Commercial Fishing and Shipping Injuries in Port Angeles, Washington
Port Angeles, Washington is located in Clallam County on the Strait of Juan de Fuca. Ediz Hook, a two and a half mile spit that curves eastward around Port Angeles, creates one of the deepest harbors on the west coast of the United States. Because of its location, commercial fishing and shipping are a significant part of the local economy. The Port of Port Angeles owns and operates two deep-water terminals. The main cargo shipped through the Port are logs and lumber, but the Port also ships a mix of bulk and break-bulk cargo to domestic and international markets.
Every day the seamen working on commercial fishing and shipping vessels put their lives at risk. The law recognizes the inherent danger of working at sea and offers unique legal causes of action to injured seamen. There are three primary causes of action that an injured seaman can pursue: 1) maintenance and cure, 2) the doctrine of unseaworthiness, and 3) the Jones Act. An injured worker can pursue one or more of the above causes of action.
Maintenance and cure under general maritime law is available in almost every case where a seaman is injured while working in the service of the vessel. The employer is required to pay a daily living stipend and all reasonable and necessary medical expenses until the worker reaches maximum medical cure. Maximum medical cure means that the seaman’s condition will not get better with further treatment. It does not necessarily mean until the seaman is entirely healthy and ready to go back to work. If an employer unreasonably and intentionally refuses to pay maintenance and cure, the court may order the employer to pay the seaman punitive damages.
When a seaman is injured because the vessel was not seaworthy, he or she can pursue a claim under the unseaworthiness doctrine. A vessel is considered seaworthy under general maritime law if the vessel, its appurtenances, and its crew are reasonably fit for their intended use. If any part of the vessel, its equipment, or crew are not in fit shape or properly maintained, the vessel is unseaworthy. The duty to provide a seaworthy vessel is absolute, meaning that the employer or vessel owner is liable even if they were unaware of the unseaworthy condition.
If the injury was the result of the vessel owner’s negligence, the injured seaman can pursue a claim under the Jones Act. A vessel owner is negligent if they failed to use reasonable care. They are also responsible for the negligence of other crew members and supervisors. A vessel owner will be liable if their negligence played any role in the injury, no matter how small. This burden is much lower than other personal injury cases and is often described as the “featherweight causation standard.”
Kraft Davies Olsson PLLC is a nationally recognized leader in maritime personal industry law. Kraft Davies has significant experience representing injured Port Angeles seamen against vessel owners, maritime employers, and maritime insurance companies. If you were injured in a commercial fishing or shipping accident and have questions about your right to recovery, contact the attorneys at Kraft Davies today at 206-624-8844 or through this website.