What to do

In case of accidents

Death on the high seas

When a seaman dies as a result of an employer’s negligence or because of an unseaworthy vessel, the worker’s family may file for benefits under the Death on the High Seas Act (DOHSA). The incident must occur on the high seas beyond a marine league (three miles) from the shore of any state, the District of Columbia, or U.S. territory or dependency. The decedent’s wife, husband, parent, child or dependent relative may file a claim under the stipulations of the DOHSA. Although parents and children could recover for wrongful death of seaman working on surveying vessel under either 46 USCS Appx § 688 or Death on High Seas Act (46 USCS Appx § § 761 et seq.), these provisions do not preclude remedy under general maritime law. Spiller v Thomas M. Lowe, Jr. & Associates, Inc. (1972, CA8 Ark) 466 F2d 903, 20 ALR Fed 89.


A plaintiff usually receives damages for pecuniary loss caused by the loss of the deceased seaman’s services. A DOHSA suit must commence within three years from the date of the seaman’s death. If the decedent’s negligent conduct contributed to the accident (contributory negligence), an award may be reduced accordingly. In action for wrongful death of crew member, personal representative could bring general maritime action for wrongful death or action under 46 USCS Appx § 688 or Death on High Seas Act (46 USCS Appx § § 761-768) and was not required to make election among theories of recovery. Puamier v Barge BT 1793 (1974, ED Va) 395 F Supp 1019, 17 UCCRS 745.



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