APRIL 4, 2011 by Bill Abbott

The Death on the High Seas Act (DOHSA) is an effective and complex act. Claims under this act should always be handled by an experience maritime law firm. There are specific guidelines under this act, including the waters to which the DOHSA applies. A maritime law firm will know all the relevant rulings to argue your claim. For example, it was not that long ago that a United States appellate court made a ruling about DOHSA that continues to have an effect.

In 2007, three Navy crewmembers died after a helicopter accident during a training exercise. The families of the crewmembers filed a claim under California and maritime law. They blamed the defective helicopter for the deaths. The defendants in this case moved for the dismissal of their claims under those laws. They argued that the DOHSA applied to this case. The DOHSA clearly states that when a death occurs on the high seas beyond three nautical miles from the US shore, a civil action may be brought against the person or vessel responsible.

The court agreed with the defendant’s argument and the case was appealed. The ruling was affirmed and the families’ claims against the state were dismissed. The DOHSA applies to all waters beyond those three miles. The families could still seek compensation, but it had to be filed under the act. Clearly, the DOHSA is a confusing act. That is why it is necessary to retain a maritime law firm that is experienced and educated about maritime laws. This particular case should have never been filed against the state because the DOHSA states specific regulations pertaining to the location of incidents.

It can be difficult to determine claims falling under general maritime law and the DOHSA. An experienced maritime law firm will know what to do without hesitation. If you have lost a loved one on the high seas, consult with a maritime law firm about the DOHSA and general maritime laws. The maritime law firm will help you determine which claim you need to file for monetary compensation.


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