Commercial fishing is one of the most dangerous professions in the world. The popular Discovery Channel show “The Deadliest Catch” illustrates just how much is at risk when professional fishermen do their jobs. If you are one of the many individuals who have been injured in such an accident, our experienced commercial fishing boat accident attorneys may be able to help. We fight for compensation for victims of serious injuries. We have experience negotiating with adverse parties to get what our clients deserve. Consider contacting Wright & Gray at 888-912-4944 or contact us online to set up your free consultation.
How Common Are Commercial Fishing Boat Accidents?
The short answer is that they are extremely common. In one study by the Journal of Injury Prevention of 215 commercial fishermen, 83 of them reported that they had suffered an injury in the last year. This makes the prevalence rate over 38%. For additional context, half of all marine accidents involve commercial fishing vessels. Most of these accidents occur in either the Gulf of Mexico, the Bering Sea, or the waters of New England.
Within the Gulf of Mexico region, according to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), the vast majority of fishing fatalities occur among shrimping fleets. Shrimping fleets made up over half of all commercial fishing fatalities between 2010-2014 in the Gulf of Mexico.
Most Common Causes of Injuries in Commercial Fishing Boat Accidents
In the Gulf of Mexico region, the most common causes of injuries in commercial fishing boat accidents include:
- Vessel disasters
- Falls overboard
- Deck safety
Many injuries and fatalities occur due to vessel disasters. This term can encompass accidents involving the boat itself, such as sinking, capsizing, or explosions. These commonly occur from collisions with other vessels or running into a stationary object. The NIOSH offers this guidance for avoiding these dangerous vessel disasters:
- Take regular safety courses
- Conduct drills every month
- Check if the vessel is watertight
- Conduct regular maintenance of the vessel
Falls are another common cause of commercial fishing boat injuries. They are the second most common cause of fishing fatalities nationwide. They are especially dangerous when the victim was working alone or the fall was not seen by someone else on the boat. The waters in which commercial fishers are operating tend to be very rough and difficult to swim, so the best way to avoid or survive a fall overboard is to:
- Wear a personal floatation device at all times
- Use a “man overboard” alarm system
- Install and train staff on how to use recovery ladders
- Conduct regular drills
Even when no one falls overboard and the vessel is safe, there are many ways fishers can get injured on deck during the course of their work. One of the most common on-deck injuries is puncture wounds. Commercial fishing involves the use of sharp objects in a fast-paced environment, on a rocking vessel in all sorts of weather conditions. These conditions can easily lead to stabbing or puncture wounds. Similarly, working with large fish may involve interaction with sharp bones and spines, or even teeth.
When Is the Owner of the Vessel Responsible?
For the most part, the injuries that occur are an unfortunate but natural consequence of this extremely dangerous field of work. What makes commercial fishing unique compared to most Louisiana jobs, however, is that injured maritime workers generally cannot seek state workers’ compensation. Although you may be a resident of Louisiana, and even if your employer is based in Louisiana, injuries that occur in a maritime setting are generally not covered by the state workers’ comp regime.
However, there are some cases where a third party may be responsible, in which case you may be able to bring a personal injury suit. For example, if the owner of the fishing vessel failed to outfit the vessel with necessary safety equipment or failed to conduct regular maintenance on the vessel, any injuries arising from these failures can be attributed to the owner or other responsible party.
What Is the Jones Act?
Though state workers’ compensation laws do not apply to commercial fishermen, there is a federal law called the Jones Act that protects injured maritime workers. To be eligible for compensation under the Jones Act, the injured party must have been injured while employed on a vessel in navigation at sea, in inland waters, or tied to a dock. The employee must have been performing a function that furthered the vessel’s mission. This can include operating the boat, diving, supervising, performing maintenance, or any of the functions of catching or preparing fish. Under the Jones Act, you may be able to seek compensation for medical bills, past and future lost wages, and pain and suffering.
Be sure to immediately report any injuries to your employer and file an official report. Seek medical treatment right away, and do not stay away from work longer than necessary. It is usually advisable to seek help from a commercial fishing accident attorney to protect your legal rights after a maritime accident.
How a Commercial Fishing Boat Accident Attorney Can Help
Injuries from fishing accidents can be extremely severe, racking up expensive medical bills and leaving you out of work for weeks, months, or even permanently. An experienced Louisiana attorney will be able to review your options with you and determine which strategy is right for your case. Whether you should seek compensation under the Jones Act or through a personal injury suit against a liable party, an experienced commercial fishing boat attorney will guide you through the process and stand by your side the whole time.
Contact the Louisiana Maritime Lawyers at Wright & Gray
Wright & Gray is a trusted New Orleans law firm that fights to protect the rights of injury victims. We understand that the aftermath of a serious accident can feel impossible to overcome, not only physically, but financially. Trust a commercial fishing boat accident attorney to take care of your legal needs while you recuperate and focus on getting back to work. Consider calling our office at 888-912-4944 or contacting us online to set up your free consultation.