If you work on a fishing boat, you spend the bulk of your time out on the water. Unfortunately, on-the-job accidents are a serious risk on any fishing boat. In fact, the average commercial fisherman has a 20 to 30 percent greater risk of a fatal work-related injury than workers in other fields.
Between the years 1992 and 1996, approximately 50-100 fishing fatalities happened each year. Because of these statistics, you need to take any work-related injuries seriously. Here are five steps you need to take if you’ve been injured while at work on a commercial fishing boat.
1. Understand the Jones Act
If you suffer injuries while on board a commercial fishing boat, you need to understand the Jones Act . The first thing you need to understand is that as a commercial fisherman, you won’t collect workers’ compensation for your injuries. Instead, you’ll receive compensation under the Jones Act, or Merchant Marine Act of 1920.
The Jones Act provides specific relief for commercial fisherman who are injured while out to sea. Several differences stand between workers’ compensation and the Jones Act. Two of the most significant differences include the fact that under the Jones Act, fault must be determined. Also, under the Jones Act, employees are allowed to sue their employer for negligence.
2. Consult With an Experienced Attorney
Once you understand how the Jones Act applies to you, the next thing you need to do is consult with an experienced attorney. Whenever work-related injuries are involved, you want to consult an attorney.
Especially if you’re not familiar with maritime laws or the Jones Act, or your employer has refused to cooperate with the care and treatment for your injuries, you need to hire a personal injury attorney to help you through the process.
3. File a Report Immediately
If you’re injured while out at sea, you may be tempted to wait until you get ashore to file an injury report. Unfortunately, that’s one of the worst things you can do for a couple of reasons. First, if you wait until you get to shore to file an injury report, your employer may get the impression that you aren’t hurt as badly as you claim to be.
Second, one of the worst things you can do when you want to get compensation for an accident is wait to file a report. If you’re out at sea for a long period of time, file an accident report before you get back to shore so that you can’t be accused of pretending or over exaggerating.
4. Be Wary of What You Sign
After your accident, you’ll need to sign and submit your accident forms. However, if your captain or crew chief has asked you to sign documents, wait until you have a chance to go over them with your attorney. Your attorney will determine if any of those documents will interfere with your ability to proceed with your claim against the company you work for.
5. Obtain Witness Information
If there were witnesses to your accident, obtain all their information before you return to shore. Once you’re back to shore, your crew may leave for different ports, which means you might not be able to track them down to obtain their statements. Be sure to obtain as much contact information as you can for each witness. That way, your attorney can reach them, as needed.
If you’ve been injured on a commercial fishing boat, don’t take chances with your physical or financial well-being. The tips provided here will help you avoid mistakes with your injury claim. For help with your claim, contact us at St. Martin & Bourque Attorneys at Law.