Fish processors working on fishing vessels in Alaska work long hours under difficult working conditions. Unfortunately, hand and arm injuries are common in the Alaska fishing industry. The hands of fish processors or fishermen can get caught in moving Baader processing equipment, augers, unguarded machinery, bait choppers, conveyor belts, cut by knives used for processing fish, smashed by boxes of fish product inside the factory, or subject to frostbite while working in freezing conditions in the freezer. Whatever the cause of the hand injury, these injuries can have life-long impacts on fish processors and their families.
Over the years, the lawyers at our firm have collected millions of dollars for fish processors and fishermen suffering from traumatic hand and arm injuries, including amputations of the arm, hand, and fingers. We know that these cases demand special attention and the legal expertise of seasoned maritime injury lawyers with a background in fish processing and factory trawler injuries. Much of the equipment and processes on board a factory trawler are unique to the fishing industry and it is important that the lawyers understand how the equipment is used and what an employer should do to protect fish processors from hand injuries.
Report the Injury.
Following a hand or harm injury on a fish processing vessel, you should immediately report the injury. Many injuries to the hand and arm are traumatic and will immediately come to the attention of supervisors and vessel officers. However, other injuries are less dramatic and may relate to repetitive use of the hand or other more subtle symptoms. Regardless of the severity of the injury, it is important that you immediately report the incident to your supervisor, the factory manager, or the captain and fill out an incident report. In more subtle cases, the fishing companies will often try to deny that the injury occurred on the vessel and it is important that an incident report is promptly filled out on the vessel.
Get Proper Medical Attention.
After returning from Alaska and any immediate emergency medical procedures, you may need to consult with a qualified hand surgeon or orthopedic surgeon to address ongoing problems with your hand or arm. The claims adjuster for the fishing company may try to direct you to a doctor that they have used in the past and that provided favorable testimony for the fishing company. You are not required to see a doctor that the fishing company sends you to and have the right to select your own doctor. In making this decision, you may want to contact an experienced maritime lawyer that knows the best doctors in the area to address your injury.
In Seattle, we are fortunate to have access to world-class surgeons who can evaluate and treat serious injuries to the hand and arm. Many of our clients have been treated by the surgeons at Seattle Hand Surgery Group. The surgeons at Seattle Hand Surgery Group offer a variety of surgical and non-surgical management approaches for hand injuries. There are also a variety of other well-qualified hand surgeons in the Seattle-Tacoma-Everett area.
Compensation Under the Jones Act for Hand and Arm Injuries.
Under the Jones Act, an injured fish processor can pursue a claim for damages against the fish processor’s employer for injuries caused by unsafe working conditions on the vessel. An experienced maritime lawyer will be able to analyze the specific facts of your case to determine if an unsafe condition contributed to your injury and what the employer should have done to prevent the injury. Compensation is not automatic and it is important that you retain legal counsel early to contact important witnesses, collect evidence, and conduct an extensive investigation into the specific facts of your case.
The injured fish processor can collect damages for lost earnings, loss of earning capacity (a reduction in the ability to earn wages in the future), past and future medical expenses, pain and suffering, disability, loss of enjoyment of life, and disfigurement caused by the injury. The amount of compensation will depend on the severity of the injury, whether the injury is permanent, the amount of your economic losses, and the totality of your injuries and damages. Lawyers from other jurisdictions may not be familiar with the jury verdicts and awards of juries in Seattle or Alaska. As a result, it is important to contact an experienced maritime lawyer in Seattle if you claim is brought against a Seattle fishing company. Our law firm has decades of experience with hand and arm injuries to fish processors and offers a free case evaluation.