The Death on the High Seas Act (DOHSA) and Aviation Accidents
Wrongful Death Lawyer in San Francisco, CA
The Death on the High Seas Act (DOHSA) was originally enacted in 1920 for
the purpose of providing a wrongful death cause of action for those killed
in maritime accidents. This first version made provisions for financial
recovery for the wrongful death of any person who was killed three miles
or more off the shore of any state. In 1988, this changed to include accidents
as far as 12 nautical miles off the coast.
Although DOHSA was created as a response to shipping accidents occurring
on vessels on the high seas, its wording is broad enough to include
any accident that occurs in international waters, and has been consistently
applied to deaths resulting from aviation accidents since the 1940s.
- The only family members who are entitled to financial compensation are
the spouse, children, parent, or other financially dependent relative
of the deceased.
- Family members of the deceased are not allowed to sue individually, but
a court-appointed representative may sue on the family’s behalf.
- DOHSA did not originally provide families with the usual damages they might
receive in a wrongful death case, and only covered pecuniary damages (in
other words, damages that can be precisely measured, like lost wages or
funeral expenses). Unfortunately, the act did not provide for loss of
consortium claims, loss of emotional comfort and support claims, or the
pre-accident pain and suffering of the deceased.
Controversy during the 1990s regarding the unfairness of the pecuniary
loss limitation led to the amendment of the act in 2000. Now, this limitation
no longer applies to commercial aviation accident cases, and families
can now collect not only pecuniary damages, but for the loss of comfort,
care, and companionship. Note that the pecuniary loss limitation does
still apply to non-commercial aircraft and helicopters, including general
aviation planes and helicopters and military aircraft lost at sea.
Solid Representation after an Aviation Accident
Aviation law is a complicated matter best left in the hands of experienced
legal professionals. The wrongful death lawyers at Scarlett Law Group
stand ready to assist families who have suffered emotional and financial
losses as the result of losing a family member in an aviation accident.
Our firm retains a number of qualified experts who can help prove liability
and damages to help bring you a just amount of compensation for your loss.
To get started, please
contact our San Francisco law firm at (415) 688-2176.