Ten workers were killed aboard the Deepwater Horizon when the rig exploded; many leave widows and children to fend for themselves in the aftermath of the disaster. But, one very little known restriction in current law related to compensation in these cases will place serious limitations on what these families can recover. The applicable law is known as the Death on the High Seas Act , or DOHSA
If DOHSA is not amended by Congress, the families of those killed or injured, residents of the Gulf region, and we, the taxpayers, will be left with the medical bills and support bills and clean up bills. In essence, it will be up to us to clean up BP’s mess. DOHSA is, actually, one of several laws that cap BP’s (and other oil companies in similar situations) liability for damages. There is the woefully low $75 million cap contained within OPA (Oil Pollution Act) which governs compensation to victims for economic damages and the clean-up, and LOLA (Limitation of Liability Act), a 159-year-old law that seriously limits liability to artificially low numbers.
In the BP disaster, DOHSA creates full immunity to BP; the company is not required to compensate the families of those killed because the law compensates for economic injury, not loss of a loved one; BP’s liability is limited to economic damages only, medical cost for the injured and burial costs and the loss of financial support for the deceased victim’s families. In essence, this cruel law devalues human life and human suffering.