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The Grip or Carpal Tunnel Syndrome: What are Your Rights as a Fisherman?

October 23, 2020

Have you ever had the grip? If you have worked as a fisherman you probably have experienced this condition which involved pain and swelling in the hands, wrist and forearm. Although fisherman have traditionally worked through this condition, grinning and bearing the pain, because it is such a common component of the working environment, vessel owners are responsible under the Jones Act for compensation for any damages which arise from a fisherman developing the grip.

The grip is essentially what is called a repetitive stress, repetitive motion or overuse injury. When you are working with your hands manipulating tools and objects, gripping and grabbing heavy equipment and machinery, and performing tasks such as cutting scallops, you are putting excessive and repetitive forces on the joints of the hands, fingers and the wrists. When this occurs over time, especially in someone who is older or deconditioned, swelling of the spaces in your joints through which your nerves pass is the result. This in turn causes pain, numbness, and tingling. Sometimes this goes away, sometimes it does not.

This is very similar to, if not the same, in some circumstances as carpal tunnel syndrome. In industries that provide worker’s compensation insurance or their employees, cumulative trauma injuries like carpal tunnel syndrome (the grip if you will) are covered, meaning that worker’s compensation will pay for medical treatments related to carpal tunnel syndrome, the grip, or other similar work related conditions, including surgery (which essentially opens the gap in the joints to allow the nerves to pass more freely) and also pay the wages of any worker who has this conditions during any period of disability.

In some other industries, where worker’s compensation is not provided, but federal law applies (such as the railroad industry which is covered by FELA), workers have the right to sue their railroad employers for damages related to the workplace development of any such issues. The same applies to the maritime industry and fishing in particular. If you are a fisherman experiencing symptoms such as swelling in your hand, fingers, wrist or forearm, or pain or tingling, whether it goes away or not, you may have the right to sue your employer, under a federal law called the Jones Act, for damages related to the development of this condition.

If you are experiencing any of these symptoms and would like to discuss what your potential rights might be please call us at (617) 773-5500 or email us here. We have extensive experience in maritime law and are happy to help you understand your rights as a maritime worker.