By:   Charles R. Lipcon

commercial fishing accidentsCommercial fishing is one of the more dangerous occupations one can undertake. In our more than 50 years of helping clients from all over the world, we have seen it all: from deaths and amputations, to fractures and electrocutions. There are many common themes that we’ve learned from these incidents over the decades but one thing is crystal clear: nearly every accident or incident can be traced to a clear failure by the employer or vessel owner to make sure the vessel is safe for the crew working aboard. If you are injured while working as a commercial fisherman, you may be entitled to significant financial compensation from your employer or from the vessel owner. Let us put our wealth of experience to work for you.  

In commercial fishing, there is a significant risk of accidents resulting in injuries. The CDC found that the accident rate in commercial fishing is a whopping 29 times higher than in any other industry.

Common Commercial Fishing Accidents

  • Collisions
  • Falls overboard
  • Capsizing
  • Grounding
  • Machinery incidents
  • Engine room fires
  • Slips and falls
  • Amputations

Who Is Liable In A Commercial Fishing Accident?

Liability for accidents and injuries on commercial fishing vessels ultimately is the responsibility of the vessel’s owners and operators. Fishermen are expected to practice basic safety procedures, but it is incumbent upon owners and operators to maintain a safe and seaworthy vessel. A failure to properly maintain the vessel may amount to negligence.  There is a limitless number of ways that a vessel owner can be held responsible, but every way has its basis in the failure to use reasonable care under the circumstances.  

commercial fishing boat

Companies We Have Sued

What Damages Can You Recover?

If you are injured in a commercial fishing accident, you may be entitled to recover significant compensation. Under maritime law, a shipowner is required to financially care for a seaman who becomes ill or injured as a result of their employment. This is called maintenance and cure. Under the Jones Act, a ship worker who is injured due to the fault of the employer is entitled to compensation for injuries, lost wages, and loss of earning capacity.  In our experience, commercial fisherman are high wage earners, and as such, the lost wage component, and lost future wage earning capacity component alone can be in the millions of dollars.  

Compensation For Commercial Fishing Accidents

commercial fishers

The “maintenance” part of Maintenance and Cure refers to a seaman’s right to food and lodging. It is intended to cover daily living expenses, including mortgage or rent, utilities, and food. “Cure” means medical expenses. A seaman injured on the job is entitled to have the owner or operator of the vessel cover the costs of medical care. Cure may also include reimbursement of prescription costs, medical equipment, and travel to and from doctor visits.  Failure to provide Maintenance and Cure to an injured commercial fisherman can have serious consequences for the employer, including punitive damages and attorney’s fees being awarded against them.  

What To Do When You’re Injured In A Commercial Fishing Accident?

  1. Seek medical attention for your injuries as soon as possible. Out on the ocean, it can be a difficult task to get proper medical attention. Many vessels are not equipped with medical facilities; and doctors, hospitals, and emergency crews may be hours away. It can be tempting to downplay or ignore a minor injury, but you should visit a doctor or emergency room to get checked out as soon as you are able.  Even if you are on the high seas, your employer has a well established to immediately get you the medical care you need.  
  2. Inform your employer about your injury. You should at a minimum let your supervisor know about your injury and the circumstances leading up to it as soon as possible. It’s a good idea to write down your recollections of what happened and provide your employer with a copy.
  3. Gather supporting evidence. If possible, take photos or video of the area in which your accident occurred and any dangerous conditions present there. Also, get contact information for witnesses.
  4. Don’t say anything, and don’t sign anything. Aside from the initial report of your injury, avoid discussing it with your employer or other workers, and don’t sign any documents until you’ve consulted a lawyer.
  5. Get legal help. Maritime laws are complex and unique. Dealing with them requires a knowledgeable and experienced maritime lawyer like you’ll find at LM&W.

Award-Winning Attorneys for Commercial Fishing Accidents

With over 187 years of combined experience, the attorneys at Lipcon, Margulies & Winkleman, P.A. have successfully assisted hundreds of commercial fisherman and other maritime workers recover damages for accident injuries. We represent our clients on a contingency basis, which means that there are no out-of-pocket costs and you pay nothing unless we win. Call us at 877-233-1238 to speak with one of our commercial fishing accident lawyers today.