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What is the Death on the High Seas Act?

At Tabak Mellusi & Shisha LLP, we know that ship environments can be dangerous even in the best weather conditions. If you have lost a loved one as the result of an accident on a ship, then you may be able to file a civil lawsuit against the responsible party under the Death on the High Seas Act. According to Cornell University Law School’s Public Information Institute, the act is in effect if the fatal accident happened at sea and the distance from the accident to a U.S. shore was more than three nautical miles.

The degree of negligence or fault on the part of your loved one is compared to the amount of fault of the shipping company or person who was involved in the accident. For example, if your loved one was violating a safety rule and it is decided that the violation was 20 percent responsible for the death, then you would be awarded 20 percent less money. However, if the blame was entirely on the shipping company or owner, then you would receive 100 percent of the amount that the court awards you.

If your loved one was on a U.S.-owned ship and was killed due to a foreign cause of action, like a pirate attack or collision with a non-American boat, the act still allows you to seek compensation for the death. This is regardless of whether your loved one’s death was due to a default, an act of neglect or a deliberate action. Furthermore, your rights are still in effect even if the “cause of action exists under the law of a foreign country.”

To be eligible to file a civil suit on behalf of your loved one, you must provide proof that you are a financially dependent family member. The act may apply if your loved one was your uncle and he was financially taking care of you as your legal guardian. Additionally, you are also able to file if you are the parent of the deceased, a child or a spouse. For more information about deaths and injuries on ships, please visit our web page.

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