The Bering Sea is one of the most productive fisheries on Earth, and also one of the most dangerous bodies of water for seamen. This vast body of water covers over 800,000 square miles between Alaska and Russia, north of the Pacific Ocean. During fishing season, the waters can rise nearly 30 feet, creating dangerous working conditions for seamen. If you are a seaman who has been injured while working aboard a vessel on the Bering Sea, you may be entitled to financial compensation. The maritime lawyers at O’Bryan Baun Karamanian have the knowledge and experience to deliver the justice you deserve.
If you are injured while serving as a crew member aboard a crab boat, cod boat, or any other commercial fishing vessel, you are covered by the Jones Act. The Jones Act allows you to recover money damages if you are injured as a result of employer or co-employee negligence. For example, if you are injured because a co-employee negligently dropped a crab pot on your leg, you could sue the employer for damages under the Jones Act. Working aboard a commercial vessel in the Bering Sea is fraught with perils and where safety precautions are not followed or taken resulting in crew member injury, the Jones Act affords the crew member with an available remedy. If you are injured as a result of employer or co-employee negligence, you are entitled to recover compensatory damages such as lost wages, loss of future earnings, medical bills, and damages for pain and suffering.
Due to the hazardous nature of commercial fishing in the Bering Sea, it is crucial that the vessels engaging in such work be seaworthy. Under general maritime law, the vessel owner has a duty to provide a seaworthy vessel to its crew, meaning the ship, her equipment and crew are reasonably fit for their intended purpose. Any number of unsafe conditions can render a vessel unseaworthy: defective equipment, broken lines, nets and pots, missing safety guards around fish processors, insufficient or inadequate crew members are just a few representative examples. Fishermen injured as a result of an unseaworthy condition can recover compensatory damages such as lost wages, loss of future earnings, medical expenses, and damages for pain and suffering.
MAINTENANCE AND CURE:
If you are injured or become ill while serving aboard a vessel on the Bering Sea, you are entitled to maintenance and cure. Maintenance is a daily sustenance allowance which approximates your reasonable living expenses including room and board, food, and basic utilities. Cure refers to the payment of your reasonable and necessary medical expenses. Unlike claims for Jones Act negligence and unseaworthiness, there is no requirement that the injured or sick worker show that the employer was at fault. All that must be shown is that the injury or illness occurred while fisherman was in the service of the ship.
UNEARNED WAGES ON FOREIGN OR FISHING VOYAGES:
In addition to maintenance and cure, the fisherman may also be entitled to unearned wages if he gets injured or falls ill while in the service of the ship. Unearned wages includes compensation the fisherman would have received under the Articles or employment agreement had they not been injured or fallen ill during the voyage. Unearned wages can include straight time, overtime, tips, accumulated leave time, and other fringe benefits.
*Dennis M. O’Bryan is enrolled to practice before the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals which hears appeals from the federal district court of Alaska. In those federal district courts in which he is not generally enrolled to practice, he gains admission pro hac vice, on a case by case basis, by securing the sponsorship of a reputable local attorney. He is a member of the State Bar of Michigan, where his office is located.