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Legal Rights Of Injured Commercial Fishermen

If you’ve been injured while working on a commercial fishing vessel, you may be wondering about your legal rights:

  • What injury benefits am I entitled to?
  • Are my medical bills covered?
  • Will I be paid for lost wages while out of work?
  • Can I sue my employer for a work injury?
  • Can vessel owners be held liable for injuries?
  • Will I need a lawyer’s help?

We can help you learn about your legal options in a free consultation.

If you’ve been injured while working on a commercial fishing vessel, a lawyer with experience in maritime law can help you secure financial compensation. - Laurence Banville

Working on a commercial shipping vessel is financially rewarding but dangerous work. Skilled fishermen help provide the seafood that millions of people enjoy and often earn handsome wages to support their families. However, fishing workers are regularly exposed to a wide range of occupational hazards which can lead to serious injury or even death.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, ” fishers and related fishing workers have had the highest fatal injury rate of any occupation since 2005.” These occupations also have high rates of nonfatal injuries, although the data is incomplete because self-employed fishers account for 50% of fishers and are not included in these statistics. However, employed fishermen suffered 610 nonfatal injuries between 2003-2009.

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Compensation Options For A Fishing Work Injury

Fishing workers knowingly face the risk of serious injury or death every day to support themselves and their families. When one of these brave workers gets injured on the job, it’s important that they receive the financial compensation their family needs until they can return to work.

Benefits available for injured fishermen vary depending on the nature of the accident, but may include:

  • Maintenance and cure
  • Jones Act claims
  • Death On High Seas (DOSHA) claims for surviving family members

While injured fishing workers are usually entitled to financial compensation, the set of laws which govern maritime work injuries are complex. In order to secure maximum financial compensation, it’s often necessary to enlist the guidance of a lawyer who has experience with maritime work injury cases.

Occupational Hazards In Fishing

Commercial fishing is one of the most physically demanding and hazardous jobs in the labor force. These workers spend long hours conducting physically strenuous labor throughout all types of weather. Fishing voyages can also last weeks or months at a time, which can cause fatigue to slowly build up, increasing the risk of an accident. The combination of long hours, sleep deprivation, hazardous weather, exerting physical labor, and preventable hazards (such as an uncleaned oil spill on deck) makes commercial fishing a uniquely dangerous profession.

Causes Of Nonfatal Accidents

Commercial fishers can suffer offshore injuries in a variety of on-board accidents, including:

  • Contact with objects or equipment – The leading cause of nonfatal injuries, at 33 percent. Fishing employees may be struck by objects or equipment either through their own mistakes, the mistakes of their co-workers, or as a result of working in an unsafe environment (e.g. with defective or poorly maintained equipment).
  • Overexertion – The second-leading cause of nonfatal injuries, accounting for 16 percent. Fishing work can be physically exhausting. Employees may become injured by improper lifting techniques, inadequate rest, or develop repetitive stress injuries from overworking the same muscle group.
  • Slips and falls – Fishing decks can quickly become wet and slippery, which could result in a serious slip and fall injury. While water on deck may be unavoidable, regular maintenance should be done to remove excess water, oil spills, and other hazards which could cause a fall.

Causes Of Fatal Accidents

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, between 2003-2009 80% of fatal fishing work injuries occurred due to water vehicle transportation accidents. These include sinking, capsizing, falls, and collisions. 84% of total fishing fatalities in the same time period were due to drowning.

In order to prevent fatal accidents, ship owners and employers should prioritize safety measures on board, such as life jackets, rafts, and guard rails.

Jones Act Claims For Fishing Injuries

Commercial fishing has a number of inherent occupational risks, but these risks can be reduced if the proper safety measures are taken. Employers and vessel owners both have an obligation to do all that they can to keep their work environments as safe as possible. Employers who contribute to worker injuries through negligence can be held liable for expenses related to that worker’s injuries. Vessel owners who fail to keep their commercial fishing vessels safe and “seaworthy” may also be held liable for the same expenses.

Legal Guidance For Maritime Work Injuries

Seeking financial compensation for a maritime work injury is much more complex than it is for land-based occupations. While most other injured workers will apply for state-level workers’ compensation, maritime workers are bound by their own unique set of legal statutes, known as maritime law. Depending on the circumstances behind an injury, maritime workers may be eligible for one or more forms of financial compensation.

However, determining which benefits you qualify for and actually receiving these benefits is often difficult. The parties responsible for your injury may have retained skilled lawyers who specialize in denying compensation to people in your situation. Because of these complexities, most injured maritime workers stand to benefit from the guidance of an experienced maritime work injury lawyer.

To find out more about your rights after being injured in a commercial fishing vessel accident, contact us today for a free consultation.

Also See: Getting Financial Compensation For A Maritime Injury In Pennsylvania

About the Author
About Paul
Editor: Paul is a staff editor who focuses on bringing you the most important legal news regarding cases of sexual assault, drunk driving, and preventable violence. Contact Paul: This article was fact checked prior to publishing by this author to ensure compliance with our rigorous editorial standards. We will only use authoritative sources. Our values compel us to provide only trustworthy information. If you find an error, please contact us.
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