Commercial Fishermen / Shrimpers / Longliners
Commercial Fishing is Dangerous and Deadly
Commercial fishing is one of the most dangerous and deadliest occupations a seaman can undertake. In our more than 60 collective years of helping clients from all over the country, we have seen all manner of commercial fishing accidents: from collisions, sinkings, amputations, burns and deaths, we have seen it all. We have had cases where boats went down, and seamen had to swim without lifeboats for days before rescue or landing alone on a beach.
Unscrupulous Owners, Operators and Employers Of Seamen
Owners and operators of commercial fishing vessels, shrimp boats and longliners can, in some instances, be absolutely ruthless. Some are known to be cutthroat and profit oriented even to the detriment of their own injured seafaring employees. Others intentionally go without insurance or deny they have insurance coverage unless forced to admit it.
Granted there are good and responsible owners and operators of commercial fishing vessels but there are others who would throw an injured seaman to the sharks to fend for themselves.
Injured Seamen and Medical Bills
When a seaman is injured or becomes ill in the service of the ship the employer has a non-delegable duty to provide maintenance and cure. The seaman should in this instance be able to heal without worrying about medical bills. That legal obligation is of the employer and the vessel, in rem, and should not be the burden of the seaman.
In many cases we have seen fishing boat owners and operators take the wrongful position that the seaman is not an employee but instead an independent contractor. This legal position is usually untenable and generally taken to avoid paying maintenance and cure (medical treatment) which in serious injury cases, can be astronomical.
An injured fisherman is rarely wealthy enough to pay their own medical bills and if the employer does not live up to its legal obligations and responsibilities the seaman may never get treatment, get well, and get back to work.
Seamen’s Wages and Share of the Catch
Also, the boat owner and employers often pay the commercial fisherman a “share of the catch” as their wages. They do this in some instances to support the legal fiction that the seaman is a contractor working for him or herself. This again, may be done to shift responsibility to the seaman for medical bills or living expenses when he or she is injured.
Fishermen, the Jones Act and Unseaworthiness
Also, commercial fishermen, shrimpers and longliners fall under the Jones Act and can sue their employers for negligence and unseaworthiness. If the seaman works for himself as a contractor, he has no employer to sue. Again, another reason for the vessel owners and operators to take the position the seaman is an independent contractor.
Court Holdings on the Definition of Employer
Many Courts have held that such words as “employer”, “agent”, and “independent contractor” are not decisive in determining who is a Jones Act employer. Factors influencing the determination whether an employer-employee relationship exists include: (1) the control exercised over the details of the work, (2) the amount of supervision, (3) the power to hire or fire the worker, (4) the method of payment, (5) the management and benefit of the operation as a whole, and (6) the parties’ understanding of the relationship.
Clark & Zedella Case Types and History
Cases and claims that we have handled for injuries occurring on commercial fishing vessels, shrimp boats and longliners include but are not limited to:
Call Us for a Free Consultation About Your Rights As a Fisherman or Shrimper
If you are a seaman who was injured working on a commercial fishing vessel, shrimp boat or longliner call us for a free consultation regarding your legal rights. If the boat owner and/or operator is taking the position that you are not an employee and that they are not responsible for your medical bills, their negligence or the unseaworthiness of the vessel call us and let us explore with you the facts of your potential rights and claims.