If you've been working on a fishing trawler or some other type of commercial fishing vessel at sea, you don't have to be told that your work is dangerous. According to recent reports, the only job in the United States more dangerous than working as a fisherman is logging.
If you are injured while you're working on a fishing boat, you may be entitled to compensation under the Jones Act -- also known as the Merchant Marine Act of 1920 -- but only if you take decisive action to protect your legal rights.
Here are some steps to take:
1. Report your injuries in writing
While you should give your supervisor or boss a verbal report within seven days of the accident, follow up on your verbal report with a written accident report. This way, there's documentation on file and nobody can claim you never alerted them of your injury. (Even if your injuries seem slight, take this step. You never know when a complication, like an infection, can set in and turn a minor injury into something major.)
2. Get medical treatment
Even if you don't think you need actual medical care, get checked out. You're entitled to medical care for your injuries and -- should something turn serious -- you want to establish a clear connection between the event on the ship and your condition.
3. Collect any evidence you have
It may prove useful later to have witness statements from people who were there when you were injured. Get the contact information of any of your mates who were around. In addition, photos of the accident site and your injuries can be helpful.
4. Contact an attorney to find out more about your rights
Maritime injuries fall under some complicated provisions of the law. If you were injured due to a failure on the part of your employer to maintain safe working conditions, a co-worker's assault, someone's general carelessness or something similar, the Jones Act likely applies to you and provides benefits including the rate of maintenance payments, lost wages and damages for your pain and suffering. Our office can help you determine your right to these benefits and others after your fishing trawler accident.