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Alaska Legislature Boosts Fishermen’s Fund Payments

Kodiak-Harbor-from-the-Glacier-Bay-300x219Stacey and Jacobsen, PLLC is pleased to announce that Senate Bill 93 sailed through the Alaska House with a resounding 39-1 majority, with only Representative David Eastman, R-Wasilla, in opposition. This legislation, championed by the Senate Labor and Commerce Committee and several other organizations, raises the caps on compensation from the Alaska Fisherman’s Fund for injuries and illness sustained by commercial fishermen. Its passage strengthens the assurance that medical expenses from fishing-related accidents are better addressed for crew members.

“I think it’s crucial that we support hard working Alaskans, especially when they’ve become ill or injured on the job and need money from funds that they have paid into,” said Senate Labor and Commerce Committee Chair Jesse Bjorkman R-Nikiski. “Commercial fishermen will have greater financial support from the Alaska Fisherman’s Fund when they file a claim with no cost to the State, because the Fisherman’s Fund dollars come from fees received from commercial fishing license sales.”

The Fishermen’s Fund was established in 1951. The fund provides medical treatment and care for licensed commercial fishermen who sustain injuries while working in fishing activities in Alaska. Whether offshore or onshore, fishermen are covered while on active crew status.

The legislation raises the maximum compensation for a single injury or incident for a crew member from $10,000 to $15,000. Given that the bill is financed by fishermen, measures have been implemented to guarantee that should the fund balance dip below a given threshold, compensation limits will be reduced to prevent an increase in fees.

Commercial fishers do not fall under the protection of Workers’ Compensation, meaning that if a crew member incurs medical expenses beyond the maximum limits, the vessel’s owner must cover the excess costs. Additionally, SB 93 raises the cap on the amount a vessel owner can receive to offset their insurance deductible for a crew member’s illness or injury, raising it from $5,000 to $15,000. This adjustment assists vessel owners in securing insurance at a more affordable rate by opting for policies with higher deductibles, while guaranteeing that crew members’ medical expenses are adequately covered.

“The Alaska Fishermen’s Fund Advisory and Appeals Council brought the need to increase the statutory limits on benefits payments to my attention,” said Senator Bjorkman. “I introduced SB 93 through the Senate Labor and Commerce Committee, which I chair, and had the privilege of carrying the bill through the Legislative process.”

The bill now goes to Governor Mike Dunleavy for signing.

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