is an employer’s responsibility to take all necessary precautions to prevent these situations and reduce the risk of a maritime injury or death.

A claim under DOHSA requires a finding of negligence, as with any other wrongful death claim. There must be evidence that the death was caused by default, neglect or a wrongful act of the employer.

Qualifying for a DOHSA action

To qualify under DOHSA, the death must have occurred more than three nautical miles from the U.S. shore.

A DOHSA claim must be filed by the personal representative of the seaman’s estate. Any awarded damages are distributed to the seaman’s spouse, child, parent or other dependent family member.

Establishing negligence

Proving negligence under DOSHA can be complicated, since the incident occurred in foreign waters. Negligence requires showing that the employer failed in its legal duty to provide a safe environment for its workers, and that failure caused the death.

Because of the challenge of establishing negligence, it is important to have legal counsel experienced with maritime law. A DOSHA action requires a detailed investigation and solid evidence, which a maritime attorney can help with.

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