Commercial fishermen work hard for long hours in a tough environment. If their employers and vessel owners don’t take due care, commercial fishermen can be maimed or killed on the job. On average, 42 fishers die on the job every year. Around 30% of those fishing industry fatalities were caused by man overboard accidents. Many of these deaths could have been avoided with the proper protections for seamen.
The fleet of fishing vessels in Alaska, Washington, Oregon, and Connecticut includes many older vessels. Some can be decades old—even still made of wood. Despite the bad condition of many fishing vessels, owners may still push boats to their operational limits with little preventative maintenance and only the barest repairs. Boat operators may even make the boats more dangerous by adding new equipment, bigger engines, and structural changes. Countless fishermen deaths are the result of flooding issues, vessel instability, and sinkings.
Every crewmember role on a fishing vessel can be fraught with danger under the right circumstances. This includes mates, engineers, cooks, deckhands, freezer workers, gear workers, factory workers, quality control, skiff operators, and foremen. The perils of the sea are an issue that most every commercial fishing has to contend with, including trawlers, seiners, longliners, tuna clippers, gillnetters, crabbers, lobster boats, and factory ships.
Common but still unreasonably dangerous conditions may include:
Dangerous boarding conditions
Inadequately trained crewmembers
Missing or inadequate non-skid decking
Working in confined spaces
Lack of rest
Inadequate safety railing
Lack of safety procedures and operations
Operating too quickly
Lack of safety gear
Lack of emergency safety equipment
When things go wrong on fishing vessels, the mariners are the ones that suffer the consequences. All too often, vessel owner negligence results in:
Slip, trip and falls
Repetitive use injuries
Loss at sea
Commercial fishermen, like other United States merchant seamen, are a protected class of workers. Their maritime employers owe them a safe place to work. If they aren’t adequately protected and suffer injury as a result, fishers can sue their employers for negligence under the Jones Act. Compensation under the Jones Act can include damages for pain and suffering, future wages, and disability. Fishermen can also sue for unseaworthy conditions on the vessels they serve. The damages under unseaworthiness are similar to the Jones Act and the claims are usually brought at the same time. Other claims and types of damages may be available for the surviving family members of seamen who die on the job as the result of negligence.
Even if a fisherman’s employer was not negligent, the fisher may still qualify for maintenance and cure. That’s a very old maritime law remedy that covers medical expenses and living costs while an injured mariner gets better.
Maritime injury claims are unique and subject to special laws. A maritime lawyer can help you navigate these issues and feel confident that you maximized your benefits. Mariner Law, PLLC only works with mariners—never vessel owners. If you or a loved one was injured or tragically killed in the fishing injury, don’t delay. There may be evidence that needs to be retained and notice requirements to fulfill. Mariner Law, PLLC can assist with fisherman injury claims. Call now for a free consultation with a Jones Act lawyer: (253) 600-2531. The firm proudly serves mariner clients in Washington, Oregon, New York, Connecticut, Alaska, and nationwide.