Worker on a Commercial Fishing BoatFishermen face the possibility of severe injury or death on every journey. From the daily strain of lifting crab pots to a sudden slip that causes a fall overboard, the hazards on commercial fishing boats are nearly limitless. When these injuries occur, workers have a right to collect compensation for their medical treatment, lost wages, and other costs of the accident.

Laws That May Benefit Commercial Fishing Accident Victims

Boaters, fishermen, and other workers are protected by the law if they suffer an injury on commercial fishing vessels. Some laws guarantee medical payments on wages regardless of fault, while others allow workers to sue shipowners for dangerous conditions aboard a ship that led to an injury.

Depending on your seaman status and the type of vessel you work on, there are many different laws that may apply to your case, including:

  • Jones Act. Most commercial fishermen working on tuna boats, trawlers, shrimpers, long line vessels, gill net fishers, lobster and crab boats, and other commercial fishing vessels are not covered under state workers’ compensation statutes. Instead, they can collect compensation for lost income and medical bills after a work injury under the Jones Act. This Act covers an employee’s salary and medical care (called maintenance and cure), as well as additional compensation for fishermen injured or killed at sea. The law also allows injured fishermen to file lawsuits against the shipowner if the employer’s negligence or the unseaworthiness of the vessel directly led to an injury.
  • The Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act (LHWCA). If you work on an oyster or clam dredger or in fish processing on the shore, your case may be covered under LHWCA. This federal law applies to injured workers who work on navigable waters or on areas adjacent to waterways, such as on piers, in harbors, or on beaches. It can also provide death benefit payments to a worker’s surviving family members if he or she is killed on the job.
  • Commercial Fishing Industry Vessel Safety Act (CFIVSA). While the CFIVSA does not provide benefits to injured fishermen, it does mandate certain safety standards on all fishing boats and fish processing vessels. If the boat is found to be in an unsafe condition or violation of certification requirements under the Act, the shipowner may face civil and criminal penalties, adding weight to a fisherman’s lawsuit against the employer.
  • General maritime law. If a worker does not meet the requirements of the LHWCA or the Jones Act, he or she may be owed injury compensation under general maritime law. A maritime attorney can examine the details of a crew member’s case to determine if this law applies, protect the crew member’s recovery of earned wages for the entire journey, and collect interest payments or penalties as a result of late salary and medical payments.

Common Injuries Suffered on Commercial Fishing Boats

Owners and operators of vessels have a legal duty to ensure that a boat is seaworthy, has a properly trained pilot and crew, and has all the equipment necessary to perform work safely. Unfortunately, hundreds of accidents occur every year as a result of negligence, causing commercial fishermen to suffer maritime injuries such as:

  • Slips and falls. Fishermen may be at undue risk of a fall due to slippery or cluttered decks, open hatches, inadequate gangways, lack of rails along stairs, and poorly-maintained ladders.
  • Struck-by injuries. Workers may be struck by fully-loaded nets and pots, swinging crane arms, or items on deck due to rough weather or inadequate crew training.
  • Crane and winch injuries. Poor maintenance on machinery and the vessel itself can cause equipment failure, causing injuries to many crew members at once.
  • Entanglement. Workers can suffer arm, foot, leg, and hand injuries when caught up in netting, rigging, or cables, while the snapping of a taught line can lead to amputation of a limb.
  • Crush injuries. Improperly secured hatches, loose cargo, and overloaded nets and pots can crush or sever a worker’s extremities.
  • Repetitive motion injury. The daily stress of lifting, bending, twisting, and throwing can place severe strain on a worker’s body, causing injuries that build up over time.
  • Falls overboard. Negligent crew supervision, dangerous piloting, and malfunctioning or defective equipment can all lead to a fall overboard that can have fatal consequences.
  • Wrongful death. If a crew member dies while working onboard a commercial fishing boat, surviving family members can seek compensation for loss of financial support, funeral and burial expenses, and other related losses.

If you or someone you love was injured on a commercial fishing boat, our maritime personal injury attorneys can determine who may be liable and what you are owed under the law. Call (800) 362-9329 today to speak with a maritime lawyer at Hofmann & Schweitzer or download your complimentary copy of Are You a Seaman Injured in a Maritime Accident? Know Your Rights today.


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