As even watchers of Deadliest Catch can attest, your commercial fishing occupation is dangerous. In fact, it is one of the most dangerous jobs in Alaska and the entire United States. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, work-related fatalities among commercial fishermen was over 40 times higher than the average worker in 2019. But, how common are commercial fishing accidents, and what legal options do commercial fishermen in Anchorage, Alaska, have if they are injured or killed while working at sea?
These are events that cause a vessel to sink, capsize, burn or collide with another vessel or object. Vessel disasters can result from storms, waves, ice, mechanical problems, fires, explosions or collisions. Vessel disasters are the leading cause of death among commercial fishermen in the United States.
These are events that cause a fisherman to fall or be thrown overboard from a vessel. Falls overboard can result from slippery decks, loose gear, high winds, waves or lack of personal flotation devices. These accidents are the second most common cause of commercial fishermen deaths in the United States.
These are injuries that occur on board a vessel due to contact with machinery, equipment, tools or objects. Onboard injuries can result from entanglement in nets or lines, cuts from knives or hooks, crush injuries from winches or cranes, burns from steam or chemicals or falls from ladders or stairs. Onboard injuries are the third leading cause of death among commercial fishermen in the United States.
Commercial fishermen in Anchorage, Alaska, who are injured or killed while working at sea may have different legal options. The first is the Jones Act. This is a federal law that allows seamen to sue their employers for negligence if they are injured or killed due to the employer’s fault or the unseaworthiness of the vessel.
Doctrine of unseaworthiness and maintenance and cure
This is a maritime principle that holds vessel owners liable for injuries or deaths caused by defects or hazards on their vessels that make them unfit for their intended use. Maintenance and cure is a maritime right that requires vessel owners to provide seamen with basic living expenses (maintenance) and medical care (cure) until they reach maximum medical improvement after an injury or illness.
The Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act
This is a federal law that provides workers’ compensation benefits to non-seamen because they can be inured as well. These injuries or deaths must occur while working on navigable waters or adjoining areas such as docks, piers, terminals or shipyards.