Summer is a busy time of year for Alaska, and especially for commercial fishermen. Due to this fact, the USCG offices around the State of Alaska are also very busy responding to various emergencies at sea, many involving injured crewman aboard fishing vessels. The injuries and circumstances of the injuries vary greatly. But we wanted to share with you the scope of various types of seaman claims that we can assist in handling. Here are a few examples:
Injured Alaska Crewman Medivac’d From Fishing Vessel Pacific Harvester
On July 26, 2018, an 18 year old crewman aboard the F/V Pacific Harvester sustained a hand injury and required emergency evacuation. The F/V Pacific Harvester is a 96 foot tender/processor owned by Pacific Harvester, LLC and home ported in Alaska. At the time of this injury the vessel was fishing in Prince William Sound. The master of the vessel reported to the Coast Guard that a young crewman had suffered a hand injury and was showing signs of shock. Upon consultation with the duty flight surgeon it was determined a medevac was necessary. The USCG Valdez crew transported the injured seaman from Prince William Sound, Alaska to Valdez for further emergency care.
Hand injuries aboard vessels are very common in the fishing industry and can be devastating and potentially career ending for the injured crewman. Our firm has handled many such cases and obtained good results in obtaining fair settlements.
Crewman who suffer severe hand injuries need to be aware of their rights to compensation under the Jones Act and general maritime laws. Machine guarding aboard fishing boats is one safety area regulated by the Coast Guard. In 1988 the Fishing Vessel Safety Act was passed by Congress. The Fishing Vessel Safety Act, 46 CFR 28.215 in part requires that “suitable hand covers, guards, or railing must be installed in way of machinery which can cause injury to personnel, such as gearing, chain or belt drives, and rotating shafting.” We wish the injured seaman a speedy recovery.
Injured Crewman Medevac’d More than 1,200 Miles for Head Injury
On August 6, 2018 the USCG Air Station Kodiak received a call requesting a medevac from the F/V Patricia Lee. The vessel Patricia Lee is a 116 foot tender/processor owned by Patricia Lee, LLC out of Seattle and home ported in Alaska. The vessel at the time of this injury was fishing in the Bering Sea, 190 miles from Dutch Harbor.
According to the call received by the Coast Guard, a 27 year old crewman had been hit in the head by a crab pot. Due to the distance from land, the Coast Guard had to use two aircrews to conduct the 1,200 mile medevac response, which took over 17 hours. The fisherman was reported to be in stable condition and received further medical care.
Injury accidents involving crewman and crab pots are very common. Crab pots can weigh in the range of 700 to 1000 pounds. Injuries from contact with crab pots can include traumatic brain injuries, broken bones, concussions, cracked teeth, fractured jaws, and internal bleeding, to name a few. Over the many years of representing injured seaman our office has handled many such cases where crewman have been hit by or crushed by crab pots. Many times these injuries could have been easily been avoided and negligence and liability of the vessel owner has been proven.
In such cases, injured crewman need to take steps to receive appropriate medical care and ensure that the medical bills are paid. Our office has extensive experience handling these claims. Our office works hard to make sure that injured crewmen receive the legal remedies available under the Jones Act and general maritime laws. We would be willing to discuss any such claims with crewmen hit by crab pots. We wish this injured crewman a speedy recovery.
Injured Crewman Hoisted from the F/V Devotion
On Saturday, August 4, 2018, the USCG Sector Anchorage received a call from the charter vessel Dan Ryan requesting a medevac for a crew member from the F/V Devotion. The F/V Devotion is a 58 foot vessel owned by Kilokak, Inc. out of Kodiak, Alaska. At the time of this incident the vessel was fishing 34 miles southwest of Cordova when a crew member, 51 years of age, incurred a head injury and thereafter fell. After consultation with a Coast Guard duty flight surgeon, a medevac was recommended. The crewman was transported to a nearby tug to await medevac. Upon arrival the Coast Guard crew airlifted him from the tug into a helicopter and he was transported to Cordova for medical treatment.
Head injuries are common aboard fishing vessels, however, the consequences of such can have long term effects for injured crewman. Head injuries require specialized treatment and can take up to and longer than a year to recover from and in some cases result in permanent injury. Therefore, it is very important that injured crewman seek immediate medical evaluation and treatment and receive the full amount of maintenance and cure to which they are entitled. If injured crewman have questions or concerns regarding cure, maintenance rates and appropriate medical care, our office is willing to answer those questions. Our office has handled many head injury cases and we are able to advise injured crewman of the remedies available to them under the Jones Act and general maritime laws.
We hope that the injured fisherman is receiving good medical treatment and quickly recovers from his head injury.
All vessel should know how to contact the Coast Guard for medical advice. Flight surgeons are available around the clock to give medical advice to vessels working at sea. Many vessel have now also retained ship to shore medical services to give their vessel’s advice about medical treatment for seaman. When in doubt contact medical experts to get qualified advice about how to get medical treatment for your crew.
Under Federal Maritime Law each vessel owner owes an injured or ill crewman aboard their vessel a duty provide them emergency medical care. This duty under the Jones Act and General Maritime Law requires the vessel to seek appropriate medical advice and to medivac crewmen when the circumstances warrant it.
We have years of experience helping seaman obtain their rights under the Jones Act and we would be more than happy to help. Our office is willing and able to answer any questions of crewman who find themselves facing life-altering injuries as they navigate the legal aspects of such maritime injury claims. Please feel free to contact us at 907.277.0161.