Maritime Accidents: Commercial Fishing Injuries, Recreational Boating Accidents
Commercial fishing or recreational boating accidents can be devastating, career ending and or fatal. Hiring an attorney immediately to investigate your accident and to obtain corroborating statements from witnesses on the vessel will help the process run smoothly. It is important to start out with a strong case by having proof of liability through witness statements. The underwriter of any vessel will be able to obtain statements of witnesses who are critical to your case. Often crew members will disappear, moving on to other vessels or returning to their land of origin.
Therefore, the taking of statements when your vessel is in port is critical. Please try and notify your attorney of all possible eye witnesses who observed the condition which caused your accident so an investigator may obtain statements from all possible witnesses. Next, proof of damages must be established, typically involving the loss of past or future earnings that a seamen otherwise would have earned “but for” the accident. This could include future anticipated contracts of employment with this or other vessels, or other work in the private sector. In the meantime, regardless of liability, the injured seaman is entitled to recover maintenance and cure regardless of fault. This shall continue until the seaman reaches maximum medical improvement according to his or her treating physician.
Often crews are required to work under onerous and hazardous conditions in hopes of increasing the vessel’s revenues. These conditions can lead to serious injuries. If you were injured because of the negligence of an employer or operator, or because of an unseaworthy condition aboard the vessel, you may have a Jones Act claim which would entitle you to the recovery of wages, medical expenses, damages for pain and suffering and other general damages.
The recoverable general and special damages to one who is injured in a commercial fishing or recreational boating accident are generally be the same as one who is injured in a car accident. You are entitled to recover general damages for pain and suffering, inconvenience, loss of opportunity to enjoy life, loss of and including the companionship of family members, loss of services, emotional and psychological distress, death, disability, permanent injuries, dismemberment, and all special damages, such as medical bills, wage loss, future wages, diminution in earning potential, and all other out of pocket expenses.
A Jones Act claim may be confused with a worker’s compensation or Labor and Industries Claims. You should consult a lawyer immediately to determine filing deadlines and other filing requirements to determine if your claim is one of worker’s compensation or one under the Jones Act from which you are entitled to recover maintenance and cure. Recreational boating accidents are governed by a myriad of laws including common law negligence, the Rules of the Road governing inland navigable waters, county and state laws, and perhaps municipal laws. Often the motor vehicle Rules of the Road are applied by analogy to recreational boating. Please consult an attorney for these nuances in the laws governing recreational boating.
Washington maritime lawyer Robert Kornfeld handles commercial fishing, processor claims, long liners, crabbers, ferry workers, wrongful death claims on the high seas and recreational boating claims. Mr. Kornfeld has handled maritime claims in Washington and Alaska.
Author: Rob Kornfeld