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My loved one died at sea. What can I do now?

On Behalf of | May 29, 2024 | Maritime Law |

Losing a loved one at sea is a devastating experience that is compounded by the intricate legal landscape surrounding maritime incidents. This is because these incidents are often shrouded in secrecy, difficult to investigate and maritime law is often complicated and confusing. And, you should not have to deal with any of this while you are grappling with such a loss.

The Death on the High Seas Act

Enacted in 1920 by the United States Congress, the DOHSA stands as a beacon of legal recourse for families affected by maritime tragedies. This legislation provides a framework for pursuing civil claims against those deemed responsible for wrongful acts that result in the death of people in international waters.

Seeking compensation

Under DOHSA, spouses, parents, children or dependent relatives of the deceased hold the right to seek compensation for losses incurred due to negligent or wrongful acts that transpired at least 3 nautical miles off the U.S. shores. The DOHSA empowers these grieving families to pursue compensation for various financial losses. This includes, but is not limited to, loss of financial support, services, inheritance, burial expenses and unpaid wages.

Addressing other maritime accidents

Tragedies on cruise ships or other maritime incidents necessitate swift legal action. Whether it is an assault aboard a cruise liner or a slip-and-fall incident on a recreational vessel, a maritime personal injury lawsuit is also an option. Even recreational boating activities fall under the purview of maritime law. Regulations governing passenger safety, liability and litigation extend to leisure pursuits on navigable waters that emphasize the importance of understanding one’s legal rights in such situations.


While the loss of a loved one at sea brings immense grief, it is vital to recognize that legal avenues exist to seek accountability and compensation. Familiarizing oneself with maritime laws can serve as invaluable resources in navigating the aftermath of such tragic events.


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