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  4.  – What is the Death on the High Seas Act?

What is the Death on the High Seas Act?

On Behalf of | Sep 15, 2022 | Maritime Law |

The maritime industry can be dangerous just like any other demanding job. But when you suffer an injury or something goes wrong, the rules may differ from other professions.

The biggest difference is the maritime industry falls under federal jurisdiction. This impacts any claims for death or injury while working on a vessel. When a person dies while working on a boat, the Death on the High Seas Act would dictate the benefits the family may receive.


The act originally only reimbursed expenses the family had due to the death. It did not actually pay benefits. But this changed with time to include payments for all expenses, financial loss, and suffering due to the death. The court usually disburses the benefits based on the level of loss for each person involved in the lawsuit. For example, a wife’s losses would be more than a parent’s losses because the wife was more financially impacted by the death.


The act covers deaths that occur within three miles of the US shoreline. The person must have worked for a company that was negligent or otherwise committed a crime that led to the death. The family must file within the time limit, which differs by the state of residence and can be one to three years. Only close family members can file, but they must use a nominee appointed by the court to handle the process for them.

The Death on the High Seas Act can be complex. Families should make sure they understand the law before attempting to go to court as missteps could set things back or cause issues with the claim.