Death on the High Seas Act (DOHSA) – Virginia Maritime Lawyer

Losing a Loved One on the High Seas

The Death on the High Seas Act (DOHSA) is the law that provides a remedy when death occurs on the “high seas.”  The law defines this as at least one Virginia Maritime Lawyer - Richard J. Serpe“marine league” (three nautical miles) from shore.  In other words, it does not cover deaths occurring in the coastal areas or inland navigable waters.  It covers both actions that take place on ships, and those that result from airline accidents, but in the case of airliners the “high seas” do not start until at least 12 nautical miles from shore, rather than 3.

Types of Compensation Available to the Family

The DOHSA was passed in 1920, and the intent of the statute was to provide a financial recovery to the dependent family members for their financial loss of the family “bread winner.”  As a result, it allows the recovery of “pecuniary damages” only, and does not try to compensate the survivors for things like their loss of care, comfort, and companionship.  Pecuniary damages do include:

  • Loss of Support
  • Loss of Inheritance
  • Loss of Services
  • Loss of Nurture, Guidance and Instruction
  • Funeral Expenses (if actually paid by the dependents)

So basically, the damages that can be recovered are limited to the actual financial value that is lost by the relatives of the decedent because of the death.  The care and guidance that would have been provided to children has to be valued, as does the net value of the financial contributions that a decedent would have made to the family if he had lived.

Virginia Maritime Lawyers

These claims, like other maritime claims, can be very complex.  Protect yourself and your family by talking to an experienced maritime lawyer.  At the Law Offices of Richard J. Serpe, PC, we are here to help and we offer you a free initial consultation to discuss your case.