A nineteen year old crewman has reportedly been seriously injured while working on the deck of the 38-foot fishing vessel KITTIWAKE. The accident happened on August 18th when a line under tension snapped, striking Daniel Cornelius in the head, causing facial injuries and knocking him unconscious. The United States Coast Guard airlifted Cornelius from the vessel. He was transported to Kodiak Island for emergency medical treatment and evaluation.
Serious accidents continue to happen at an alarming rate on Alaska fishing vessels. In far too many cases, deckhands suffer serious and permanent injuries. Under Federal Maritime law, injured fishermen are entitled to compensation for injuries under the Jones Act 46 USC § 30104 and the general maritime law.
Serious injury accidents impact the whole family. Recently, the United States District Court for the Western District of Washington has ruled that family members of seriously injured crewmen have their own claims against the vessel and employer for loss of consortium. The new case is Barrette v. Jubilee Fisheries, USDC W.D. Wash. Cause No. C10-01206. The Barrette case followed the recent Supreme Court of the United States decision in Atlantic Soundings v. Townsend, 129 S.Ct. 2561 (2009). Some State courts have interpreted the Atlantic Sounding case to allow for punitive damages in unseaworthiness and Jones Act negligence cases. See Nes v. Sea Warrior Inc., King County Cause No. 09-2-05771-1SEA (2010); and Wagner v. Knoa Blue Water Farms, USDC Hawaii Cause No. 09-00600 (2010).