A wrongful death is considered a death that occurs because of negligence of another person or entity. When a person dies at sea, their family can recover under the Death on the High Seas Act (DOHSA).

What Is the Death on the High Seas Act?

DOHSA allows a person to obtain money because of a death caused by the neglect, default, or wrongful act. This wrongful act must occur on the high seas at least three miles away from shore in any state.

Can Anyone Recover Damages for a Death that Occurs at Sea?

No. Only a personal representative of the deceased can bring a DOHSA claim on behalf of the victim’s parents, spouse, or children.

What Is a Personal Representative?

A personal representative is typically the executor of the deceased’s will. An executor is an individual appointed to supervise the distribution of someone’s estate upon their death.

How Are DOHSA Damages Calculated?

DOHSA damages are added up based on the financial benefit the family would have received from the individual if that individual had not died at sea. For example, dependent children recover the value of guidance and care they would have received from the victim. A surviving spouse or parent can only recover the actual value the victim would have contributed to the family if they had lived.

Is a DOHSA Claim the Same as a Wrongful Death Claim?

No. Depending on state law, a wrongful death suit can be filed by an immediate family member and/or a personal representative. A spouse can receive loss of consortium in a wrongful death claim. Suing for loss of consortium is not an option under DOHSA.

Are Commercial Aviation Accidents Included in DOHSA?

Yes. However, the commercial aviation accident, or plane crash, must occur at least 12 nautical miles from any American shoreline in order to qualify for a DOHSA lawsuit.

Should I Discuss DOHSA with a Attorney?

Yes. Maritime laws are very complicated, and it helps to have legal representation when trying to submit a DOHSA claim. Contact a wrongful death attorney about your DOHSA claim.