Commercial Fishing Boat Accident Attorney

March 10, 2024

By Promoting Justice

Commercial fishing workers have one of the most dangerous professions in the United States, with more than 50 out of every 100,000 full-time workers dying from a work-related injury in 2022, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). One of the reasons for the high incidence of work-related fatalities among people employed on commercial fishing boats is that these individuals face severe weather and unpredictable sea conditions, while also encountering several safety issues on board. Crew members’ consistency in following safety regulations can prove an important factor in any attempt to mitigate these unpredictable conditions and safety issues. When any member of the crew lapses in their adherence to safety protocols, the misstep can unfortunately result in serious injuries and even fatalities. Learn more about commercial fishing boat accidents and explore how a commercial fishing boat accident attorney may be able to assist those involved in these incidents by calling Shillen Mackall Seldon & Spicer at (802) 457-4848.

What Is the Most Common Type of Commercial Fishing Vessel?

Any boat used for catching fish may be considered a fishing vessel. Commercial fishing boats tend to operate in deep seawater and are typically much larger than freshwater fishing vessels. These boats may catch enormous amounts of fish, resulting in a need for additional onboard space and equipment compared to smaller freshwater vessels. The two main categories of deep-sea fishing vessels include trawlers and non-trawling ships, distinguished by the equipment each type uses to catch fish:

  • Trawlers: Trawlers are vessels with trawler nets suspended by equipment; they trail under the water surface at specific depths to haul and catch fish.
  • Non-trawling ships: Non-trawling ships refer to very effective fishing boats with nets that the vessel cannot pull against the seawater. Instead, the fish swim toward the nets, which can be up to a kilometer in length, and become trapped.

What Is the Meaning of a Boating Accident?

Boating accidents may include collisions, casualties, or other unfortunate incidents involving a ship (as well as those aboard) that is either entering onto, exiting from, or currently on the water. Boating accident examples can include the following:

  • Capsized vessels
  • Collisions with other objects or ships
  • Sinking boats
  • Crew member or passenger disappearances (indicating injury or death), injuries, or fatalities
  • Vessel property damage
  • Fires or explosions during vessel docking or operation
  • Towing issues
  • Casualties from swimming to other vessels
  • Passengers falling into the sea or getting thrown overboard
  • Vessel flooding
  • Equipment malfunctions
  • Drowning
  • Grounding
  • Amputations
  • Slips and falls
  • Fires in engine rooms

Can You Get Whiplash on a Boat?

Boat accidents may lead to a variety of injuries ranging from minor cuts and bruises, muscle strains, and whiplash to more significant injuries, as well as fatalities. Here is a list of other common injuries sustained during a boating accident:

  • Concussions
  • Strains and sprains
  • Lower back, neck, and spinal cord injuries
  • Knee injuries
  • Hip injuries
  • Shoulder injuries

Find out more about commercial boating accidents and discover how a New Hampshire commercial fishing boat accident attorney might be able to aid boating accident victims by arranging a consultation with Shillen Mackall Seldon & Spicer.

How Do You Respond to a Boating Accident?

If an individual is involved in a commercial boating accident that leads to an injury, follow these steps:

  • Immediately seek medical assistance: While out at sea, this can be challenging, particularly since not all vessels have proper medical facilities, and emergency crews, doctors, and hospitals could be hundreds of miles away. Visit an emergency room or doctor when the boat returns to land, even if the injury seems less severe.
  • Inform the employer of the injury: At the very least, tell the supervisor or line manager about the accident, including the events leading up to it and the extent of any injuries sustained. Often, it is effective practice to make a note of this in writing as soon as possible in the form of an injury report and to present a copy of this document to the employer.
  • Collect evidence: If circumstances allow, try to get videos or photos of the accident scene, paying particular attention to any hazardous conditions that may have contributed to the cause of the incident. Alongside this, acquire the contact details of any witnesses present.
  • Consider legal advice: Be wary of admitting any liability for the injury and do not rush into signing anything. Apart from completing the primary injury report, avoid discussing the incident with colleagues or the employer, and consider seeking legal advice from a boat accident attorney before signing any documentation. 

Who Is Legally Responsible for Commercial Fishing Boat Accidents?

Ultimately, it is the ship operators’ and owners’ responsibility to ensure vessels are seaworthy and safe; if an injury occurs due to the failure to perform effective ship maintenance, this could constitute negligence. To hold a vessel operator or owner responsible for a crew member’s injuries, it is necessary to demonstrate that the liable party owed a duty of care to the crew member, that the responsible party breached this duty by failing to exercise reasonable care when carrying out their responsibilities as vessel owners or operators, and that this breach resulted in the person sustaining injuries and damages.

Commercial Fishing Boat Accident Compensation

Those injured aboard a commercial fishing vessel could seek compensation. Maritime law stipulates that shipowners must financially support fishing workers who sustain injuries or fall ill because of their roles, known as maintenance and cure; otherwise, they could face punitive damages and may have to cover the injured party’s boat accident attorney fees. If the employer’s actions, or failure(s) to act, lead to a vessel worker’s injury, that individual may inquire about compensation for their lost wages, reduction in earning capacity, and medical treatment for their injuries. Commercial fishing workers earn high wages because of the risks involved, so the compensation levels in these cases have the potential to be significant.

Below is an explanation of maintenance and cure:

  • Maintenance: Maintenance relates to lodging and food; it aims to cover a commercial fishing worker’s daily expenses, such as food, utilities, rent, and mortgage repayments.
  • Cure: Cure refers to medical costs. Sea workers injured at work can ask the vessel operator or owner to cover their medical care expenses, which may include doctor visit travel, prescription costs, and medical equipment reimbursement.

Contact a Vermont, New Hampshire, and Florida Commercial Fishing Boat Accident Attorney Today

In 2019, commercial fishing fatality rates were 40 times greater than the average, per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), making it a highly hazardous occupation. Injured commercial fishing workers have protected rights according to American maritime law, but the applicable laws are highly specific, and the court procedures are complex, requiring in-depth knowledge of maritime law, legal precedents, and court processes to overcome. Explore commercial fishing boating accidents in greater detail and explore how a commercial fishing boat accident attorney from Shillen Mackall Seldon & Spicer may be of assistance by calling (802) 457-4848 and scheduling your free initial consultation today.