Commercial Fishermen's Claims

Working aboard commercial fishing vessels in Florida is dangerous. Commercial fishermen in Florida injured in the service of their vessel are considered Jones Act seamen and any injuries sustained while working on the ship are covered by maritime law.

The Jones Act is a federal statute encompassing a very substantial portion of maritime and admiralty law. The Jones Act defines the legal obligations and duties between a seaman fisherman and his or her employer and the applicable law for the claims of crew members injured while working on the ship. Jones Act claims are very complicated, and not a field of law that many attorneys specialize in.

Maintenance & Cure

Under the Jones Act, if you are injured or become ill while serving on a commercial fishing vessel, your employer or ship owner is obligated to pay maintenance and cure, regardless of whether the employer is at fault. Maintenance is a daily rate that is designed to replace the living benefits you have while on the vessel, such as food, lodging and utilities. There is no standard maintenance rate; the amount paid to each individual varies.

Cure is your employer's or ship owner's obligation to pay your medical expenses associated with the injury or illness. Cure is owed until your doctor can do no more to heal your condition, which is known as reaching maximum medical improvement.

You are entitled to maintenance and cure regardless of the cause of the injury. You do not have to prove that the illness or injury resulted from your employment. However, you may forfeit maintenance and cure if your own willful misconduct or deliberate act of indiscretion caused your injury. Additionally, if you misrepresented or omitted a medical condition from a job application, and your misrepresentation influenced the owner's decision to hire you, you may not be entitled to maintenance and cure.

Claims

An employer's failure to pay maintenance and cure is actionable, and, if the refusal is willful, it can result in a claim for attorney fees. A three-year statute of limitations applies to maritime claims, including those for maintenance and cure.

Actions are filed against an employer under the Jones Act in state or federal court, depending on the state. You may or may not be entitled to a jury trial, depending on the jurisdiction, therefore, selecting the proper statute under which to file is critical.

Negligence exists when an employer is the slightest bit careless in causing an injury. An employer has a duty to provide a safe work environment and a seaworthy vessel. If the vessel is not fit for its intended purposes or is equipped with defective gear, including tools, large equipment and even toilets, or the crew is incompetent or of an inadequate size, it may constitute employer negligence. The employer may also be liable if you are assaulted by fellow crew member.

Examples of negligence include:

  • Failure to provide safe equipment
  • Failure to maintain the vessel and equipment
  • Failure to hire a competent captain or crew
  • Failure to provide a safe place to work
  • Working in too adverse weather
  • Assigning inexperienced crew to run equipment
  • Failure to follow safety rules
  • Ordering a fisherman to work excessive hours
  • Failure to provide prompt or adequate medical treatment
  • Failure to put guards on machinery
  • Failure to follow "lock out, tag out" procedures
  • Having a vessel undermanned or understaffed
  • Having crew do repetitive movements with hands which causes carpel tunnel or tendonitis
  • Having obstacles in pathways
  • Not having the right equipment on board to do the job
  • Failure to provide appropriate equipment
  • Failure to properly train the crew.

Damages for injuries caused by employer negligence under the Jones Act include pain and suffering, lost earnings, medical expenses and loss of the ability to lead a normal life.

If you are injured you should:

  • Immediately contact a maritime injury attorney who will evaluate every aspect of your case and explain your rights.
  • Report your injury, and be sure it is documented.
  • Visit your doctor (You may choose your own. You DO NOT have to see your employer's or its insurer's doctor.)
  • Don't make a statement to an insurance adjuster without first speaking to your attorney.
  • Don't accept any settlement offers without consulting an attorney who will ensure you are being paid for all past and future medical expenses and lost wages.

The Jones Act lawyers at Howard S. Grossman, P.A. regularly help seamen who have suffered offshore accidents. We offer free initial consultations with our attorneys, and if we take your case, we will charge no attorneys' fees or costs until you get compensation.

Jones Act. Generally speaking, the Jones Act allows the seaman to bring a claim against his or her employer for the negligence which caused the death.