commercial fishing safety maritime law

Maritime Injury Lawyer Discusses Commercial Fishing Dangers 

Commercial fishing, while vital to our economy and food supply, is undoubtedly one of the most dangerous professions in the world. From the turbulent waves of the open sea to the physical demands of the job, fishermen face numerous hazards every day they set sail. Despite advancements in technology and safety measures, accidents still occur far too frequently, resulting in injuries and, tragically, loss of life. If you suffer a commercial fishing injury, the skilled maritime injury lawyers at Hofmann & Schweitzer can assist you in seeking justice.

Common Causes of Commercial Fishing Accidents

Commercial fishing accidents can stem from numerous factors, often intensified by the unpredictable nature of the sea and the strenuous demands of the job partnered with long work hours. Some common causes of commercial fishing accidents include:

  • Adverse weather conditions. Fishermen must brave harsh winds, towering waves, and inclement weather, making them vulnerable to accidents such as capsizing, collisions, or falls overboard. Many of these accidents can lead to fatal drownings.
  • Mechanical failures. Mechanical failures and equipment malfunctions pose significant risks. From malfunctioning winches to tangled nets, the machinery used in commercial fishing can be hazardous if not properly maintained or operated. 
  • Human error. Human error, often compounded by fatigue and long hours at sea, can lead to accidents such as slips, trips, and falls, or entanglement in fishing gear.
  • Chemical exposure. Commercial fishing boats can have various chemicals on board that can be dangerous if they touch your skin. Chemical-related injuries can range from burns to neurological conditions.

East Coast Commercial Fishing Injuries

The East Coast of the United States, with its rich marine resources and bustling fishing industry, witnesses its fair share of commercial fishing injuries. According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), the East Coast ranks among the country's top regions for commercial fishing fatalities and injuries.

Commercial fishing injuries range from minor cuts and bruises to severe trauma, including fractures, head injuries, and even loss of limbs. 

In the 20 years from 2000-2019, 288 people in the fishing industry died off the East Coast. 234 of the 288 deaths were drownings. The most common fatal fishing incidents included:

  • Vessel disasters (50% of fatalities)
  • Falls overboard (27% of fatalities)
  • Onboard deaths (15% of fatalities)
  • Onshore deaths (5% of fatalities)
  • Diving deaths (4% of fatalities)

The fisheries with the most fatalities included scallop dredges (18% of fatalities), lobster fisheries (13% of fatalities), and multi-species groundfish trawls (11% of fatalities).

Steps to Take After a Commercial Fishing Injury 

In the aftermath of a commercial fishing injury, taking immediate action is crucial to ensure the well-being and safety of the victim as well as to safeguard their legal rights. The following steps are recommended:

Seek medical attention

The immediate priority is to address any injuries and obtain necessary medical treatment. A health care professional should examine Even seemingly minor injuries to prevent complications.

Report the incident

It's essential to report the accident to the vessel's captain or supervisor as soon as possible. Documentation of the accident and injury can be crucial for subsequent investigations or legal proceedings.

Document the scene

If circumstances permit, gather evidence from the scene of the accident, including photographs, statements from others who witnessed the commercial fishing accident, and any relevant documentation. This information can be invaluable in determining liability.

Contact a maritime injury lawyer

Given the complex nature of maritime law and the challenges involved in pursuing compensation for commercial fishing injuries, seeking the expertise of a New Jersey or New York maritime injury lawyer is highly advisable. An experienced maritime injury lawyer can help you navigate the intricacies of filing claims against vessel owners, operators, or third parties responsible for the accident

How a Maritime Injury Lawyer Can Help

A maritime injury lawyer can assist victims in various ways, including:

  • Legal guidance. An attorney can provide professional advice on the victim's rights and options for seeking compensation under maritime law.
  • Investigation. Your lawyer can investigate the circumstances surrounding the commercial fishing accident to determine liability and to help strengthen the victim's claim.
  • Negotiation and litigation. An attorney can represent you in negotiations or litigation if a fair settlement cannot be reached out of court. 
Paul T. Hofmann
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Focused on personal injury, with an emphasis on maritime, railroad and construction worker tort claims.
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