For most workers employed in the state of Alaska and around the country, a job-related injury would result in a workers’ compensation claim to obtain medical care and compensation to aid in the employee’s recovery. However, circumstances for seamen are a little different. Federal law dictates that fishermen receive work injury benefits under general maritime law and the Jones Act. Alaska, with its robust fishing industry, is the only state that offers additional benefits for injured seamen with the Fishermen’s Fund.
What Is the Alaska Fishermen’s Fund?
The fishermen’s fund “provides for the treatment and care of Alaska licensed commercial fishermen who have been injured while fishing on shore or off shore in Alaska,” according to the Alaska Department of Labor and Workforce Development. The fund is considered a “payer of last resort,” which means benefits are provided only after other options (such as private insurance, vessel insurance, or government programs) are exhausted.
These benefits are similar to those provided by workers’ compensation, but federal law prohibits injured seamen from utilizing the typical workers’ compensation system. Rather, they may pursue care and compensation under the Jones Act. In Alaska, the Fishermen’s Fund uses revenue collected from state fishing licenses and permits to finance medical benefits for injured seamen.
Who Qualifies for Fishermen’s Fund Benefits?
Eligibility for benefits from the Fishermen’s Fund is very specific. To receive aid from the fund, an injured seaman must:
- Have an injury directly related to his work as a commercial fisherman
- Hold a valid commercial fishing license or limited entry permit dated before the time of injury
- Have been injured in Alaskan waters or onshore in Alaska
- Receive medical treatment within 60 days of injury
- Apply for Fishermen’s Fund aid within one year of the injury
- Document each treatment through a medical note and submit the note to the state
The Benefits of the Fishermen’s Fund and How to Obtain Them
The Fishermen’s Fund can provide compensation for the costs related to the medical care and treatment of the fishing injury. These costs can include:
- Doctor visits
- Chiropractic care
- Transportation to and from provider appointments
Injured seamen can file for aid from the Fishermen’s Fund by submitting an application and a number of supporting documents. The criteria for benefits are strictly followed by the state; any error/omission in applying or providing the proper paperwork would likely result in a denial of benefits. An experienced attorney can help injured seamen understand their rights and responsibilities, determine the proper channels to seek benefits, and ensure that the request is filed completely and on time.
Contact an Experienced Alaska Work Injury Attorney
Commercial fishing has been named by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as one of the most dangerous occupations in the United States. Maritime injuries can be severe, and a lack of proper medical care can affect workers and their families for years to come. If you or someone you love has suffered injuries while working as a fisherman, you may be eligible to receive benefits from the state’s Fishermen’s Fund, and an experienced lawyer can help you fully understand your options. Attorney Ben Crittenden has helped many Alaska seamen and their families after a job-related injury. Call Ben today in his Anchorage office or take a moment to fill out the contact form on this page. He can learn more about your situation and help you decide how to move forward most effectively.