Many members of the Hispanic community earn their living working aboard fishing vessels off the coast of Alaska. This type of work is very physical and mentally challenging. It is also one of the most dangerous jobs in the world. Because of the danger, the law of the sea (maritime law) offers many protections to those who become sick or injured while working on a fishing vessel.
Every seaman (one who works aboard a vessel) who becomes sick or injured during his employment, regardless of who is at fault, is entitled to receive payments for rent, food and medical treatment. The Seaman will receive these payments until they are fit for duty or until medical treatment will no longer help them. An injured seaman is also entitled to receive payments for any unearned wages from the voyage even if it was his own fault that he got hurt. The vessel’s owners or their insurance must make the payments or the seaman can have the vessel seized and sold. The seaman will then receive his payments from the proceeds of the sale.
If a seaman’s injury or death was caused by the fault of the employer, then a seaman is also entitled to a payment for all past and future loss of income and pain and suffering and disability (loss of enjoyment of activities of normal life). If a seaman dies then his family can recover compensation for his death. To win this type of case a seaman must prove that the officers of the vessel were negligent.
The owner of a vessel and the operator of the vessel owe to the seaman the duty to provide a safe vessel. If there is something wrong with the vessel such as a broken machine or an unreasonably slippery floor and a seaman is hurt because of it, then the owner of the vessel must pay the seaman for his injuries. If the owner doesn’t pay, then the vessel can be sold.
Many seamen are hurt every year while working off the coast of Alaska. Often, because of language problems or because the captain of the vessel doesn’t want to lose time, an injured seaman doesn’t receive proper medical treatment. Many are simply put on a plane and flown to Seattle or down to California. Once there, the company abandons them and they never receive their wages or any medical care.
If you are hurt on a fishing vessel it is important to have names of witnesses and that you report the injury to your supervisor immediately. If you do not receive prompt medical attention and payments for rent and food if you can’t work, then see a lawyer as soon as possible. The Law of the Sea is there to protect you.
Glenn K. Carpenter, Jr., has law offices in Kent, Washington and. His practice focuses on personal injury cases as well as criminal law.