Let’s examine commercial fishing accidents and your rights under the Jones Act. When things go wrong on a commercial fishing vessel, they often go wrong hard and fast. Luckily, the laws that protect all seamen, including commercial fisherman, provide a lot of protection so long as you are familiar with how to take advantage of them.
The most important law that protects seaman and commercial fisherman is called the Jones Act. Here is a little bit of information about what protections it affords.
First, a commercial fisherman injured in the course of work is entitled to something called “maintenance and cure.” This is regardless of what happened or whose fault it was.
Maintenance means that the employer is responsible to pay a reasonable amount for living expenses until the injured worker is able to work again. Cure refers to the responsibility of the employer to pay for any necessary medical treatment. There is no pre-approval process and the injured person can choose his own doctors.
The issue that often arises here is on the part of the medical providers. Our healthcare system has become so convoluted that most offices either have their own billing specialists or outsource billing completely. Maintenance and cure does not fit neatly into any of the categories that they are used to like Private Health Insurance, Medicare, Medicaid, workers’ compensation, or Automobile No Fault Benefits. So having an attorney who understands maintenance and cure and can communicate this process to your doctors is important.
Second, under the Jones Act and Admiralty Law, an injured fisherman can bring a negligence claim against his employer and/or a seaworthiness claim against the vessel itself for damages. The injured party has the option of whether to bring these claims in state court or federal court and the option of whether to request a trial by jury or trial by judge.
Again, having an attorney who understands this area of law is important to determine whether the facts of a particular case are better off in federal court or state court.
Barry, Corrado, Grassi PC has represented individuals injured in commercial fishing and boating accidents for twenty five years. If you or someone you know has been injured on a commercial fishing vessel or boating accident, please contact us for a free consultation.