For commercial fishermen, understanding the rights and benefits in terms of workers compensation may seem like something that isn’t included in the job. In most cases, states do not provide workers compensation for commercial fishermen because compensation for injured fishermen falls under the umbrella of federal maritime law instead.
Federal maritime law and the Jones Act generally protect commercial fishermen in the event of an injury on the job. Unlike workers compensation provided by states and individual employers, federal maritime law can provide full compensation to the injured party instead of partial compensation. Commercial fishermen can sue their employer for the full amount of lost wages, including future wages.
In federal maritime law, there is a concept of “maintenance and cure,” which means commercial fishermen injured on the job are entitled to maintenance, or a daily living allowance while the fisherman is out of work, and cure, which is coverage for medical expenses accrued while injured.
Fishermen are also entitled to compensation if their sea vessel is deemed unseaworthy; this can include defective equipment that renders a vessel less effective or puts the fishermen at risk or in danger of injury. For example, if an employer did not fix a known issue on a vessel, they may be liable for whatever injury occurs on the watercraft and would be required under maritime law to compensate the commercial fishermen on that vessel.
Commercial fishermen can suffer a variety of injuries from the nature of the job. For example, it is common for fishermen to have injuries of the neck, back, and shoulder from their occupation. Cranes and winches can also cause falls or experience malfunctions that injure workers. Additionally, a worker can fall through hatches or fall off board the vessel.
It’s important for commercial fishermen to understand the benefits awarded to them in the event of injury, but also to know their employer is also accountable for the safety of their employees by providing them with a seaworthy vessel that meets standards as well as safety equipment that can greatly mitigate the effects of an injury. At Franco Law Firm, we’re here to help you understand federal maritime law as well as the benefits you are entitled to if you suffer an injury as a commercial fisherman.