Death at Sea


People who have lost a loved one who was working on a vessel or oil rig may not be aware of their rights under the Death on the High Seas Act (DOHSA). This act allows certain individuals to recover losses when a death at sea claims the life of a close relative. Maritime law firms can provide these individuals with an experienced offshore injury lawyer who is knowledgeable about DOHSA.


A person is covered under DOHSA if they are killed in international waters while working. Seamen who die as the result of a negligent act on the part of another person could be leaving loved ones behind without their financial support, and family members may be eligible to collect compensation for lost income and to pay final expenses.

Financial damages are awarded under DOHSA. Spouses and children may be given compensation to pay for ongoing financial needs related to maintaining a home and paying for basic necessities. DOHSA allows some family members to collect damages related to the amount of time that the deceased would have spent helping with household tasks. A monetary value will be assigned in relation to the amount of time that the seamen would have helped with child care, housework, shopping and other household tasks. It is important to note the DOHSA does not provide compensation for the loss of companionship or support suffered by family members who are left behind after a death at sea.

Eligibility for Damages Under DOHSA

Family members must be dependents of the deceased in order to be eligible for damages. Spouses and minor children are typically eligible, and some people who do not fall under these categories may still be able to collect compensation if they can prove that they are dependents of the deceased.

Death at sea also applies to pilots who are killed while flying 12 or more miles away from the coastline. Family members of pilots who are killed over the ocean may be eligible for damages.

The Importance of Hiring an Attorney

Maritime law firms are able to assist family members after a seaman is killed at sea because these attorneys have specialized experience and knowledge. Family members should consult with an attorney after the death of a loved one in order to understand their rights under DOHSA and other laws related to injuries and deaths that occur at sea.

Attorneys at personal injury firms may attempt to persuade the family during their difficult time that a maritime specialist is not needed. But, in this complex area of law, the family should have the peace of mind that a specialized offshore injury lawyer, with the knowledge and experience necessary to fully recover all damages, will bring them.

In the event of a death at sea, the spouse and family members of the deceased are entitled to an award for any economic losses they have suffered by reason of the seaman’s death. A specialized offshore injury attorney, after reviewing the case, may find that the family is eligible for more specific compensation than economic losses according to exceptions. To maximize recovery for a family, it is imperative that the claim be reviewed by a lawyer at an offshore injury law firm soon after the accident to secure all avenues of compensation.

We’re on your side. Contact us at (281) 645-5000 or email our team to schedule a free consultation with one of our attorneys.

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FELA/Worker Injury

A 15-year machinist for Union Pacific Railroad was injured when a locomotive coupled into his blue flagged locomotive in the diesel shop at Union Pacific’s Houston facility. Although the machinist failed to engage the shop derails and acknowledge the track alarm, the contention was that Union Pacific employee took one minute and forty-four second water break during a walk around prior to the coupling.

During this water break, the machinist blue flagged his locomotive and began working. Burwell Nebout filed suit against Union Pacific Railroad in Harris County. After a two-week trial in the 157th District Court in Harris County, the jury awarded the machinist $566,105. The jury determined that Union Pacific Railroad violated the federal regulation that absolutely prohibits coupling into a blue flagged locomotive.