Articles Posted in Injuries to Crewman

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A 33-year-old crewman aboard the Alaska fishing vessel Island Enterprise was airlifted by helicopter following a hand injury on July 6, 2017.   The crewman reportedly suffered a severe injury to his finger, which was “limb threatening”. A ship to shore medical service, Health Force Partners, contacted the Coast Guard on the Island Enterprise’s behalf about treatment for the injury, after consultation with the Coast Guard flight surgeon the crewman was evacuated from the vessel.   The Island Enterprise was approximately 152 miles north of Dutch Harbor. Weather conditions were reported as 35 mile per hour winds with 8-10 foot seas. The Island Enterprise is a 280-foot fish processor owned by Trident Seafoods. The circumstances surrounding the crewman’s injury is currently unknown.

In an emergency medical situation a fishing vessel may contact the United States Coast Guard for medical advice and assistance. To avoid unnecessary delays that may lead to medical complications and possible death a crewman may be airlifted from the vessel as happened in this case.

Health Force Partners is a private medical consulting firm utilized by many Alaska fishing companies. Health Force Partners’ “Physician Healthline” provides medical advice about treatment of injured crewman to the vessels owner and the employer. According to Health Force Partners web site the Physician Healthline is staffed 24 hours a day and can on the average provide a physician consultation within a few minutes of being contacted by a fishing vessel. Health Force Partners may work with the employer to coordinate emergency medical care and medical evacuation for an injured fisherman.

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A Seattle jury awarded 1.35 Million dollars in damages to an Alaska Crab Fisherman, David Zielinski, who suffered a severe hand aboard the F/V TIME BANDIT in January of 2013. The Jones Act injury case alleged the Zielinski’s employer was negligent in instructing Zielinski and other crewman aboard the TIME BANDIT to shoot powerful mortar type fireworks at an adjacent crab fishing vessel. As Zielinski was holding the lighted fireworks device in his hand it exploded breaking multiple bones in his right hand and arm.

The TIME BANDIT is one of the featured Alaska crab boats on the popular television show “Deadliest Catch”. The vessel is owned by New Era Alaska and Time Bandit Inc. The vessel was operated by the Hillstrand brothers, John and Andy. In various episodes of the Deadliest Catch TV show the crew has been depicted lighting fireworks aboard the vessel. The vessel had its own fireworks packaged with the TIME BANDIT name.

A You Tube video posted on the Internet shows the Time Bandit and the Northwestern, another Deadliest Catch vessel, engaged in a firework fight on a separate occasion. The video appears to depict crewman holding mortar type devices, large roman candles in their hands and firing rockets and mortar shells between the two vessels.  A fair viewing of this video raises the question of not whether a crewman will be injured but rather when.

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The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals has rejected a maritime employer’s attempt to deny a deceased crewman’s family $400,000 in damages awarded for the crewman’s predeath pain and suffering. The maritime death case involved a truck mounted drilling rig on a barge in a Louisiana Bayou. The truck was not properly secured and toppled over crushing one crewman to death and injuring another.

Although the employer admitted negligence and unseaworthiness the employer made the argument that the crewman did not have conscious predeath pain and suffering after the drill rig fell and crushed him. The Court of Appeals rejected the employer’s argument finding ample circumstantial evidence that the seaman had moments of terror and freight as he attempted to escape from being crushed by the falling oil rig.  Eyewitness testimony showed that the crewman was aware of the danger and running for his life immediately prior to the impact, and photographs at the scene showed that his body was positioned in a defensive manner trying to protect himself. An expert pathologist also testified that the deceased crewman would have been conscious for several minutes after the impact.

The case, McBride v. Estis Well Service, 2017 WL 1321979, confirms the maritime law principle that a seaman’s predeath pain and suffering, terror, freight and fear of death are compensable damages even if only momentary in nature.

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Crewman who are injured or who become ill while working aboard Alaska fishing vessels are protected by Federal Maritime Law. Being seriously injured causes emotional and economic stress on an injured fisherman and his family. Experienced maritime injury lawyers understand that an important part of any legal case for an injured fisherman is recovering compensation for the injured crewman’s lost wages. If you have lost wages and suffered a disabling injury that impairs your ability to work in the future, you should consult with an experienced maritime lawyer to fully learn about your rights to compensation.

When a fisherman or fish processor has lost wages because of a shipboard injury their rights to benefits involves overlapping laws and claims. Many serious fishing accident cases involve large claims for future lost wages and lost wage earning capacity. These negligence based claims are based upon the Jones Act and the Unseaworthiness doctrine.

However, as explained below, in addition to Jones Act negligence and unseaworthiness claims in most cases an injured fisherman should be also be entitled to (1) the wages he would have earned had he completed his contractual period of employment; and (2) daily maintenance payments for living expenses. The law provides for these basic benefits during the period that the injured seaman is recovering from his injuries. Obtaining maintenance, cure and unearned wage benefits assists the seaman to survive while he recovers from his injury and is unable to work. First, under the General Maritime Law an injured fisherman or fish processor is entitled to his “unearned wages until the end of the voyage”. The unearned wage claim of an injured fisherman is different and distinct from his Jones Act negligence or unseaworthiness claim for lost past and future wages. The advantage of an unearned wage claim is that it is a no-fault remedy that should be paid without substantial dispute following an injury that leaves a fisherman unable to complete his employment contract.

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A discrimination case for a Hispanic crewman aboard an Alaska fishing vessel has settled 1.85 million dollars. The settlement stems from allegations of discriminatory conduct and harassment, which occurred aboard the Alaska long line vessel Ocean Prowler in 2011.   37 year old crewman and fish processor Francisco Miranada claimed the captain and mate of the Ocean Prowler targeted Mexican crewman for harassment, calling them dirty Mexicans and other racial epithets. Miranda was told he should swim back to Mexico. Miranda was born in the United States and is a United States Citizen.

The threats recounted to Miranda are familiar threats to lawyers who represent injured Alaska fisherman. Miranda was threatened that if he quit during the fishing trip they would not be paid. There are no unions to protect your job on a commercial fishing vessel. If you object to unsafe working conditions or improper treatment, crewmen quickly find themselves out of work.

Alaska commercial fishing vessels are crewed by workers with diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds. The jobs in many cases are jobs of last resort for untrained workers who have limited education and English language skills.   Higher paying jobs are highly sought after by crewman. Sadly the commercial fishing industry continues to brew a toxic discriminatory environment where fear of retaliation causes much harassment and discriminatory conduct to go unreported.

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A crewman has been airlifted from a fishing vessel 20 miles off the Oregon Coast. The crewman was working aboard the fishing vessel Leann when he reportedly fell suffering a head injury. Initial VHF radio communications with the coast guard were incomplete and broken up. The Coast Guard utilized telephone communications to reach the master of the Leann and make arrangements for an emergency airlift. The 50-year-old injured crewman was reportedly unconscious following the fall and became combative as he regained unconscious. Closed head injury victims who suffer brain injuries frequently exhibit these types of symptoms. It is important to get immediate emergency medical care for any crewman suspected of suffering a closed head injury aboard a fishing vessel.

A Coast Guard MH-65 Dolphin helicopter crew from Coast Guard Sector North Bend safely transported the 50-year-old man to medical personnel at Bay Area Hospital in Coos Bay.   Weather conditions at the scene of the fishing accident were reported to be calm seas with light winds and clear visibility.

The circumstances of the crewman’s fall aboard the Leann are unknown at this time. All injury accidents involving fisherman require that a Coast Guard accident form “2692” be filed with the Coast Guard indicating how the accident occurred and making suggests for how such accidents can be prevented in the future. Slip and fall accidents aboard fishing vessels remain one of the most frequent causes of commercial fisherman injuries. To be a seaworthy a vessel proper precautions must be taken to ensure that a crewman at all times has a safe place to work.

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Working in Alaska as a commercial fisherman is one of the most dangerous occupations in the United States. The first available medical treatment for many injured Alaska fishermen is the Iliuliuk medical clinic in Dutch Harbor Alaska. The clinic sees a wide range of injuries, such as amputations, crush injuries, broken bones, injured necks and backs, and infections. Unfortunately, the clinic in Dutch Harbor is so remote that it can provide only limited medical services to the fishing communities. Serious injuries must be medevacked to Anchorage for medical treatment. However, getting good early care for an injury is critical to a crewman’s having the best recovery possible.

Providence Hospital and Iliuluk Clinic have entered into a unique partnership that will utilize tele-communications via satellite for medical specialist in Anchorage to help and assist in evaluating the patients at the clinic in Dutch Harbor. Real time cameras and communications will allow medical specialists in Anchorage to speak directly with the patient about their injuries and symptoms. The doctor and the patient will reportedly be able to see each other face to face and will not have to rely upon emails or telephone communications with medics. The crews on Alaskan fishing vessels can come from diverse backgrounds and many times English is a second language for the injured crewman. The telecommunications system with Providence will allow the patients at the Iliuliuk clinic in Dutch Harbor to draw upon all the resources of Providence Hospital in Anchorage.

Dutch Harbor is one the United States leading commercial fishing ports. It is the central hub and port for the Bering Sea crab fishing fleet, the Bering Sea Pollock factory trawlers, and the ground fish fleet. The Providence Hospital and Dutch Harbor partnership will mean better outcomes for many injured fishermen working in Alaska.

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A 19 years old commercial fisherman aboard the fishing vessel Miss Birdie was airlifted from the vessel on Monday with complaints of gastrointestinal bleeding.  The 80 foot trawler, Miss Birdie was fishing for whiting 30 miles west of Gold Beach, Oregon. A Coast Guard helicopter airlifted the crewman from the vessel and transported him to shore to be treated by emergency medical personnel at North Bend.  The crewman reported he had previously had similar bleeding in the past.

Recognizing a medical emergency and taking quick action to obtain proper medical care  is critical to crewman safety aboard commercial fishing vessels.  Crewmen must also do their part, if a crewman has serious medical condition that present a substantial possibility of requiring emergency medical treatment while working at sea, those medical issues should be addressed before the crewman is many miles from the nearest medical facility.

The Coast Guard again proved their ability to quickly respond to a distress call arriving on the scene just hours after the call for assistance.