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What is DOHSA?

Anyone who has arrived on this website probably knows already that maritime employment is extremely hazardous. Offshore and maritime personnel are routinely exposed to a shockingly wide array of physical perils, ranging from harsh weather to employer negligence and, as a result, serious injury is far from uncommon in this line of work.

That’s why injured seamen have been provided by law with a number of remedies, such as the Jones Act, that enables them to obtain due compensation for the harm they experience in connection with their employment.

Tragically, some maritime accidents result in fatal injuries. In these cases, the focus of the law shifts to compensating the family of the deceased. The Jones Act provides a mechanism where family members can seek compensation for the death of a loved one killed while fulfilling their obligations as a maritime employee—but only if the incident occurred within U.S. territorial waters. What happens when such as incident happens out on the “high seas”—that is, in international waters? Fortunately, legal help is still available under these circumstances.

One of the most important laws on the books for helping bereaved family members obtain such recompense is the Death On the High Seas Act (DOHSA). What follows is a brief overview of DOHSA and its place in maritime law.

What Is DOHSA

How DOHSA Came into Being

There was a time when offshore employees and other persons harmed in maritime accidents had relatively little recourse when it came to pursuing justice in the courts. That began to change in the first decades of the 20th-century when a number of laws were passed to bolster the rights of persons seriously wounded through the negligence of another party while out at sea.

The Merchant Marine Act of 1920 (commonly known as the Jones Act) is one such law; this legislation helps injured sailors make claims against a negligent employer. The Death on the High Seas Act—also enacted in 1920—is another such law.

The intent of DOHSA is to provide surviving family members with the legal tools to recover damages against a maritime employer responsible for the death of the seaman in question. DOHSA (46 U.S.C. app. §§ 761–768) officially became a federal statute when it was signed by President Wilson on March 30, 1920, and it has been enforced continually, with a few modifications, down to the present day.

The Scope of DOHSA

The Death On the High Seas Act applies to fatal incidents at sea occurring more than three nautical miles from U.S. waters (including territories). There is a valid cause of action under DOHSA if the seaman died due to an unseaworthy vessel or through other provable negligence on the part of the shipowner. The vessel in question must have been engaged in what could be recognized as a maritime activity. In addition to maritime employees, DOHSA also covers civilian passengers of a maritime vessel.

Incidentally, DOHSA also applies to personnel and passengers aboard commercial aircraft that crash in international waters (defined in these cases as more than twelve nautical miles from any U.S territory).

Some confusion persists regarding DOHSA’s applicability to accidents where the death of the seaman or passenger occurs after a significant passage of time following the precipitating accident.

Let’s consider a hypothetical situation: A seaman is severely harmed by an explosion on a maritime vessel on the high seas, then conveyed to a hospital on the mainland U.S., where he dies weeks later. What does DOHSA have to say? In a situation like this, DOHSA still applies. That’s because the courts have ruled that the determining factor is the site where the accident occurred, not the place of death.

DOHSA can even apply when the accident occurs outside the high seas. The courts have ruled that maritime incidents of this nature fall under DOHSA’s area of coverage so long as they occur outside the three-nautical-mile boundary. That means a maritime accident that takes place within another nation’s territorial waters still qualifies as a DOHSA case, so long it happens at sea more than three nautical miles from any U.S.-controlled territory.

Scope of DOHSA

Types of Compensation

Under DOHSA, the plaintiff in a wrongful death suit is entitled to recover damages based on “pecuniary loss“—that is, loss of income and support. They are generally not eligible to obtain recompense for pain and suffering or other non-economic factors. The idea is to compensate families for the loss of a member who could provide financial and domestic sustenance. This compensation typically takes into consideration funeral expenses and loss of future monetary support.

Who Qualifies for DOHSA Compensation?

Because DOHSA is primarily intended to compensate families for a loss of a parent, spouse, and/or caregiver, the law strictly defines who is entitled to recover damages in these cases.

Only these individuals are entitled to compensation under DOHSA:

• The spouse of the decedent
• The children of the decedent
• The parents of the decedent
• Other dependent relatives of the decedent

If the plaintiffs are successful in their DOHSA case, the court will determine the amount of compensation to which each family member is entitled, according to the degree of pecuniary loss they have sustained.

What Must Be Proven

To prevail in the DOHSA case, the plaintiff must be able to demonstrate to the court one of the two following conditions:

  • The vessel in question was not seaworthy—that is, it suffered from significant mechanical defects or was otherwise incapable of contending with the perils that such vessels can be reasonably expected to encounter while at sea.
    Also, a shipping vessel that has been overloaded may be ruled to be unseaworthy. Other unseaworthy conditions can include an absence of safety equipment and an inadequate number of personnel on board. Please note that the presence of merely minor defects in the ship is unlikely to lead to a ruling of unseaworthiness.

OR

  • The owner of the vessel behaved negligently in connection with their responsibilities as a shipowner. Failure to provide personnel with adequate training and failure to abide by proper safety protocols are among the valid causes of action for a negligence claim.

Issue of Contributory Negligence

The Issue of Contributory Negligence

Like many maritime statues that govern personal injury matters, these cases hinge on the issue of contributory negligence. In other words, does the deceased party bear partial responsibility for the accident? If so, does this affect the amount of pecuniary damages that may be recovered? Under DOHSA, families can recover damages even if it is shown that the decedent’s negligence contributed to the fatal incident. However, it is also true that the amount of the awarded damages may be reduced in proportion to the negligent actions (or inactions) of the decedent.

Statute of Limitations

For family members of a deceased seaman, it is imperative to act quickly when filing a DOHSA case. The law gives plaintiffs only three years to file a suit, and the clock starts ticking on the day when the incident in question occurred.

Under the Death On the High Seas Act, claims can be brought before the court only by a personal representative of the family members who seek to obtain recompense for the death of the decedent. That’s one reason why is it essential for persons with a DOHSA-qualified case to waste no time in hiring the services of an experienced maritime personal injury attorney who understands the ins and outs of this potentially confusing law.

We will fight for you in the courts and help you obtain the settlement that you justly deserve. Please contact us at 1-800-836-5830 and ask for a free case evaluation. Calls are answered 24/7.

FREE confidential case Evaluation
Contact our experienced maritime attorneys to see if you have a case.

 
 
 
 
 

* Please be aware that your submission of this contact form does not establish an attorney-client relationship.

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What is DOHSA?

Anyone who has arrived on this website probably knows already that maritime employment is extremely hazardous. Offshore and maritime personnel are routinely exposed to a shockingly wide array of physical perils, ranging from harsh weather to employer negligence and, as a result, serious injury is far from uncommon in this line of work.

That’s why injured seamen have been provided by law with a number of remedies, such as the Jones Act, that enables them to obtain due compensation for the harm they experience in connection with their employment.

Tragically, some maritime accidents result in fatal injuries. In these cases, the focus of the law shifts to compensating the family of the deceased. The Jones Act provides a mechanism where family members can seek compensation for the death of a loved one killed while fulfilling their obligations as a maritime employee—but only if the incident occurred within U.S. territorial waters. What happens when such as incident happens out on the “high seas”—that is, in international waters? Fortunately, legal help is still available under these circumstances.

One of the most important laws on the books for helping bereaved family members obtain such recompense is the Death On the High Seas Act (DOHSA). What follows is a brief overview of DOHSA and its place in maritime law.

What Is DOHSA

How DOHSA Came into Being

There was a time when offshore employees and other persons harmed in maritime accidents had relatively little recourse when it came to pursuing justice in the courts. That began to change in the first decades of the 20th-century when a number of laws were passed to bolster the rights of persons seriously wounded through the negligence of another party while out at sea.

The Merchant Marine Act of 1920 (commonly known as the Jones Act) is one such law; this legislation helps injured sailors make claims against a negligent employer. The Death on the High Seas Act—also enacted in 1920—is another such law.

The intent of DOHSA is to provide surviving family members with the legal tools to recover damages against a maritime employer responsible for the death of the seaman in question. DOHSA (46 U.S.C. app. §§ 761–768) officially became a federal statute when it was signed by President Wilson on March 30, 1920, and it has been enforced continually, with a few modifications, down to the present day.

The Scope of DOHSA

The Death On the High Seas Act applies to fatal incidents at sea occurring more than three nautical miles from U.S. waters (including territories). There is a valid cause of action under DOHSA if the seaman died due to an unseaworthy vessel or through other provable negligence on the part of the shipowner. The vessel in question must have been engaged in what could be recognized as a maritime activity. In addition to maritime employees, DOHSA also covers civilian passengers of a maritime vessel.

Incidentally, DOHSA also applies to personnel and passengers aboard commercial aircraft that crash in international waters (defined in these cases as more than twelve nautical miles from any U.S territory).

Some confusion persists regarding DOHSA’s applicability to accidents where the death of the seaman or passenger occurs after a significant passage of time following the precipitating accident.

Let’s consider a hypothetical situation: A seaman is severely harmed by an explosion on a maritime vessel on the high seas, then conveyed to a hospital on the mainland U.S., where he dies weeks later. What does DOHSA have to say? In a situation like this, DOHSA still applies. That’s because the courts have ruled that the determining factor is the site where the accident occurred, not the place of death.

DOHSA can even apply when the accident occurs outside the high seas. The courts have ruled that maritime incidents of this nature fall under DOHSA’s area of coverage so long as they occur outside the three-nautical-mile boundary. That means a maritime accident that takes place within another nation’s territorial waters still qualifies as a DOHSA case, so long it happens at sea more than three nautical miles from any U.S.-controlled territory.

Scope of DOHSA

Types of Compensation

Under DOHSA, the plaintiff in a wrongful death suit is entitled to recover damages based on “pecuniary loss“—that is, loss of income and support. They are generally not eligible to obtain recompense for pain and suffering or other non-economic factors. The idea is to compensate families for the loss of a member who could provide financial and domestic sustenance. This compensation typically takes into consideration funeral expenses and loss of future monetary support.

Who Qualifies for DOHSA Compensation?

Because DOHSA is primarily intended to compensate families for a loss of a parent, spouse, and/or caregiver, the law strictly defines who is entitled to recover damages in these cases.

Only these individuals are entitled to compensation under DOHSA:

• The spouse of the decedent
• The children of the decedent
• The parents of the decedent
• Other dependent relatives of the decedent

If the plaintiffs are successful in their DOHSA case, the court will determine the amount of compensation to which each family member is entitled, according to the degree of pecuniary loss they have sustained.

What Must Be Proven

To prevail in the DOHSA case, the plaintiff must be able to demonstrate to the court one of the two following conditions:

  • The vessel in question was not seaworthy—that is, it suffered from significant mechanical defects or was otherwise incapable of contending with the perils that such vessels can be reasonably expected to encounter while at sea.
    Also, a shipping vessel that has been overloaded may be ruled to be unseaworthy. Other unseaworthy conditions can include an absence of safety equipment and an inadequate number of personnel on board. Please note that the presence of merely minor defects in the ship is unlikely to lead to a ruling of unseaworthiness.

OR

  • The owner of the vessel behaved negligently in connection with their responsibilities as a shipowner. Failure to provide personnel with adequate training and failure to abide by proper safety protocols are among the valid causes of action for a negligence claim.

Issue of Contributory Negligence

The Issue of Contributory Negligence

Like many maritime statues that govern personal injury matters, these cases hinge on the issue of contributory negligence. In other words, does the deceased party bear partial responsibility for the accident? If so, does this affect the amount of pecuniary damages that may be recovered? Under DOHSA, families can recover damages even if it is shown that the decedent’s negligence contributed to the fatal incident. However, it is also true that the amount of the awarded damages may be reduced in proportion to the negligent actions (or inactions) of the decedent.

Statute of Limitations

For family members of a deceased seaman, it is imperative to act quickly when filing a DOHSA case. The law gives plaintiffs only three years to file a suit, and the clock starts ticking on the day when the incident in question occurred.

Under the Death On the High Seas Act, claims can be brought before the court only by a personal representative of the family members who seek to obtain recompense for the death of the decedent. That’s one reason why is it essential for persons with a DOHSA-qualified case to waste no time in hiring the services of an experienced maritime personal injury attorney who understands the ins and outs of this potentially confusing law.

We will fight for you in the courts and help you obtain the settlement that you justly deserve. Please contact us at 1-800-836-5830 and ask for a free case evaluation. Calls are answered 24/7.

Jones Act Lawyer

tbls

We have board certified personal injury trial lawyers prepared to take on your case. Details

 

bbb

Newsweek Leaders in Maritime
FREE confidential case Evaluation
Contact our experienced maritime attorneys to see if you have a case.

 
 
 
 
 

* Please be aware that your submission of this contact form does not establish an attorney-client relationship.

Jones Act Lawyer

tbls

We have board certified personal injury trial lawyers prepared to take on your case. Details

 

bbb

Newsweek Leaders in Maritime
Recently
Filed Cases

What is DOHSA?

Anyone who has arrived on this website probably knows already that maritime employment is extremely hazardous. Offshore and maritime personnel are routinely exposed to a shockingly wide array of physical perils, ranging from harsh weather to employer negligence and, as a result, serious injury is far from uncommon in this line of work.

That’s why injured seamen have been provided by law with a number of remedies, such as the Jones Act, that enables them to obtain due compensation for the harm they experience in connection with their employment.

Tragically, some maritime accidents result in fatal injuries. In these cases, the focus of the law shifts to compensating the family of the deceased. The Jones Act provides a mechanism where family members can seek compensation for the death of a loved one killed while fulfilling their obligations as a maritime employee—but only if the incident occurred within U.S. territorial waters. What happens when such as incident happens out on the “high seas”—that is, in international waters? Fortunately, legal help is still available under these circumstances.

One of the most important laws on the books for helping bereaved family members obtain such recompense is the Death On the High Seas Act (DOHSA). What follows is a brief overview of DOHSA and its place in maritime law.

What Is DOHSA

How DOHSA Came into Being

There was a time when offshore employees and other persons harmed in maritime accidents had relatively little recourse when it came to pursuing justice in the courts. That began to change in the first decades of the 20th-century when a number of laws were passed to bolster the rights of persons seriously wounded through the negligence of another party while out at sea.

The Merchant Marine Act of 1920 (commonly known as the Jones Act) is one such law; this legislation helps injured sailors make claims against a negligent employer. The Death on the High Seas Act—also enacted in 1920—is another such law.

The intent of DOHSA is to provide surviving family members with the legal tools to recover damages against a maritime employer responsible for the death of the seaman in question. DOHSA (46 U.S.C. app. §§ 761–768) officially became a federal statute when it was signed by President Wilson on March 30, 1920, and it has been enforced continually, with a few modifications, down to the present day.

The Scope of DOHSA

The Death On the High Seas Act applies to fatal incidents at sea occurring more than three nautical miles from U.S. waters (including territories). There is a valid cause of action under DOHSA if the seaman died due to an unseaworthy vessel or through other provable negligence on the part of the shipowner. The vessel in question must have been engaged in what could be recognized as a maritime activity. In addition to maritime employees, DOHSA also covers civilian passengers of a maritime vessel.

Incidentally, DOHSA also applies to personnel and passengers aboard commercial aircraft that crash in international waters (defined in these cases as more than twelve nautical miles from any U.S territory).

Some confusion persists regarding DOHSA’s applicability to accidents where the death of the seaman or passenger occurs after a significant passage of time following the precipitating accident.

Let’s consider a hypothetical situation: A seaman is severely harmed by an explosion on a maritime vessel on the high seas, then conveyed to a hospital on the mainland U.S., where he dies weeks later. What does DOHSA have to say? In a situation like this, DOHSA still applies. That’s because the courts have ruled that the determining factor is the site where the accident occurred, not the place of death.

DOHSA can even apply when the accident occurs outside the high seas. The courts have ruled that maritime incidents of this nature fall under DOHSA’s area of coverage so long as they occur outside the three-nautical-mile boundary. That means a maritime accident that takes place within another nation’s territorial waters still qualifies as a DOHSA case, so long it happens at sea more than three nautical miles from any U.S.-controlled territory.

Scope of DOHSA

Types of Compensation

Under DOHSA, the plaintiff in a wrongful death suit is entitled to recover damages based on “pecuniary loss“—that is, loss of income and support. They are generally not eligible to obtain recompense for pain and suffering or other non-economic factors. The idea is to compensate families for the loss of a member who could provide financial and domestic sustenance. This compensation typically takes into consideration funeral expenses and loss of future monetary support.

Who Qualifies for DOHSA Compensation?

Because DOHSA is primarily intended to compensate families for a loss of a parent, spouse, and/or caregiver, the law strictly defines who is entitled to recover damages in these cases.

Only these individuals are entitled to compensation under DOHSA:

• The spouse of the decedent
• The children of the decedent
• The parents of the decedent
• Other dependent relatives of the decedent

If the plaintiffs are successful in their DOHSA case, the court will determine the amount of compensation to which each family member is entitled, according to the degree of pecuniary loss they have sustained.

What Must Be Proven

To prevail in the DOHSA case, the plaintiff must be able to demonstrate to the court one of the two following conditions:

  • The vessel in question was not seaworthy—that is, it suffered from significant mechanical defects or was otherwise incapable of contending with the perils that such vessels can be reasonably expected to encounter while at sea.
    Also, a shipping vessel that has been overloaded may be ruled to be unseaworthy. Other unseaworthy conditions can include an absence of safety equipment and an inadequate number of personnel on board. Please note that the presence of merely minor defects in the ship is unlikely to lead to a ruling of unseaworthiness.

OR

  • The owner of the vessel behaved negligently in connection with their responsibilities as a shipowner. Failure to provide personnel with adequate training and failure to abide by proper safety protocols are among the valid causes of action for a negligence claim.

Issue of Contributory Negligence

The Issue of Contributory Negligence

Like many maritime statues that govern personal injury matters, these cases hinge on the issue of contributory negligence. In other words, does the deceased party bear partial responsibility for the accident? If so, does this affect the amount of pecuniary damages that may be recovered? Under DOHSA, families can recover damages even if it is shown that the decedent’s negligence contributed to the fatal incident. However, it is also true that the amount of the awarded damages may be reduced in proportion to the negligent actions (or inactions) of the decedent.

Statute of Limitations

For family members of a deceased seaman, it is imperative to act quickly when filing a DOHSA case. The law gives plaintiffs only three years to file a suit, and the clock starts ticking on the day when the incident in question occurred.

Under the Death On the High Seas Act, claims can be brought before the court only by a personal representative of the family members who seek to obtain recompense for the death of the decedent. That’s one reason why is it essential for persons with a DOHSA-qualified case to waste no time in hiring the services of an experienced maritime personal injury attorney who understands the ins and outs of this potentially confusing law.

We will fight for you in the courts and help you obtain the settlement that you justly deserve. Please contact us at 1-800-836-5830 and ask for a free case evaluation. Calls are answered 24/7.

Jones Act Lawyer
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Maritime Injury Lawyers

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Board Certified Attorneys

We are maritime injury attorneys that have recovered millions for our injured clients. We have always been a strong advocate for maritime personal injury victims and the families of those who are killed while working in service of a vessel or under the Jones Act law. Our concern is for the safety of those involved and helping their families find out the whereabouts and conditions of their loved ones.

These are some of the diverse groups of injured workers we have represented:

  • Jones Act seamen
  • Workers on oil rigs, offshore platforms and jack-up rigs
  • Crews and workers on barges, supply boats, tankers, freighters and other vessels

The list is by no means comprehensive. If you are unsure whether you qualify as a Jones Act seamen or whether you might be covered by other maritime regulations, it’s vital that you contact our maritime lawyers today to learn about your rights.

We have represented workers and their families in the following disasters:

  • Deepwater Horizon Disaster
  • M/V Jillian Morrison Explosion
  • Bouchard Transportation Co. Inc. Barge B No. 125 Explosion
  • British Petroleum Texas City Refinery Explosion
  • Phillips 66 Refinery Explosion

The team of Jones Act attorneys and maritime lawyers at SMSH have over 100 years of combined trial experience. Contact our Jones Act lawyers today for a free, confidential case evaluation.

Why Hire the Worldwide Jones Act, Offshore & Maritime Injury Lawyers at Schechter, McElwee, Shaffer and Harris?

The Jones Act and maritime injury lawyers at Schechter, McElwee, Shaffer and Harris have spent more than five decades representing seamen, longshoremen and other maritime workers, and recovered millions of dollars for our clients. SMSH has always been a strong advocate for maritime personal injury victims and the families of those who are killed while working in service of a vessel. Our concern is for the safety of those involved and helping their families find out the whereabouts and conditions of their loved ones, as well as recovering the compensation they are entitled to for injuries, medical bills and other damages.

Here are some of the reasons why thousands of injured maritime workers have chosen Schechter, McElwee, Shaffer and Harris to represent their interests:

  • We have recovered over $620 million dollars for offshore and maritime workers, including recovery of $17.5 million in the largest Jones Act settlement ever paid by the United States government.
  • Each of our Jones Act attorneys and maritime injury lawyers has more than 25 years of experience, with total of more than 100 years of trial experience for the team.
  • Our maritime injury lawyers have represented clients in some of the nation’s worst maritime and refinery disasters, including: the Deepwater Horizon explosion; the M/V Jillian Morrison explosion; the Bouchard Transportation Co. Inc. Barge B No. 125 explosion; the British Petroleum Texas City Refinery explosion; and the Phillips 66 Refinery explosion.
  • As dedicated maritime injury and Jones Act attorneys, we understand the financial difficulties that families often face when a loved one is injured and unable to work. Schechter, McElwee, Shaffer and Harris offers interest free loans to assist our clients with day-to-day living expenses while waiting for the conclusion of their case.
  • Our attorneys provide assistance to maritime, offshore and port workers across the United States.
  • We have board certified Personal Injury Trial lawyers.
 

The Maritime Attorney Difference

Maritime and offshore accidents fall under a different set of laws than other personal injury or workers’ compensation claims. There are specific maritime laws that govern claims, including the Jones Act, the Longshoremen and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act and general maritime laws. To receive the full protections these laws offer, it’s crucial to have an attorney who understands the complexities of each. If you’ve been injured while working on a vessel, offshore or in one of the nation’s many ports, contact the Jones Act attorneys at Schechter, McElwee, Shaffer and Harris today for a free consultation.
Our experienced offshore injury lawyers have handled cases throughout the Gulf of Mexico coastal region of Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida, and represented clients from all 50 states of the United States. We have years of experience representing the crew working on inland waters such as the Mississippi River, Ohio River, Kentucky River, the Great Lakes, Lake Michigan, Lake Superior, Lake Huron, and many more. We have also handled cases worldwide in countries as far away as the Ukraine and Israel. We routinely represent clients from the Central American countries of Honduras, El Salvador, and Nicaragua. We have also made claims for clients from Columbia, Venezuela, Bangladesh, The Philippines, Romania, Croatia, England, Ireland, Spain, The Netherlands, Russia, China, Mexico, and Brazil.

Time is of the Essence

If you or a member of your family has been seriously injured or killed as the result of an offshore accident, please speak to a qualified maritime lawyer before talking to your employer or any insurance company or adjuster. If you work on a vessel, boat, barge, tanker, fishing boat, an offshore drilling rig or platform, or any other kind of ship, you may qualify for Jones Act compensation. Working in, on, or near water means you need the specially-trained legal assistance of the Board Certified maritime lawyers of Schechter, McElwee, Shaffer & Harris, L.L.P.

A few small tidbits of advice for the injured offshore worker:

  1. Fill out an accident report or incident paperwork as soon as possible after your injury.
  2. If your employer gives you any paperwork to sign, have it reviewed by a competent maritime lawyer so you don’t waive your rights to more money.
  3. Do not give a recorded statement to anyone without first seeking legal counsel.
  4. Do not accept the word of a company doctor as to the extent of your injuries, seek out your own doctor for a second-opinion.
We are Worldwide Jones Act attorneys and Maritime lawyers with over 100 years combined experience in Maritime Personal Injury Cases and we have handled thousands of cases. Your initial consultation for your maritime accident case is FREE. You pay us nothing unless we win your case and get you money. Call a maritime lawyer NOW at 1-800-836-5830 or e-mail us at info@smslegal.com.

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