Workers' Compensation for Commercial Fisherman
Most commercial fishermen are not covered by State Workers Compensation laws. Federal maritime laws provide protection to injured commercial fishermen when they are injured at work aboard a commercial fishing vessel. It is important that your treating doctors and health care providers understand the important differences between State workers compensation claims and maritime injury claims involving commercial fishermen and Jones Act seamen. State workers compensation systems use an injury rating system that far under evaluates the extent and seriousness of an injury to a commercial fisherman. The insurance adjuster handling your claim may improperly ask your treating doctor to rate you under this State workers compensation rating system that does not consider all of your damages and does not apply to maritime injury claims for injured commercial fishermen.
For over 30 years, maritime injury lawyer James Beard has been helping injured commercial fishermen recover benefits for medical bills, lost wages, and compensation for disability and pain and suffering. Compensation to injured commercial fishermen involves multiple intermixed laws of fault and no fault remedies. Let Beard help you navigate the complex Federal maritime laws that govern your commercial fishing accident case. He can get you the compensation and benefits you are entitled to under maritime laws, including maintenance and cure benefits, unearned wages, and compensation under the Jones Act for negligent injury.
In almost all cases, your employer and the vessel owner has the obligation to pay all medical bills associated with an injury to a crewman aboard a commercial fishing vessel. These federal maritime law benefits are called “maintenance and cure benefits.” You do not have to prove negligence to recover maintenance and cure benefits. All reasonable and necessary medical expenses related to your injury must be paid for by the employer, regardless of who was at fault. Medical expenses such as doctor and hospital visits, surgeries, prescription medications, x-rays, MRI’s, EMG’s, therapy, prosthetics, reconstructive surgery, reasonable travel expenses to and from medical appointments, and hospital bills should all be promptly paid by the employer.
Under Federal maritime law, injured fishermen are also entitled to a daily living called “maintenance.” Maintenance is similar to workers compensation time loss benefits. However, it is not based upon past earnings. You also do not need to prove negligence to receive maintenance benefits. Maintenance is an amount designed to provide an injured seaman or fisherman with a minimal daily living expense benefit while they are recovering from their injuries. The maintenance benefit for an injured maritime worker is based upon the reasonable costs for housing, monthly food, and utilities. Typically, in the Northwest the daily maintenance rate runs between $30-50 per day, depending upon your circumstances.
A seaman who is injured prior to the completion of his contract or, in the case of no contract the completion of the fishing season, is entitled to the contractual wages that he did not earn under the contract or the wages he would have made during the fishing season. You do not have to prove negligence or unseaworthiness to recover these unearned wages. Unearned wages are in addition to maintenance benefits.
The maintenance, cure and unearned wage benefits are only the start of the benefits to which an injured commercial fisherman may be entitled. If the commercial fisherman is injured through negligence or the unseaworthiness of the vessel, he has claims for compensatory damages for past and future lost wages, lost wage earning capacity, pain and suffering, disability, loss of enjoyment of life, past and future medical expenses, and employment rehabilitation expenses. An injured crewman must prove negligence to recover these benefits under the Jones Act.
If you have been seriously injured aboard a commercial fishing boat, you should consult with an experienced maritime lawyer to learn about your full rights to benefits under the maintenance and cure doctrine and the Jones Act. It is your right under Federal law to claim these benefits. Contact Beard who can explain to you the differences between State workers compensation benefits and the compensation you may be entitled to under Federal maritime law. He has recovered millions of dollars in compensation for injured commercial fishermen located throughout the United States. Beard understands fishermen and their injuries. Call him at 1-800-621-1091.