Fishing Boat Accidents

Commercial fishing is described by the United States Coast Guard as “one of the most dangerous occupations in the world.” Going out into the high seas in every kind of weather is dangerous in and of itself, but the equipment used to process a catch can also be hazardous for workers if the proper safety precautions are not followed.

Maintenance of the vessel is also of utmost concern in preventing fishing boat accidents. Sadly, many employers are negligent in properly maintaining their fleets. They know that the Coast Guard does not have enough resources to inspect every fishing boat and enforce safety regulations. The vast majority of the 140,000 vessels regulated by the Coast Guard are from the commercial fishing industry.

Maritime law applies to workers who suffer injuries from a work accident while offshore. There are federal laws such as the Jones Act and the Commercial Fishing Safety Act that protect the rights of seamen who are injured due to an employer’s negligence. If you have been injured on the job in a fishing boat accident, you may be eligible for compensation under these laws. It is crucial that if you seek counsel from an attorney that you choose a firm with extensive experience in maritime law.

Commercial Fishing Safety Act

The Commercial Fishing Safety Act of 1991 established basic requirements for safety and maintenance of fishing vessels, including training the crew in safety procedures. It also stipulates that if a crew member is injured or killed, a report with a detailed description of the accident must be filed. This is to provide data to regulators on how the industry can be made safer. However, employers routinely fail to report injuries at sea because there is no penalty for those who violate this requirement.

The following are some of the most important safety regulations contained in the Commercial Fishing Safety Act:

  • Basic safety equipment appropriate for the size and area of operation of the vessel is required, including life preservers, life rafts, survival craft, distress signals, ring life buoys, and most importantly – Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacons (EPIRBS). Fire fighting equipment is also required. Survival equipment must be regularly inspected and tested and survival craft must be inspected by a U.S. Coast Guard certified facility.
  • Safety guards for exposed machinery must be installed. Belt drives, gears, chains, and rotating shafts are all extremely hazardous for those who work on or near this type of machinery, especially on a vessel at sea. Machinery without guards can leave workers with serious lacerations, degloving, or amputation injuries. Many commercial fishing boats process their catch immediately and guards are required on all processing machinery including bait choppers, fish headers, and skinning machines.
  • Alarm systems that are capable of reaching every member of the crew onboard are required.
  • Bilge pumps and bilge piping appropriate to the vessel size are mandatory.
  • Communication equipment is required and vital for a vessel being able to reach the Coast Guard in an emergency situation.
  • Employers must train the crew in proper safety procedures, run regular safety drills and test alarm systems.
  • An emergency source of power for the steering system, navigation lights, fire protection equipment, communication equipment, bilge pumps, and alarms must be installed in a location outside the main machinery space.
  • Stability of the vessel is strictly regulated by the Act and must be carefully calculated and tested. Stability instructions for all operating conditions must be presented in a clear and understandable manner for vessel operators to adhere to. Improper loading is a common cause of fishing boat accidents.
  • Water/weathertightness is also a safety concern and the Act requires each opening on a vessel to have a water/weathertight closure device.

Compensation for Injuries from Fishing Boat Accidents

While some commercial fishing companies operate by following required safety procedures, many find it too expensive to install every bit of safety equipment and try to cut corners. Under the Jones Act, failure to follow federal safety regulations is an act of negligence. A seaman injured because of the negligence of a vessel owner may be entitled to compensation for medical expenses, lost wages, lost earning capacity, the cost of training for a new job, pain and suffering, and disability and disfigurement if applicable. An attorney specializing in maritime law can analyze the circumstances of the accident and hold responsible parties accountable.

South Jersey Maritime Accident Lawyers at Freedman & Lorry, P.C. Advocate for Seamen Injured in Fishing Boat Accidents

If you have been injured in a fishing boat accident, the experienced South Jersey maritime accident lawyers at Freedman & Lorry, P.C. can help. Our skilled team has extensive knowledge garnered from representing every type of maritime professional and will fight to get you the maximum compensation available for your case. Call us at 888-999-1962 or contact us online to schedule a free consultation. We have three locations serving clients in Southern and Central New Jersey, including Cape May, Gloucester, and Wildwood, as well as Philadelphia, and North Carolina.