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The Death on the High Seas Act (DOHSA) provides a means for those injured or killed while on a vessel at sea to recover compensation from the company responsible. This article discusses the DOHSA and compares it to other maritime wrongful death statutes. In addition, it explores the different types of damages a victim can receive in a DOHSA claim and the statute’s limitations.
Statute of Limitations
The Death on the High Seas Act compensates the families of sailors who died in international waters or a plane crash that occurred more than 12 nautical miles from the US coast. It was passed in 1920 to hold the owners of ships, aircraft and other vessels accountable for maintaining safe working conditions.
Under the Death on the High Seas Act, a personal representative of the deceased can take legal action against the vessel owner. They must prove that negligence played a role in the victim’s Death. A family can seek monetary damages for nonpecuniary losses, such as loss of companionship, care and earning potential.
Damages are usually reduced based on the percentage of fault assigned to the decedent. For example, if the plaintiff files a claim for wrongful Death of $100,000 in damages, the court will reduce the amount by $30,000 if the decedent was less than 30% at fault. This means that the plaintiff will receive only $70,000.
Noneconomic Compensatory Wrongful Death Elements of Damage
The Death on the High Seas Act (DOHSA) allows family members of victims of high seas accidents to file claims in a court of law. Congress passed it in 1920. It has been subject to congressional debate and amendments over the years.
After several major airline disasters at sea, growing pressure was placed on Congress to amend DOHSA. However, the DOHSA remains an essential remedy for wrongful death claims occurring on the high seas.
Although DOHSA limits damages to financial losses, there are some non-economic elements of damage that may be claimed. These include lost enjoyment of life, medical expenses and the value of the victim’s services.
However, in cases involving the loss of a loved one on the high seas, these noneconomic elements of damage may be insufficient to compensate the family for their losses. A court must consider all of the damages.
For example, a spouse and dependent child may be entitled to recover damages for their loss of companionship, care and training of their parent, or even the economic value of the services the decedent provided at home. Other injuries that can be recovered include loss of consortium, emotional pain and suffering and medical costs for treatment and care rendered.
Compensation Based on a Percentage of Fault
In 1920, Congress passed the Death on the High Seas Act, also known as DOHSA, allowing legal action for maritime deaths. This statute provides recovery damages for marine worker deaths, and fatal aircraft crashes in international waters. It extends the Federal admiralty’s jurisdiction to high-seas death cases.
In addition to providing recovery damages for maritime workers, the DOHSA allows surviving family members to sue the vessel owner. Compensation is typically calculated for loss of wages and future financial support, as well as for care and guidance for the deceased worker’s children.
The law also allows compensation to be reduced according to the percentage of fault. For example, if the plaintiff has $100,000 in losses, the court will deduct $30,000. On the other hand, if the deceased contributed only $10,000, the final compensation is reduced to $70,000.
One problem with the DOHSA is that it only applies to boat-related deaths. If the deceased was a nonseafarer, however, the law may be more complex.
Comparing DOHSA to other maritime wrongful death statutes
When comparing maritime wrongful death statutes, you must first look for the statute of limitations. Every state has a different deadline for filing a claim. The shortest is two years in Illinois and California, while Wyoming has a six-year limit. Your rights may be lost if you do not file a wrongful death claim within the specified time.
Another limiting factor is nonpecuniary damages. This means that the total compensation available to the deceased’s family members is diminished. A DOHSA claim does not allow recovery of pre-death pain and suffering or medical expenses.
Other remedies include a survivorship action, which allows the survivors of the deceased to recover pecuniary losses. Some states have extended the surviving relatives’ rights to additional damages, including emotional distress and loss of society.
Before the passage of DOHSA, there was no remedy for wrongful deaths at sea. However, in 1920, Congress passed a law that allowed certain surviving relatives to sue for damages.