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Commercial Fishing and Shipping Injuries in Brookings, Oregon

Brookings is located on the southern Oregon coast only six miles north of the California border. Situated at the mouth of the Chetco River, the city has one of the safest entries into the ocean on the west coast, and commercial fishing is a strong contributor to the local economy. In addition to salmon, shrimp, and bottom fish, over 10 million pounds of Dungeness Crab are landed at the Port of Brookings Harbor each year. Brookings is also home to BC Fisheries, a family-owned seafood wholesaler, offloader, and processor.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, working as a commercial fisherman is the deadliest job in America. Because of the dangers seamen face every day, the law offers special protections to workers injured at sea. Instead of workers’ compensation, injured seamen can pursue three primary legal claims: 1) maintenance and cure, 2) the doctrine of unseaworthiness, and 3) the Jones Act.

Every seaman injured while working in the service of a vessel has a right to maintenance and cure under general maritime law. Maintenance refers to a daily living allowance to pay for expenses like rent and food. There is no set amount for maintenance payments, but a rate set by a union-negotiated collective bargaining agreement is enforceable. Cure refers to expenses for all reasonable and necessary medical treatment, both curative and palliative. A seaman is entitled to maintenance and cure benefits up until no further treatment will improve the underlying medical condition. If your employer refuses to pay maintenance and cure, you may be entitled to attorney’s fees, compensatory damages, and punitive damages.

The unseaworthiness doctrine allows injured seamen to pursue legal claims against the vessel owner if the worker suffered injuries caused by an unseaworthy condition of the vessel. A vessel is considered unseaworthy if the ship, its crew, or any of its equipment is not reasonably fit for its intended use. This could include worn-out equipment, slipping hazards, or a lack of property training. To recover under the unseaworthiness doctrine, it is not necessary to prove that the employer’s negligence caused the unsafe condition or that the vessel owner was even aware of the condition.

In addition to claims under general maritime law, an injured seaman may have a legal claim under the Jones Act if his or her employer was negligent. The Jones Act requires employers to 1) provide the seaman with a reasonably safe place to work and 2) use ordinary care under the circumstances to maintain and keep the vessel in a reasonably safe condition. The employer’s negligence does not need to be the primary, or even substantial, cause of the injury. It only needs to have played some role in causing the injury.

Kraft Davies, PLLC is a nationally recognized leader in maritime personal injury law. Kraft Davies has significant experience representing Brookings seamen against vessel owners, maritime employers, and maritime insurance companies. If you or a loved one were injured in a commercial fishing or shipping accident, contact the attorneys at Kraft Davies today at 206.624.8844 or through this website.