Braden, Varner & Angelley

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Death on High Seas Act

The Death on the High Seas Act (“DOHSA”) is a federal statute that was originally enacted in 1920 as a supplement to traditional maritime damages law. Its primary purpose was to help the widows of seamen killed in international waters recover their husband’s lost future earnings. The Act has been amended and expanded over the years and today it applies not only to maritime claims, but also to commercial airline crashes that occur beyond twelve nautical miles from the shores of the United States. In other words, DOHSA will apply if a commercial flight crashes, for example, fifty miles from U.S. shores, but if the crash occurs only five miles out, then U.S. federal and/or state law will likely govern.

The damages currently available under DOHSA for airline crash cases are not as generous as most state’s damages laws, but they are certainly better than the damages available under the earlier versions of the Act. Today, in addition to the financial losses arising from the death of a commercial airline passenger, the victim’s family can also recover certain non-economic damages, such as loss of care, comfort and companionship. The DOHSA does not, however, allow recovery for pre-death pain and suffering and it does not allow the recovery of punitive damages.

The attorneys at Braden, Varner & Angelley, P.C. have successfully handled numerous cases involving the Death on the High Seas Act and have the legal knowledge and practical experience required to obtain favorable results for our clients. Contact us to learn more.