Commercial Fisherman Accident Claims and Wrongful Death Lawyers • Free Consultation
Recreational fishing is a harmless, gentle pastime, but the fact is that commercial fishing—whether for tuna, lobster, or any other denizens of the sea—is one of the world’s most hazardous occupations. Commercial fishermen ply their trade in fair as well as foul weather, and often stay out at sea for days, or even weeks, at a time. What’s more, catching big fish like tuna requires the use of equally sizable equipment, both to reel the fish in and to hoist it on board; crew members can easily be injured by snapping lines or wildly swinging winches.
With that said, though, the main hazard facing commercial fishermen is the same one that has afflicted sailors for thousands of years—drowning. According to the Centers for Disease Control, over 500 commercial fisherman died in the U.S. between 2000 and 2009, most of them due to drowning (after diving, tripping, losing their balance, falling overboard after an accident, or being swept overboard by a large wave, among other causes).
Many of these deaths could have been prevented if crew members had been equipped with personal flotation devices; the CDC also recommends regular safety drills and ship inspections, and urges ships’ captains to pay more attention to hazardous weather and fishing conditions. To put these numbers into perspective, between 1992 and 2009, the fatality rate for fishermen was 128 deaths per 100,000 workers, compared to 4 deaths per 100,000 workers for U.S. workers as a whole.
Although there are certain unavoidable risks connected with working on a commercial fishing vessel, not all injuries and fatalities can be chalked up to accidents. Fishing boat owners have an ethical responsibility to outfit their crews with the necessary safety gear, including flotation devices, and captains should not make reckless decisions that adversely affect the health and well-being of their crew. In addition, fishing-boat crews should be well rested, and workers should not be compelled to put in unnecessarily long shifts, where severe fatigue could cause fatal errors in judgment.
A slightly different set of considerations comes into play when a ship (and its crew) are hired for a recreational fishing expedition. In this case, the crew, captain and owner should be aware that not all the passengers will be equally experienced, and should take care to provide all the necessary safety precautions (including personal flotation devices and, if necessary, instruction about reeling in large catches). Injuries or deaths sustained during recreational fishing expeditions may well be actionable in court, and can expose the ship’s owner, captain and crew to significant damages.
Under the Jones Act, workers on commercial fishing boats have legal recourse if they’ve been injured because of the recklessness or negligence of the ship’s owner or captain, or even of their fellow fishermen. At the very least, plaintiffs are entitled to compensation for their medical bills and convalescence, and they may be owed additional damages in cases of gross negligence (such as failing to properly equip the boat with first-aid equipment or a working radio).
If you were injured in a commercial fishing accident, or your loved one was been injured, was killed, or drowned on a commercial fishing expedition, you’re entitled to know the exact circumstances of the accident, and you may be entitled to damages if negligence or recklessness can be proved. To discuss your case for free, contact us immediately. There is a statute of limitations on filing accident and wrongful death claims and the sooner you call our law offices, the sooner we can begin building a strong case for you.