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Commercial Fishing Accidents

Commercial fishermen go out into the Gulf of Mexico in all kinds of weather to catch fish to feed our nation. It's physically demanding and dangerous work and, unfortunately, some fishing boat owners disregard work safety. Every year, crew members on commercial fishing boats die in preventable accidents. From 2000 to 2009, 116 commercial fishermen died in the Gulf of Mexico, including many from falls overboard and traumatic on-board injuries. Commercial shrimpers were involved in an alarming number of fatal accidents. Many more were injured.

If you have been seriously injured or lost a loved one in a commercial fishing boat accident, it's important to talk to an experienced maritime law attorney at Arnold & Itkin LLP to understand your legal rights. You may be entitled to money for medical bills, lost income, as well as maintenance and cure. Our Jones Act attorneys can review your accident free of charge and advise you on the best course of action.

Commercial Fishing Risks

According to the Center for Public Integrity, the commercial fishing industry causes more fatalities than any other workplace in the country. Despite precautions and legislation, storms at sea, intense weather, and unpredictable complications create dangerous situations while fishermen are far away from help. Combined with strenuous physical labor, long hours, and weeks at sea, exhaustion can and often does contribute to the rate and severity of such accidents. According to statistics listed by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, over half of fatalities on commercial fishing vessels between 2000 and 2010 occurred during a vessel disaster.

Severe weather conditions contributed to 61% of the 545 disasters, which included:

  • Flooding – 28%
  • Vessel instability – 19%
  • Struck by a large wave – 18%

Fatalities in commercial fishing vessels can also be caused by:

  • Diving
  • Falling overboard
  • Injuries on board, such as lacerations or head trauma
  • Onshore injuries, such as loading and unloading vessels

Commercial fishing accidents can cause a range of injuries, from hypothermia to drowning. The high rate of these offshore injuries has led to concern about the industry, but very little has been done to prevent future catastrophes.

  • There has not been legislation passed regarding safety regulations in commercial fishing in over 20 years.
  • There is also no mandatory inspection required for fishing vessels.

The Coast Guard and Commercial Fishing

The U.S. Coast Guard, which holds jurisdiction over U.S. fishing vessels is responsible for enforcing the safety of vessels and often involved in rescuing fishermen who find themselves in danger. The Coast Guard recommends extra precautions to avoid incidents, such as CPR training for crewmembers, providing suits for surviving in icy waters, and adequate lifeboats. Overloading a vessel, failing to maintain it, neglecting the crew's need for rest and sustenance, and other factors can easily contribute to dangerous conditions.

Commercial Fishermen Have Special Legal Rights

Many maritime workers, including commercial fishermen, have special legal rights because of the recognized hazards of their work. At Arnold & Itkin LLP, we believe in holding accountable those boat owners and operators who believe that federal work safety rules don't apply to their crew.

According to a 2010 study by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, nearly half of the fatal commercial fishing accidents in the Gulf of Mexico from 2000 to 2009 were caused by falls overboard, including slips, trips, and loss of balance. Falls overboard may be prevented by the addition of mesh guards and raised side rails. The Gulf of Mexico commercial fishing industry also had the highest percentage of deaths due to injuries involving entanglement in fishing gear and deck winches.

Accidents On-Board Commercial Shrimp Boats Need Special Attention

Shrimpers accounted for 55 of the 116 commercial fishing fatalities in the Gulf of Mexico, including falls from outriggers. The commercial shrimp industry had, by far, the most fatal accidents of any fishery in the Gulf. The industry needs special attention to reduce the number of fatal accidents, the federal work safety study said. Fatal injuries on shrimp boats may be reduced by installing emergency-stop buttons on deck winches and on other dangerous equipment. Danger zones onboard vessels should be clearly marked and safety drills held to train commercial fishing boat crew in orderly responses in the event of onboard accidents, flooding, or other disasters.

The experienced maritime attorneys at Arnold & Itkin LLP understand fishing boat accidents, and we are committed to holding to account those commercial fishing boat owners and companies that cause harm to others through their careless disregard for safety. Arnold & Itkin LLP is based in Houston, Texas, and our personal injury lawyers represent clients in commercial fishing accidents in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Texas. We are justifiably proud of our record of success as shown by the billions of dollars we have recovered for our clients.

To discuss your accident in a free confidential case evaluation, contact Arnold & Itkin today!

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