New Jersey Maritime Lawyer Explains Your Legal Rights if Your Work as a Commercial Fisherman Makes You Sick

As a seaman, you can be injured through illness as well as through accidents. Many diseases develop over time, and it can be challenging to connect your medical condition with your employment. However, an experienced New York or New Jersey maritime injury lawyer at Hofmann & Schweitzer can evaluate your claim, with the help of medical experts, to determine why you got sick and, if appropriate, file a federal maritime law or Jones Act lawsuit against your employer to help you get the compensation you deserve.

Diseases That Can Strike a Commercial Fisherman

Working at sea can be very difficult for the human body. Aside from the risks of an accident, the conditions put you at risk for various illnesses. You are working long hours under challenging conditions, your diet may be less than ideal, and being in a compact space can cause health conditions.

You may develop one of the following illnesses as a maritime worker:

  • Cardiovascular disease. The unhealthy conditions of working at sea can manifest themselves in cardiovascular disease. These conditions are prevalent when workers are under stress and do not have the proper diet or exercise. The poor quality of food on ships can contribute to these health issues.
  • Cancer. Commercial fishermen may be exposed to certain carcinogenic substances on the ship. Seamen could be exposed to benzene, beryllium, or black carbon, all of which have been tied to cases of cancer. You may not develop cancer until years after you served on the ship. Many seamen were exposed to asbestos when working on ships decades ago, and they are just now beginning to be diagnosed with illnesses.
  • Pandemics and infectious diseases. Working in close quarters could expose you to infectious illnesses impacting others on the ship. The employer should have the means to prevent an outbreak of disease, quarantining workers as soon as they learn they are sickened.
  • Damage to body organs. The fatigue and strain of working at sea can cause damage to crucial organs such as the heart, lungs, and kidneys. Unsafe working conditions can put workers in danger of conditions like heart disease and kidney failure.

Of course, these illnesses can also occur for other reasons.  For decades, the United States military has been dumping munitions at sea. The decaying munitions have leaked toxins into the water that threaten the safety of commercial fishermen. For example, we have been contacted by one young fisherman who has terrible burns up and down his arms and torso from exposure to mustard gas that leaked from a canister that his scallop dredge pulled up during his work at sea.

You will need to prove that got sick because of your employer’s negligence to recover full damages under the Jones Act or that you became ill while in service to the vessel to make a successful maintenance and cure claim.

Help When You Got Sick on the Job

If you have been sickened on the job, it is essential that you get immediate medical care. Your doctor can diagnose and recommend treatment for your illness. You cannot afford to wait on medical care because it could affect your health and harm your possible legal case.

Additionally, you should notify your employer and an experienced maritime injury lawyer as soon as you know about your illness.

Commercial fishermen may be able to sue their employers when their employer’s negligence caused their illness. The Jones Act allows a seaman to receive full financial compensation, including the entirety of lost wages and non-economic damages, when they can prove that their employer acted wrongfully. Even if your employer was not negligent, you may be entitled to maintenance and cure that provides you medical care, food, lodging, and transportation compensation until you reach the point of maximum medical improvement.

The attorneys at Hofmann & Schweitzer fight for the rights of injured seamen. For example, we helped a United States Air Force Veteran who worked as a marine diesel engineer recover substantial compensation for a lung disease he developed in the course of his maritime employment. We can investigate the cause of your illness and take action on your behalf if appropriate

Paul T. Hofmann
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Focused on personal injury, with an emphasis on maritime, railroad and construction worker tort claims.