Shrimp Boat Accidents

Gulf states like Louisiana, Alabama, Texas, and Mississippi are avid participants in the shrimping industry. Numerous workers earn their bread through the use of shrimp boats. The high demand and the fact that a large percentage of the US shrimp comes from the region increases the attractiveness of this employment option.

Such fishermen are exposed to various risks, much like many other maritime workers. Injuries and even death could be caused by improper training or the use of subpar shrimping equipment.

General Statistics

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the shrimp fleet has the biggest number of fatalities in the Gulf of Mexico.

In the period from 2000 to 2014, commercial fishing has led to 164 deaths caused by traumatic injuries. This means that almost 11 sailors die every single year. In the most recent period, from 2010 to 2014, there were 49 deaths.

The leading cause of death was falling overboard. Other leading causes of a fatal outcome included a vessel disaster (sinking, capsizing, fires or grounding), onboard fatalities and diving fatalities. Vessel disasters accounted for nearly 50 percent of all commercial fishing deaths.

Taking a more thorough look at shrimping accidents, there have been 25 deaths in the period from 2010 to 2014. A vessel disaster is the leading cause of death among shrimp fishermen. Onboard injuries and falls follow.

Shrimp fishermen are also exposed to highly specific dangers. Entanglement in winches, for example, could result in serious injuries and deaths. Because of such risks, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) is currently testing innovative winch guards that can bring down the risk of entanglement and limb injuries significantly.

Seeking Accident Compensation

As already established, being a fisherman is a rather dangerous job. The risk of accidents and injuries is high, even when safety equipment is used in a competent way.

A worker in the shrimp fishing industry could sue an employer for negligence in the case of:

  • Improper training that leads to injuries
  • Lack of safety equipment on the boat
  • The operation of a boat that isn’t properly sized for the respective weather/environmental conditions
  • Collision with another boat
  • Capsizing
  • Operations in hazardous conditions, for example during a storm or poor weather
  • Winch and cabling accidents
  • Falling objects
  • Slips and falls due to poor surface treatments
  • Physical assault by another crew member

Workers’ compensation benefits under the Jones Act are extended to the members of commercial fishing crews. A worker who is injured due to employer, captain or crew negligence will be entitled to financial compensation – coverage for medical expenses, daily living expenses, compensation for pain and suffering, lost wages, future wages in the case of a work inability and even death benefits.

Through the years, there have been various instances of workers successfully suing their employers for compensation. In 1985, the Supreme Court in Louisiana provided a shrimper who sustained injuries with financial compensation due to employer negligence.

Nolan Griffin injured his hand on the job while operating the winch. The man was diagnosed with a 20 percent permanent disability due to the left-hand injury. While the crew was taking the boat for a trial run, it still engaged in commercial trawling for shrimp.

The court concluded that the venture was a commercial one and that the vessel was unseaworthy. Griffin was awarded 25,000 dollars in general damages, 15,000 dollars in lost wages and 2,149.7 dollars for medical treatment. Because Griffin was the most experienced crew member, however, he was seen as 80 percent accountable for operation in the dangerous conditions. Thus, some of the awarded compensations were reduced due to his culpability.

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