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Commercial Fishing and Shipping Injuries in Port Orford

Port Orford is a small fishing town on the south coast of Oregon. Commercial fishing, together with tourism, drives the economy. The town estimates that between 90 and 120 of its approximately 1,100 residents work in the commercial fishing industry. In 2018, its 30 commercial fishing vessels landed seafood close to five million in value. Interestingly, the Port of Port Orford is home to one of the two dolly docks in the United States, where gigantic cranes lift the vessels in and out of the water each day and place them in custom-made trailers. The town is also home to Port Orford Sustainable Seafood, a fish processing plant.

Working as a commercial fisherman in Port Orford seamen are exposed to working hazards and environmental dangers. Because of the high risks and harsh conditions, the law provides unique legal claims to injured seamen. Seamen are not entitled to workers’ compensation. Instead, there are three primary legal claims available: 1) maintenance and cure, 2) the doctrine of unseaworthiness, and 3) the Jones Act.

Maintenance and cure are benefits available to all seamen who were injured while working in the service of the vessel. Maintenance refers to payments to cover daily expenses, and cure refers to compensation for all reasonable and necessary medical expenses. These benefits are available whether or not the vessel owner or employer was at fault for the injury. Additionally, injured seamen may be covered even if the injury is the aggravation of a pre-existing condition. Maintenance and cure benefits end when the injured worker reaches maximum medical cure. An employer who willfully fails to provide maintenance and cure may be liable for punitive damages and attorney’s fees.

Under the doctrine of unseaworthiness, vessel owners owe an absolute duty to provide a ship that is reasonably fit for its intended use. This duty extends not only to the vessel itself but also all its equipment and crew. The duty is absolute, meaning if an unseaworthy condition was the direct cause of a seaman’s injury, the shipowner will be responsible for damages. The shipowner does not need to be at fault to be liable under the doctrine of unseaworthiness.

The Jones Act is a statutory remedy that allows seamen to pursue claims of negligence against their employers. Under the Jones Act, the employer is required to provide a reasonably safe place to work and is also responsible for the negligence of fellow crew members. Jones Act plaintiffs have a relatively low burden of proof. They must only prove that the employer’s negligence played a role, however small, in the injury. There are several types of damages available under the Jones Act, including lost past and future wages, past and future medical expenses, pain and suffering, disability, and lost future earning capacity.

Kraft Davies, PLLC is a nationally recognized leader in maritime personal injury law. Kraft Davies has significant experience representing Port Orford 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.