Bellingham, Washington

Pacific American Fisheries cannery, Bellingham, 1910s

Downtown Bellingham, Washington perches high on a bluff above its eponymous bay not far from the Straits of Juan de Fuca and the inland highway to Alaska. In the late 19th c., the port of Bellingham shipped timber and canned salmon around the world. Those activities dominated the city’s economy well into the 20th c. when salmon canning gave way to pulp and paper production on the 137 acres of mud flats on the bay currently slated for redevelopment. From 1963 to 2001, the Georgia-Pacific company operated a pulp mill on the central downtown waterfront. Still today, it operates a tissue mill there. Now Bellingham and the surrounding towns of Whatcom County are more frequently the homes of seaman venturing on crabbers, longline halibut boats, salmon trollers to fish in Alaska or serving as crew tankers bringing oil from Valdez and freighters serving, Alaska, the San Juan Archipelago, and the Queen Charlotte Islands or on ferries that dock along the coast of Alaska. Occasionally these vessels operate on the edge of seaworthiness endangering the health and welfare not only of seamen who worked on them, but also the families who depend on their salaries to meet the everyday costs of living.

Seamen and fishermen who live in any one of the four original Bellingham towns of Fairhaven, Whatcom, Sehome or Bellingham are all protected by the Jones Act, a federal law enacted in 1920. It is also called the Merchant Marine Act. Championed by Senator Wesley L. Jones from the state of Washington, the act protects American seamen who are injured at sea or in navigable American waters of every kind. Not only are seamen guaranteed the wages they would have earned had they worked the entire contracted season, but they are also entitled to future wages lost as a result of an injury on a vessel. Of course, it goes without saying that injured seamen are entitled to medical care paid for by the owners of their vessel until they are totally well.

This coming October a federal law recently signed by President Barack Obama will give seamen additional protection by creating tougher safety standards for the country’s commercial vessels fleets. The new law relies on the existing Commercial Fishing Industry Vessel Safety Act of 1988 and sets minimum standards which control commercial shipping and fishing vessels and create safer working conditions at sea. Vessels that don’t meet the minimum requirements of the law are automatically defined as unseaworthy and their proprietors instantaneously negligent.

Sailors hurt working on unseaworthy vessels or in unsafe conditions while at sea have been justly compensated through the efforts of the maritime injury attorneys of Herschensohn Law PLLC. Our legal counselors have helped and assisted the families of people who died at sea. Our counselors understand your rights under maritime law and makes sure you receive the money you deserve. We focus on Jones Act injury claims.

Herschensohn Law PLLC is available to help injured seamen who live in Whatcom County. Zachary Herschensohn has a license to practice law in Washington. He has litigated with great results for Bellingham area seamen. Meet with us before you choose someone to represent you in a maritime injury claim. The first meeting is free of charge. In fact, you won’t pay a thing until your case settles. Meeting with you at our Seattle offices is just as easy as in downtown Bellingham or Fairhaven. We can go anywhere in Washington. Give a Jones Act lawyer at Herschensohn Law a call today to arrange your consultation.