What Options Do Injured Commercial Fishers Have?

The industry of commercial fishing contains hearty men and women who put in long hours to get the job done. Unfortunately, they are also in one of the most dangerous jobs in the United States. Although the fishing industry has a significant number of hazards, fishers are not eligible for state workers’ compensation. So where does this leave workers who are injured while on the job?

Tumultuous Work Conditions Increase Risk

Any job that requires working in the ocean while in small boats will be inherently dangerous, but the fishing industry compounds the danger through various safety hazards.

Some of the hazards unique to commercial fishing include:

  • Loose equipment such as ropes, nets, and other tools
  • Boat conditions such as slippery decks and unmarked hazards
  • Unmaintained railings or ladders
  • Captain decisions that result in dangerous work environments
  • Failure to house necessary safety equipment
  • Machines or containers improperly handled by coworkers

While all of these are dangerous issues on their own, the conditions in which commercial fishing is performed exacerbates the problems to create uniquely life-threatening situations. Commercial fishers must work while dealing with the frigid temperatures of the sea, the possibility of a rogue wave striking the ship, long hours, and more.

Seamen Are Not Eligible for Workers’ Compensation

Despite the fact that the fishing industry is one of the most dangerous in the United States, seamen are not entitled to benefits under standard workers’ compensation. However, they are covered by the Merchant Marine Act of 1920. This law, more commonly known as the Jones Act, provides distinct protections to injured seamen, including the right to make a claim against their employers if they were injured while on the job.

Although similar to workers’ compensation, there are distinct differences. Namely, workers’ compensation is a no-fault system. This system means injured parties are entitled to benefits even if they were at fault for their injuries. Jones Act claims are not so simple. To recover benefits under the Jones Act, a seaman will need to prove the negligence of their employer caused their injuries. While more difficult, it does also provide seamen with recoveries that are significantly more substantial than those gained under workers’ compensation.

For this reason, if you or someone you love has been injured during commercial fishing, you should not hesitate to contact an experienced Jones Act attorney. Maritime law is complex, and you need to be confident that you have a legal professional in your corner who truly understands its intricacies and is prepared to represent you. At Arnold & Itkin, we are leaders in maritime law. Throughout the years, we have won billions for our clients, including cases involving the Jones Act. To learn more about your options and how our firm can help ensure you receive full and fair compensation, call today. We offer completely free case reviews.


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