Commercial Fishing Boat Out on the Ocean Hofmann and SchweitzerCommercial fishing is one of the most dangerous occupations in the United States. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the fatality rate for commercial fishermen is 29 times higher than the national average. Some serious risks, such as falling and drowning, are readily apparent. However, they are not the only risks on commercial fishing vessels. Other risks, such as chemical exposure, can also cause significant injuries or deaths.

Types of Chemicals Used on Commercial Fishing Boats

Fishing boats need certain substances in order to run and in order for fishermen to do their jobs effectively. These substances typically include:

  • Gasoline
  • Oil
  • Engine fluids
  • Cleaning fluids

Additionally, workers on commercial fishing vessels may be exposed to:

  • Benzene. Benzene is a colorless gas. Seamen who perform vessel maintenance or clean oil tanks may be exposed to this dangerous gas which can result in life-threatening injuries or fatalities.
  • Hydrogen Sulfide. When fish, or other living matter, decompose they release a colorless gas known as hydrogen sulfide. Hydrogen sulfide can be toxic if it is inhaled in an enclosed or confined space.
  • Other chemicals used on the ship. These chemicals may include things such as toxic metals and carcinogens.

The presence of these chemicals on a commercial fishing vessel does not mean that seamen will become sick. However, when there is an explosion, when the seamen are working in confined spaces without proper ventilation, or when proper safety procedures are not followed then commercial fishermen may suffer serious injuries.

Chemical Exposure Injuries on Commercial Fishing Vessels

The specific injuries that are suffered depend on the type of chemical, how the exposure occurred, where the exposure occurred, and how long the exposure lasted. Some of the serious risks faced by commercial fishermen exposed to dangerous chemicals include:

  • Skin burns
  • Eye injuries
  • Internal burns
  • Internal bleeding
  • Immune system injuries
  • Cancer
  • Brain injuries
  • Death

If you have been hurt, or your loved one has been killed, then you need to know what steps to take next to protect your fair and just recovery.

Make a Fair Recovery After a Chemical Injury on a Commercial Fishing Boat

You have a lot of decisions to make after an injury at sea. You may feel like you need to rely on the advice of your employer. However, it is important that you make your own decisions about what to do if you have been hurt or your loved one has been killed.

If you’ve been injured, then it is important to get medical attention as soon as possible and follow the advice of your doctors. Additionally, it is important that you do not sign any papers, provide any statements, or accept any settlements before you speak with an experienced maritime lawyer.

The Jones Act and other applicable maritime laws may allow you to recover damages for both your economic and non-economic damages. This may include things such as past and future:

  • Medical expenses
  • Lost income
  • Pain and suffering

However, your recovery of damages will not be automatic even if the cause of your injury was clearly exposure to a dangerous chemical or substance aboard your vessel. Instead, you will face numerous challenges to your fair recovery.

It is important to be prepared for the challenges to your claim and to make sure that your rights are protected as soon as possible after you are hurt or your loved one is killed. You can do this by contacting a maritime injury lawyer who has experience representing commercial fishermen.

Our maritime lawyers would be pleased to provide you with a free consultation so that you can get the information that you need to make an informed decision about protecting your recovery. Please fill out our online form or call us directly at 800.362.9329 to schedule your meeting. Additionally, we invite you to download a free copy of our book, The Legal Rights Of Injured Seamen, Dockbuilders, Dredgemen And Other Commercial Mariners: Ten Important Questions Answered.


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