Death on the High Seas Act

Death on the High Seas Act of 1920

About the Act

The United States Death on the High Seas Act of 1920 (DOHSA) (46 U.S.C. app. §§ 761–768) is a United States admiralty law enacted by the United States Congress.  An Act is a type of law that contain rules and regulations pertaining to specific situations and circumstances.

The Death on the High Seas Act was originally enacted to permit “recovery of damages against a shipowner by a spouse, child or dependent family member of a seaman killed in international waters” in wrongful death cases “caused by negligence or unseaworthiness.”  When enacted into law, DOHSA offered a new legal remedy for widows (and widowers) whose loved one was killed at sea under specific circumstances.  DOHSA now also applies to cases “arising out of airline disasters over the high seas that occur beyond the 12-nautical miles territorial limit of U.S. waters.”

DOSHA Highlights

  • DOHSA does not protect passengers who are injured or killed on cruise ships; it only protects workers.
  • DOHSA does not provide a legal means to sue for damages for pain and suffering if a (worker) loved one is killed outside of the territorial waters of the U.S.
  • DOSHA only provides a means to recover for limited financial damages (i.e., lost wages that would have been earned by the worker who was killed.)
  • The statute of limitations on filing a claim for a wrongful death under DOHSA is three years from the date of death.
  • The death (or the incident causing a wrongful death) must have taken place at sea three miles out from the shore of any state.
  • In most cases, a DOHSA case may be filed by a surviving spouse, parent, or child(ren).

Death on The High Seas Act, Wrongful Death Attorneys

If you lost a loved one who was working at sea, you may be entitled to recover for certain economic damages, including lost wages, under the Death on the High Seas Act.  Contact our maritime accident lawyers today for a free consultation; we may be able to help you recover for your losses.  While there is no amount of money that can replace a loved one in your life, the law exists to help you protect against an uncertain future.