Though it is not something that the average American thinks about when they sit down to a seafood dinner, the employees who worked to put the food on their plates risk their health and lives every single day that they report to work. Commercial fishing consistently ranks as one of the most dangerous jobs in America today, in 2006 it lead the pack; that year’s death rate among commercial fishermen was thirty six times higher than the fatality rate of the average job in the United States and the same is true for the number of injuries sustained at work.
What is a Commercial Fishing Boat?
These are boats that are specifically equipped, outfitted and staffed for the purpose of catching large quantities of fish and seafood. The smaller fishing boats that measure less than eighty feet long are generally made of fiberglass, while the larger ones are constructed of steel. There are several different types of these vessels, each designed for a different type of fish or a different method of fishing. These include seiners, line vessels, trollers and outriggers.
Why is Commercial Fishing So Dangerous?
The most frequent cause of death on board a commercial fishing vessel is caused by the disappearance or sinking of the ship itself – each year more than 100 of these boats are lost at sea or suffer a disaster such as flooding or being struck by a monster wave, taking their crews along with them. These incidents account for nearly half of all of the reported deaths of commercial fishing boat employees. Beyond that, working on these vessels involves long hours, hard work and challenging weather conditions. In about one third of the cases of death, employees have fallen overboard, and rarely are these crew members wearing any kind of life preserver or flotation device. In other cases there are significant injuries that take place onboard. As for the non-fatal injuries, workers have fallen, gotten caught in nets and winches, and had limbs caught in equipment onboard.
Can anything be done to Make Commercial Fishing Less Dangerous?
There are several different organizations that are working to make commercial fishing a less dangerous profession, and those attempts are being led by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. This organization is investigating what can be done to encourage commercial fishermen to use personal flotation devices and to provide emergency stop equipment that will halt the operation of nets and winches in cases where employees become entangled or caught. Special doors are being designed to prevent flooding, and new systems are being installed to help with monitoring vessel stability. They are also looking at the role that management and the owners of commercial fishing vessels have played in these types of accidents and how they can minimize the danger, while other organizations are looking at the basics of embarking and disembarking from the vehicles and how that process can be made safer.
What Can a Commercial Fishing Employee Do if they are injured on the Job?
Because this type of work is so very dangerous and carries such a high risk of injury or death, special laws have been put in place to ensure that maritime workers and seamen are properly taken care of. If you have been injured while working on a commercial fishing vessel, or if a loved one of yours has lost their life as a result of one of these accidents, there are several laws and statutes that are in place to ensure that you are protected and able to recover damages. If there was negligence on the part of your supervisors or the vessel owners that contributed to your injury, or if the vessel was unseaworthy, you can file a Jones Act claim for benefits and damages.
If your loved one was a commercial fisherman who was killed while on the job, the Death on the High Seas Act is there to help your family as well. In any and all of these instances, it is important to remember that the laws that have been written to address these types of incidents are highly specific, and that the best way to ensure that your case is being handled by somebody who truly knows what they are doing and is best able to represent you is to hire an experienced maritime law attorney.
The laws that cover land-based personal injury claims are very different from those that have been written to address incidents and accidents that occur at sea, and if you seek counsel from an attorney who is not familiar with the specifics of these laws, you are putting yourself at risk of missteps, as well as of not being able to maximize all of the rights and benefits that are available to you. The experienced maritime attorneys at our firm are available to help you and can provide you with a free, confidential consultation. Call us.
There’s a reason that workers from across the country continue to turn to our maritime lawyers after being injured offshore:
We know what it takes to win, and we don’t stop until you do.
In the past 5 years alone, our Jones Act and Maritime Lawyers have:
recovered over $750 Million in settlements and verdicts for our clients;
successfully represented a number of the workers who were injured onboard the BP Deepwater Horizon when it tragically exploded on April 20, 2010;
received the #1 Largest Accident Verdict in the State of Texas, and
been recognized as “Leaders in Maritime Law” by NewsWeek Magazine.
We’ve been able to achieve these results because, unlike at many other law firms, all of our lawyers are trial attorneys, who won’t hesitate to turn down a settlement offer and take the case to trial to ensure that our clients and their families are fully compensated for their injuries and damages.
Our practice of preparing every case for trial has not only enabled every one of our lawyers to remain undefeated in the courtroom, but has also distinguished our firm as one of the only firms in the United States to have recovered “punitive” damages in consecutive jury trials.
Our Maritime and Jones Act Lawyers:
A trial lawyer who represents clients who were injured in offshore accidents, factory and refinery explosions, and catastrophic bus and truck accidents.
In addition to obtaining over $550 million in verdicts and settlements for his clients, he has consecutively recovered punitive damages from three of the largest corporations in the country over the past two years.
His courtroom accomplishments were chronicled in an articled titled, “Raising the Bar,” which appeared on the cover of the 2013 edition of “Super Lawyers, Texas Rising Stars” magazine and qualified him for a lifetime membership in both the “Million Dollar” and “Multi-Million Dollar” Advocates Forum, a distinction limited to less than 1% of trial lawyers in the United States.
A trial attorney who represents clients who were injured in offshore accidents and serious truck and bus accidents.
He was born and raised in Houston and received his undergraduate degree at the University of Texas in Austin. While there, he was invited to membership in the Silver Spurs and had the distinction of being entrusted with the handling of Bevo, the Longhorn’s cherished mascot. He went on to graduate from the Thurgood Marshall School of Law, where he spent his summers working as a law clerk for our firm.
A hard working, knowledgeable attorney dedicated to his clients are all part of what makes him such an effective trial attorney. He has had considerable success representing clients who were injured in maritime accidents as well as bus and truck accidents.
In the past 2 years alone, he has recovered over $50 million in verdicts for his clients, including the largest accident verdict in the State of Texas.
A trial lawyer who focuses on representing clients who were injured while working offshore. He brings a unique background to his practice, which includes service in the Navy and more than a decade working as an award winning television news journalist in Washington, D.C., Misawa, Japan, and Austin, Texas.
Whether you work on a small fishing boat, or an enormous cargo ship, on a shipyard loading cargo, or in any other maritime position, your job can be incredibly hazardous. Each day’s work can drive you to the point of exhaustion, all while you control heavy equipment, dangerous netting, ropes and cables, winches and other dangerous equipment. Combine these hazards with slippery decks, rough weather and wave conditions, narrow and unstable stairs and gangplanks, and more, and you have a recipe for disaster.
Types of Broken Bone Injuries
Injuries can occur in any number of ways, and broken bones are among the most frequent. If you are injured on board a ship and you suffer an injury that is causing you pain, it is essential that you report your injury to your supervisor immediately so that you may receive proper medical attention as soon as possible. In many cases, broken bones have gone undetected on board ships because of the lack of diagnostic equipment. An injured maritime worker always has the right to seek their own medical treatment.
A few of the more serious broken bone injuries include:
Impacted fractures, in which the force that caused the injury has pushed the pieces of bone together
Compression fractures, in which the bone has been crushed.
Spiral fracture, in which the bone has actually been broken as a result of having been twisted.
Open fracture, in which the bone actually breaks through the skin.
Broken bones are also known as fractures. Many people think that the term fracture implies a less severe injury, but that is not the case. Broken bones can be an indication of even greater injury that lies unseen below the surface, including internal injuries to the organs that the bones are protecting. Open fractures can be accompanies by heavy bleeding and great risk of infection. Depending upon what part of the body is involved can be an indication of a serious or life-threatening injury, particularly when the spinal cord or bones of the neck or chest are involved. Immediate and qualified professional care is always in order when a broken bone is suspected. Shipboard broken bones can range from fingers and hands being crushed in heavy machinery or by being pinched between crates and cargo that were improperly latched down or broken arms or legs or even broken necks or backs from suffering a fall on a slippery deck or down unstable stairs or passageways. Although the ship’s medical team may be able to stabilize a broken bone by applying a splint, it is important that a correct diagnosis is made of the full extent of your injury and that appropriate care is delivered, whether that is casting, surgery, rehab, or a combination of the three. Do not continue working if you have a broken bone; this can make your situation far worse, and your recovery could take much longer.
Getting the Help and Advice that you need
There have been many instances where workers have been hurt but told that their injury is minor and that they should continue working, and this has ended up making their injury far worse. In other cases, the ship owner’s insurance company has contacted a worker and made them an offer for a settlement fee, and the unsuspecting employee has accepted the offer, not realizing that they are entitled to far more if their injury was a result of negligence on the part of the vessel’s owner or their supervisor. Broken bones can be very serious, and as a maritime worker, you have very clear-cut and specific rights; these include having the ship owner make certain that you receive medical attention as quickly as possible, that you receive compensation for your injury and any care you may need, and that you are paid for any time that you need to take off as a result of your injury. Be certain that before you sign any papers or accept any offers, that you speak to a qualified and experienced maritime attorney to make certain that you are receiving everything that you are entitled to. If you or a loved one have been injured while working offshore, contact the experienced maritime attorneys at our law firm today.
Although those who are not familiar with the work that takes place on a barge may think that it is a safe environment when compared to the working environment on the high seas, barges can actually be highly dangerous. While it is true that barges are generally used to transport goods along waterways that in and of themselves don’t present the same type of danger as can be found from the ocean, the ships themselves are loaded with heavy freight and equipment that can be hazardous.
Because barges are often pushed or pulled by towboats, they are subject to sudden stops and starts which can result in falls or in cargo or equipment coming loose. There is also a risk of falling between two barges that have been rigged together.
Common Barge Accidents that Result in Injury or Death
Some of the most common ways for seamen who work onboard barges to be injured are through slipping, tripping or falling. Barge decks are constantly in motion, and if there are hazards on deck that are caused by liquids having spilled or items inappropriately stored, workers can be injured easily. It is important that seamen who work on barges are outfitted with appropriate foot gear and are taught to report problems on deck to their supervisors immediately.
Barges also have uneven surfaces – although they are generally flat, there are different levels and workers who are not properly safeguarded can easily fall from one level to the next, resulting in a variety of different injuries. There is also the risk of falling overboard, and although seamen on barges are supposed to wear personal flotation devices, they are often not provided with them or their supervisors do not enforce the rules. Falling overboard can result in injury from the fall itself or in drowning.
Other sources of injury on the job on board a barge come from the different types of equipment that is used. Hoists, cranes and derricks are used to lift heavy items on and off of the barge, and not only is it possible to be struck by moving parts from these pieces of heavy equipment themselves, but if a worker is underneath one of these items while they are transporting something heavy and they drop their load, the falling cargo can hurt or even kill them. Winches that are used to hoist and join items can cause amputations, as can working with the rigging itself. Finally the storage areas can be dangerous, particularly if a worker is exposed to toxic fumes or pinned beneath a container.
Examples of Barge Accidents
The job of loading, unloading and storing items on board a barge requires excellent knowledge of how to operate equipment such as cranes and rigging, and not understanding the proper sequencing or being given instructions that don’t foresee the possible dangers can lead to death. Workers have been killed when heavy ship parts such as exhaust stacks are removed in order to provide maintenance, as these parts can fall over and kill fellow workers instantly if not properly secured. The chains that secure the anchors for barges can weigh up to thirty tons, and if the incorrect cables are used in the cranes that lift these items, the cable can snap and the chains can fall and kill workers who are working in the vicinity.
Not only must proper lifting equipment be used, but the load capacity must also be correct or the consequences can be dire. Workers who are removing damaged parts or containers from where they are stored can find that loads suddenly shift, and fingers or limbs that are caught in between these pinch points can easily be amputated.
Preventing Injuries on Barges
The owners and supervisors on board barges are responsible for the safety of their crew – it is important that they ensure that the environment is as safe as possible and that all personnel are carefully trained in order to minimize the possibility of accidents. In situations where the worst has happened and a barge worker is either injured or killed, there are certain protections that have been put in place to ensure that in case of injury they are compensated for the days when they are not able to work, as well as the costs of any medical expenses they may incur and any damages that they suffer. For more information on how to make sure that you are getting all that you deserve if you have been injured on board a barge, contact the experienced maritime lawyers at our law firm.
Brain damage is one of the most traumatic injuries that a person can suffer. Brain injury generally results from an extremely hard blow to the head which causes damage inside the brain – this damage can include bruising or bleeding, actual tearing of brain tissue, or other physical injury. Some brain damage injuries are so serious that they lead to life-altering complications, and sometimes even in death.
Causes of Brain Damage
Brain damage results from a traumatic injury to the head – the harder the blow, the more likely it is that there will be damage, and the more severe the damage will be. The reason for this is that the brain moves back and forth within the skull during the contact, and the more points of contact the brain has with the skull, the more injury there will be. If there is twisting motion involved, it is more likely that cells will be torn. Brain injury can be caused by falls, explosions, or objects actually entering the skull. If enough damage is done to the brain, it will swell to the point where blood clots will form and oxygen will not be able to access the brain’s cells – this can cause even further damage, and even death.
Injuries that result in brain damage happen all too frequently on board ships. Maritime workers spend most of their time in environments with slippery decks and stairs and heavy equipment and cargo. Many offshore workers have been struck on the head by winches and cranes that are out of control, or by heavy items that have been dropped. In some cases, it is immediately clear that serious brain damage has taken place, but in many other instances, it takes some time for the full extent of the injury to be known.
It is very important for a person who has suffered an injury to their head to seek medical care immediately. The types of diagnostic equipment that are needed to ascertain the degree of damage that has been done is not available on board a ship. Because of this, it is essential that your supervisor or the owner of the ship make arrangements for you to be transported back to shore as soon as possible. If you have been struck on the head and experience headaches, dizziness, confusion, or disorientation, it is essential that you are assessed immediately, as the longer you go without being treated, the worse your condition may become.
Maritime law has been written specifically to address the particular needs of seamen who are injured far from home, and whose employers may not offer the appropriate amount of care that is needed. If someone you love has suffered a brain injury while on the job, they are entitled to medical treatment and other compensation from their employer. If the employer or manager were negligent in some way, you may be able to file a Jones Act claim. A qualified maritime lawyer from our law firm has the knowledge and experience to assess the particulars of your case to determine what you are entitled to and then make sure that you get it.
Levels of Brain Injury
As is true with so many different medical conditions, brain injury and brain damage is separated into different categories – mild, moderate, or severe. Mild traumatic brain injury causes symptoms such as headache and dizziness, nausea and vomiting, having a hard time sleeping or sleeping too much, and overwhelming fatigue. There may have been a loss of consciousness or state of confusion immediately after the injury took place, and a sense of depression or anxiety afterwards. More severe cases can have the same symptoms, but they will be much more profound. There can also be slurred speech, difficulty waking up, and a loss of coordination or feeling of numbness or weakness in the extremities. Seizures are not uncommon in cases of moderate or severe brain injury, and the eyes may be dilated. There may also be other indications that something is wrong, including vomiting, combative behavior, or fluids draining from the orifices.
What to do if Someone You Love has Suffered Brain Damage at Sea
Seamen and those who work offshore are protected by special rules of law referred to as maritime law, and there are attorneys who specialize in their practice. If someone you love has suffered brain damage while at sea, it is essential that you consult with one of these experts for their professional opinion on whether you are entitled to compensation and care for your loved one. The attorneys at our law firm have the knowledge, resources, and expertise to help you through this difficult time. Let us help you today by calling for a consultation.
When one thinks about all the possible dangers of working offshore, the images that come to mind either run to watery accidents – particularly falling overboard – or accidents that occur in conjunction with the heavy and complicated equipment that is found onboard most ships. These are certainly common causes of injury and death on ships, but burns also occur with high frequency. Shipboard workers come into constant contact with materials and equipment that operates at a very high temperature, putting them at risk of contact burns.
Much of the work that is done is in close proximity to generators that emit great bursts of steam, other pieces of equipment are electrical in nature and the risk of electrical burns is high, and the ships can both transport and work with chemicals that can cause devastating chemical burns. And don’t forget the fact that a seaman is working in the relentless sun; sunburns that happen at sea are not like those that happen at the beach or a day in the park; combine sun with salt water and the results can be painful and even debilitating.
Severity of Burns
Regardless of what the source of a burn is, medical professionals who are diagnosing a burn classify burns into four different levels, ranging from first degree to fourth degree. A first degree burn is the type of burn that most people are familiar with. Like a minor burn you would get in the kitchen or even from a day in the sun, they leave the skin red and cause minor discomfort. A second degree burn is more painful – the damage caused by a second degree burn extends deeper than a first degree burn, andf the body reacts by producing serum, seen as clear blisters, to try to heal both the epidermis and the dermis. A third degree burn is a very serious burn. It will appear both red and white and the blisters that are created will be bloody; third degree burns go deep and extend through all of the layers of the dermis. Fourth degree burns are burns that are so bad that they are often black, and they entail not just the skin and its underlying layers, but can also extend into tissue and even into bone.
Burns are considered to be extremely dangerous and cause for serious concern, particularly if they cover a large area of the body or if they cover the hands and feet, face, groin, or a major joint. Chemical and electrical burns as well as third and fourth degree burns require immediate medical attention as nerve damage may be present and the risk of infection is very high. Particular concern is required when the person who has burned is having difficulty breathing. Burns can cause scars that are both unsightly and painful, and deep burns can have a long term impact on the bones and joints.
Treatment of Burns
Though a first degree burn caused by exposure to the sun or a hot surface generally only requires minor first aid treatment, most of the burn injuries that are incurred on a ship tend to be far more serious, and are generally caused by accidental exposure to fire, extremely hot surfaces, chemicals or other caustic substances, or even an explosion. When a burn is deep, or covers an large area of the body, it is essential that the injured person receives medical attention immediately. Their blood volume may drop due to the fact that burns impact blood vessels, and this can have a serious impact on the heart; body temperature may drop dangerously low as it is the skin which controls the temperature of the body. Shock is also a big concern in burn cases.
Ship Responsibility for Burns
In most cases, ships may have sick bays, but they are generally not equipped to provide the kind of medical attention that is needed for a serious burn, and it is the responsibility of the ship’s owners and the supervisors on board the ship who work on their behalf to ensure that an injured seaman is transported to a place where they can be treated as quickly as possible. Because ships are often located so far from land, this can often prove to be challenging. Not only does your employer need to take responsibility for your transport, but also for your medical care, any rehabilitation you may need, and other expenses and damages that you may incur.
There are special laws that have been written specifically for the protection of seamen, and if you have been burned while working on a ship, it is essential that you get legal advice from someone who is extremely well versed in these maritime laws. The attorneys at our law firm have worked tirelessly on behalf of injured seamen, and are able to provide you with the information that you need about your rights and the best way for you to proceed. Contact us today.
Concussions are a type of injury to the brain that can be the result of a fall or a blow to the head. You can also get a concussion when you are shaken violently, as may be the case in an accident. Given the wide range of activities and risks that are involved with working on a ship or offshore, it comes as no surprise that concussions happen with such frequency. Unfortunately, concussions often go undiagnosed. Sometimes this is because of the worker himself; if a person doesn’t realize the serious implications of their accident and doesn’t realize that it may have caused a concussion, they may go ahead with their normal activities.
The fault may also lie with the workers’ employer, who may or may not realize that the worker is at risk for concussion. Negligent or unethical employers may insist that a worker go back to work after suffering a head injury, but doing so puts the worker at great risk. Concussions that go undiagnosed and untreated can lead to greater damage in the future; even when they are diagnosed and treated immediately, concussions can have life-changing ramifications.
What is a Concussion?
To understand how serious a concussion can be, it is important to understand exactly what it is. Imagine your brain as a relatively flexible bit of goop – kind of like play-doh, that can hold its own shape but also can be molded or misshapen by pressure. Imagine that play-doh in a can that is slightly larger than its mass, with liquid protecting it from sloshing against the walls.
When you suffer a blow to the head, or are shaken violently by a fall or an accident, your brain gets rocked back and forth inside your skull. If that motion is too hard, the impact causes your brain to swell, or even to bleed. When this happens, the immediate symptoms can include confusion, sleepiness, or vomiting. Sometimes these symptoms don’t develop for a while after the injury takes place – this is why it is so important for proper medical monitoring to take place following a head injury. It is also why concussions that take place on board a ship, which may be located a few days’ travel from appropriate medical care, can be so dangerous.
When Concussions Occur Offshore
If you work on a ship and suffer a head injury or fall, or have been jostled by an accident between vessels, it is important that you report your injury to your supervisor immediately. It can be very dangerous for you to continue your normal activities following a head injury, and your supervisor should allow you to rest, as well as to seek appropriate medical attention. Failure to do so can represent negligence on their part, and can put you at risk.
Long Term Impact of Concussion
Although some concussions are relatively mild, and the injury and impact on the body resolve themselves in a short amount of time, there is a growing body of evidence that indicates that once the brain has sustained a concussion it is never exactly the same as it was before the injury occurred, particularly if the person has suffered more than one concussion – a possibility that is not unlikely when working in a risk-laden environment such as a ship. People who have had concussions have twice the chance of developing the seizure condition known as epilepsy within five years of sustaining the injury, and those who have had multiple concussions exhibit signs of declining brain function as they age.
What to do if you have suffered a Concussion on Board a Ship?
If you have suffered a head injury while on board a ship, or have experienced any of the symptoms of a concussion after being onboard a ship that suffered some kind of accident, it is essential that you report the injury to your supervisor and get yourself to a medical professional as quickly as possible. You are not required to see the ship’s doctor, and have the right to see a physician of your own choosing. Don’t allow yourself to be pressured into going back to work or to sign any papers or make any statements about your injury or the events leading up to it.
You have specific rights as a worker on a ship that fall under a specialized area of law known as maritime laws, and though other attorneys may offer their help, only an experienced maritime lawyer will be able to provide you with the expert advice that will assure you of the best outcome. Having represented hundreds of injured maritime workers, the experienced maritime attorneys at our law firm know how to protect your rights. Contact us today for a free, no-obligation consultation.
If you have been injured offshore, there are specific laws that have been put in place to protect your rights. Here are some frequently asked questions to help you understand how best to help yourself:
Q: I was injured offshore. What is the first thing I should do?
A: The very first thing you should always do in the case of an offshore injury is make sure that the right people know about your injury. Your supervisor should write up an accident report, and you need to check it carefully to make sure that all the details have been included and that everything is correct. It is especially important that somebody in authority knows about your injury if it was caused by unsafe conditions onboard the vessel, as you want to make sure that nobody else is hurt after you. You may be asked to provide a recorded statement or to continue working after you’ve been injured – do neither. Working while injured could exacerbate your injury, and providing a statement could end up hurting your legal standing: do not sign anything without first contacting and seeking the advice of an experience maritime injury law attorney who will act as your advocate.
Q: People saw my accident. Should I ask them for help?
A: If there were witnesses to your accident, it is very important that you get their contact information and ask them to write down exactly what they saw and know about your accident, including anything about the environment that might have played a part in what happened.
Q: I think I need a doctor, but I don’t know who to see?
A: If you’ve been injured it is important for you to get medical treatment. If your supervisor hasn’t suggested that you see a doctor tell him that you want to, and that you want to see your own doctor. One of the mistakes that is often made by those who suffer an offshore injury is to accept treatment from the company’s doctor. These medical professionals are in the company’s employ, and it is in their best interest to minimize your injury and try to get you back to work. Likewise, the company will often offer the assistance of a rehab nurse or some other type of assistance. Though the offers may seem compassionate, these professionals are often there to gather information that can be used against you. It is in your best interest to graciously refuse the offers and seek professional help on your own.
Q: I was injured offshore, but I haven’t been able to file a claim. How long do I have?
A: Whenever you are dealing with a legal claim you have to keep the statute of limitations in mind – a statute of limitations is the amount of time that you have in which to file a legal claim for damages. When filing a Jones Act claim, you have three years from the time that you were injured in which to act. The same is true if you are filing an action against the owner of a vessel for actions of unseaworthiness. But you can’t count on having this much time – sometimes there are mitigating factors that shorten the time frame to as little as one year. Seeking the advice of an experienced maritime injury law attorney as quickly as possible after an injury occurs will provide you with the greatest flexibility in your actions, and will protect you from the possibility of being barred from filing by the expiration of a statute of limitations.
Q: If I file a maritime injury case, how much am I going to get in damages? How long will it take?
A: There is no easy and straightforward answer to your question because there are so many variables involved. Much depends upon whether your claim is for a Jones Act violation, Longshore and Harbor Workers Act violation or if it falls under the category of general maritime law. The amount of a settlement varies greatly depending upon the extent of your injury, but generally speaking, Jones Act cases are compensated at a higher level, but the best way to determine the value of your particular case is to speak with a maritime law attorney and get their expert opinion and counsel.
Filing a claim for a maritime injury is far different from almost any other type of injury claim because the specifics of the Jones Act are so particular. It is essential that you seek the opinion of an attorney who is not only knowledgeable about this type of law but who is also familiar with the traps that maritime injury victims can often fall into at the hands of wily employers and vessel owners who are only looking out for their own best interest, not yours. Whether you are wondering whether to sign a document or who to see for medical care, nobody can provide you with the expert advice that a maritime injury law attorney can.
It is almost difficult to believe that seamen are still the victims of drowning accidents today – between improved technology, the knowledge of the need for safety, improved personal safety devices, and training, one would think that injury or death by drowning would happen infrequently, or perhaps not at all. But in fact, drowning is a frightening fact of life for those who work offshore and onboard ships, as well as for their families who worry about them back at home, on dry land. Drowning accidents can happen for a number of reasons and in a number of different ways, on board all kinds of ships and vessels, but whatever the cause or circumstance, it is important for those who have been injured in a drowning incident or who have lost seamen to drowning know that there are special benefits that are provided for their protection and care.
The Different Ways that Drowning Accidents Can Occur
Though there are as many different ways that an individual accident can happen as there are employees on a ship, there are several drowning accidents that occur most frequently. They are:
• Falling off of the gangway
The gangway is the most common way for seamen and others to transfer on and off of a ship when it is in port. The gangway is a long passageway or ramp that goes from the dry land onto the boat, but if it is not properly equipped with handrails, if it is not flush with the ship deck or the dock,or if it is in some other type of disrepair, accidents can happen and people can fall into the water. It is the responsibility of the ship owner to ensure that a gangway provides safe passage.
• Climbing onboard a boat that has no passage
Some boats are not equipped with gangways, and their crew is required to climb over the side rail in order to board or disembark. Often this has to be done over tires that serve as bumpers for the boat. If a vessel worker slips, they can easily fall into the water.
• Swing Rope Accidents
All too frequently, seamen fall from the swing ropes that are used to transfer from one vessel to another, or from a ship to a platform or deck. These ropes are knotted and are not supposed to be used by those who are not wearing well-secured personal safety devices or without adequate help – they are also not supposed to be used while workers are carrying heavy bags or are in some other way weighted down. But if there is rough weather or a ship is not adequately staffed, or an employer inadequately concerned, accidents can happen and workers can fall or strike the side of a boat and fall.
• Personnel Basket Accidents
Similar to the swing rope, the personnel basket is a way of transferring workers on and off the ship that runs a high risk of injury.
• Being Swept Overboard by a Wave or Rough Weather
All too frequently, workers who are required to be on deck during rough seas can be swept overboard or even blown over by high winds. If railings are not high enough and decks are wet, workers can easily be swept off a boat without anybody knowing, and those same high winds and rough seas prevent their cries for help from being heard.
• Knocked overboard by Heavy or Mishandled Equipment
If heavy equipment comes loose, or if a crane or winch that is swinging free knocks into somebody on the deck, they can easily be knocked overboard and drown.
Working onboard a ship is a dangerous occupation, and no matter how careful you are as a worker or your loved one is, the risk of drowning is very high. It is precisely because of the risks involved in working at sea that maritime law was established in the first place – lawmakers wanted to make certain that workers who were injured or disabled as a result of a drowning incident, or the families of those who are killed by drowning, are well taken care of for their sacrifice. Unfortunately, unscrupulous employers are often at fault for these accidents – they try to cut costs by skimping on safety precautions or by putting the employees into exhausting and challenging conditions in the name of maximizing profit without taking proper consideration of the value of the lives of those who are working for them.
If you or a loved one has been the victim of a drowning accident and you are not certain about where to turn for help, the experienced maritime attorneys at our law firm will be able to offer you their assessment of what your rights are and what the responsibilities of your employer are to you and your family.
Drill ships are a relative late comer to the world of oceangoing vessels. They look just like ships and are able to travel all around the world under their own power, but they are outfitted to allow them to act in the same way as oil platforms, drilling for gas, oil and other purposes at deep and ultra deep depths of 2,000 feet to over 10,000 feet deep.
How do Drill Ships Work?
Drill ships were first developed in the first half of the 20th century and were used off of the California coast. The first attempt at outfitting a regular ocean-going vessel was created in the 1940s by using a Navy boat that was outfitted with drilling equipment. Though the first drill ship required some additional fixes to its engineering, the idea was so popular that others were ordered to be constructed shortly thereafter, and were made with onboard derricks. Despite the fact that drill ships are a relatively new creation there are already dozens working around the world, and that number is expected to increase to over eighty in the next year or two.
The reason that drill ships have become so popular is that they are able to do everything that an offshore drilling platform is able to do in terms of oil and natural gas exploration in addition to scientific drilling exploration, but they are also able to leave a site once it is finished and go anywhere that any other ocean-going vessel is able to go under its own power. Oil drilling platforms generally have to be towed out to the location where they will be employed, and are then considered stationary.
What this means for the oil and gas industry, or for any other industry that employs drilling equipment, is that the vessel can be deployed for any number of different operations; it can do actual drilling and exploration, or it can be sent out to do maintenance on an existing well. Drill ships are frequently used for installing necessary tubing or for other parts, although they are also capable of performing all of the functions of a full oil platform. The reason that drill ships are able to do this is that they are equipped with special systems that allow them to position themselves dynamically over an oil well or drilling site; where oil drilling platforms establish themselves in a semi-permanent way, drill ships lower risers from the surface to the sea bed and are able to connect blowout preventers near the wellhead on their own.
They generally have their own helipads for receiving new supplies or for switching out staff, and are able to moor themselves either through the use of multiple anchors or by specialized positioning equipment. Although oil platforms have stability because of their underwater platforms, drill ships are equipped with dynamic positioning systems that allow them to function despite wind and waves.
The Dangerous Side of Working on a Drill Ship
Despite the fact that drill ships are among the most modern and technologically advantaged of commercial seagoing vessels, they are still a dangerous place to be employed. Drill ships travel through high seas and are vulnerable to all of the dangers that any seagoing vessel faces, including high winds and rough seas. Accidents can happen on board a drill ship whether it is actually in the process of working a drilling operation or while it is traveling. This means that crew members are vulnerable to falls and slips, the mismanagement of any of the highly technical or heavy equipment that is on board, and even being tossed overboard.
Decks need to be kept free of spills and debris and proper safety precautions need to be taken at all times. There is also the constant danger that exists whenever working with combustible materials such as oil and gas, both of which a drill ship is often in contact with.
Who Works on Board a Drill Ship?
Drip ships are specialized vehicles but they still operate with the same type of personnel as other ocean-going vessels. In addition to the seamen who are responsible for the operation and sailing of the ship itself, a drill ship employs drillers and floor hands, cooks and others who work in the galley to make certain that those who operate the ship are fed and well taken care off. If any of these employees are injured while on board the drill ship they are entitled to benefits under various maritime laws, and if any of the injuries occur as a result of negligence on the part of the vessel’s owner, or the unseaworthiness of the vessel itself, they are eligible to file a claim under the Jones Act.
If you have been injured while working on board a drill ship, it is essential that you reach out to a maritime attorney as quickly as possible after the injury occurs so that you can ensure that your medical expenses are properly addressed and taken care of by your employer and you are able to collect on the maximum benefits to which you are entitled under the law.
There are a wide variety of accidents that can take place that can injure the head of an employee on an offshore or seagoing vessel, and many of them can be devastating, life-changing events. Serious head injuries can result in your ability to see, hear, eat, smell or think, depending upon exactly what type of injury you have suffered, but in all cases it is important that you first get immediate medical attention, and second make certain that you have the most qualified attorneys on your side to represent you against the powerful maritime companies. Maritime attorneys specialize in the practice of maritime law, a special area of laws that were written and passed specifically for the protection of workers on board offshore and seagoing vessels from unscrupulous employers.
Head injuries that occur on board a ship are entitled to different types of treatment and compensation than those that occur on land, and no matter how good an attorney may be or how many cases they may have won, if they do not have specific knowledge of maritime law and the methods that vessel owners and their insurance companies use to avoid making payments to their injured employees, you risk losing what you are entitled to. There are several different types of head injuries that frequently befall workers on board ships; if you suffered a head injury and have any of the symptoms below, be certain to alert your supervisor so that an incident report can be filed and they get you immediate medical help, and contact the qualified maritime attorneys at our law firm in order to ensure that you have the best possible advocates on your side.
Symptoms of Serious Head Injuries
• Slurred or unclear speech
• Inability to focus eyes, or dilated pupils
• Unable to use an arm or a leg
• Seizure or trembling
• Extreme confusion and inability to recognize people
• Extremely painful headache
• Severe bleeding of the face, through the nose, ears or eyes
• Blacking out
• Bruising below the eyes or around the skull, under or behind the ears
Treatment of Head Injuries
Head injuries can be minor, but they can also lead to traumatic brain injury. If a head injury has occurred to you or someone that you love, the first and most important thing that must happen is that they are transported to a medical facility that is able to run the appropriate diagnostic tests, including a CT scan, in order to determine the extent of the injury. Because shipboard medical facilities do not have this type of equipment or level of sophistication or personnel on board, it is imperative that the ship’s management provide you with immediate transportation to skilled professionals who are able to treat you. Do not allow your supervisor to convince you that you should wait – medical treatment of a head injury should never be delayed, and if your employer has attempted to convince you to wait that is very important for your maritime attorney to know.
Long Term Impact of Head Injuries
A serious head injury can result in long term impacts that leave you unable to work or function in the same way that you have in the past. You may require surgery to repair damage that has been done to your brain structurally, or you may require rehabilitation to help you return to the highest level of function that is possible for you. All of these services cost money, and as a seaman you are entitled to receive compensation if your injury is a result of the negligence of your employer or the unseaworthiness of the vessel that you were working on.
Whether your head injury was the result of a fall, improperly maintained or operated equipment, a mistake by a fellow employee or anything else, do not let your employer or supervisor convince you that your injury was somehow your fault or that you aren’t entitled to help; there are many unscrupulous maritime companies who will try to offer you settlements that are far lower than what you are entitled to, or who will try to blame you when the responsibility is theirs for your accident. This is why it is so important that you avail yourself of the resources and expertise that can only be gotten by working with an experienced and well-trained maritime attorney. Maritime law is highly specific and is an area of law that is largely unfamiliar to attorneys who don’t specialize in it.
By consulting with a maritime attorney from our law firm you can be confident that what happened to you will be handled by a skilled firm with the resources and familiarity that is required in order to make sure that you receive all of the compensation and care that you are entitled to under the Jones Act and other maritime laws.
Maritime law are special laws and statutes of the United States that were written specifically to cover activities taking place on the ocean or any waterway that can be navigated. Though the laws, which are also referred to as admiralty laws, are extensive, the area that is probably of the most importance to the common man are those that are written for the protection of the people who work on board the ships.
Maritime laws are overseen by federal law, and among other important things that it covers are the rules that say that workers who are injured offshore must be taken care of, and if a worker is killed offshore it is the responsibility of the ship owner to reimburse their family. Although these laws are clear cut, ship owners and operators work hard to avoid their responsibility and circumvent the law.
That is why it is so important that if you or a loved one is hurt while working offshore you immediately contact an experienced maritime attorney. Only a lawyer who is well-versed in maritime law will be able to ensure that you get everything that you are entitled to and to protect you from the maritime company’s attorneys.
Different Maritime Laws
There are several different laws that have been written specifically for the protection of offshore workers and seamen, and each addresses a different type of worker or type of injury. The different maritime laws are:
General Maritime Law, or Maintenance and Cure
One of the most basic rights afforded to those who work at sea is the basic maritime law of maintenance and cure. What this means is that if you are hurt while working at sea, the company that you work for has the responsibility of taking care of you. This means providing you with the cost of room and board, medical expenses, and the cost of hospitalization or whatever is needed to rehabilitate you until you are ready to return to the vessel.
The Jones Act was written to protect and provide for injured seamen or seamen who are killed on board all kinds of vessels. The Act specifically addresses those cases where the injury or death was caused by the negligence of another person on board the ship or the ship’s owner. In order to file a Jones Act you must be able to prove that the accident was caused either because of a mistake or an act of negligence, or because the ship was not seaworthy, had some kind of mechanical error or was not properly maintained.
These fault areas can include the fact that a ship’s crew was improperly trained. The Jones Act not only provides coverage for all expenses related to the injury, but can also extend to cover damages. If you are killed as a result of a Jones Act violation your family is able to sue for damages on their own behalf.
Longshore and Harborworker’s Compensation Act
This act is written specifically for those who are not seamen but who are injured while working on board a ship. This would cover those harbor workers who load and offload a ship before it sails, or any worker hurt or injured while working on navigable workers in the United States. It is another form of workers’ compensation, but it is written for those who are specifically working on vessels, in large part because they are such dangerous places to work. It provides compensation for injuries and illnesses as well as pay when you are unable to work.
Death on the High Seas Act
This law was written specifically for the benefit of the families of workers who are killed on board U.S. ships while they are in international waters. It enables widows and survivors to recover compensation and benefits from ship owners when their loved ones are killed due to either negligence or unseaworthiness of the vessel that they were working on.
Unfortunately, despite the fact that these laws represent the basics of human care and responsibility, many of the world’s biggest companies and ship owners go to extreme efforts to avoid having to pay for the injuries or maintenance of the workers who were hurt while in their employ, or to admit to their own liability when an accident happens as a result of their own negligence.
Because maritime law is so specialized and the owners of the shipping companies are so intent on going around the law, it is essential that seamen who are injured while onboard their vessel are aware of their rights and do whatever is necessary to protect them. The best way to ensure that you will get everything that you are entitled to is to reach out to a qualified maritime lawyer at our law firm. As one of the country’s leading maritime law firms, we will be able to advise you on your best course of action and make sure that you get everything that you are entitled to.
The Jones Act is an important section of the Merchant Marine Act of 1920, a federal law that covers all aspects of commerce in United States waters and ports. The Jones Act specifically addresses two important issues: cabotage, which is defined as the transport of goods between two different ports within the same country, and the assurance that seamen working on vessels are provided the opportunity to seek damages from the owner of the ship that they are working on if they are injured as a result of negligence or unseaworthiness of the vessel.
This was a very important law, as the risk of injury onboard a ship has always been very high, and prior to the law being passed, shipboard workers were at the mercy of their employers. As a result of the Jones Act being enacted, the conditions that American workers on board seagoing vessels found themselves improved dramatically, and far surpassed those of workers on international vessels.
What does the Jones Act do for those who work at Sea?
The Jones Act was enacted to provide important protections that had previously been absent for those who work at sea. Those protections provide the ability for a worker at sea or offshore to be compensated and cared for in the instance of any shipboard injury where negligence on the part of the ship owner is involved, even though they were aware that the job they were doing carried high risk. The Jones Act enables injured workers to sue their employer if those benefits are not provided and if medical care is not provided quickly. Seamen are also able to sue if their injury was in any way caused by unseaworthiness of the vehicle on which they work.
What is Seaworthiness?
Most people think that a vessel is considered to be seaworthy if it is able to get from one place to another successfully, but the legal definition of seaworthiness includes the need to make sure that the ship is properly outfitted with all the necessary equipment not only to do the job that it is on, but also to do it safely and protect the workers onboard. Seaworthiness extends to the need for a ship to be a safe and secure place for the workers to eat and live in addition to working, and a ship can be considered unseaworthy even if it was seaworthy when it leaves port but is damaged while en route.
What is Maintenance and Cure?
Maintenance and cure is an old-fashioned term that refers to the absolute right that ship employees have to compensation and medical treatment in the case of an injury. Maintenance refers to a stipend that is to be given to an injured worker to help him pay for his daily maintenance while he is unable to work. It is similar to workers compensation, and though the amount that is provided by statute is very low, some employers pay more. Cure goes to medical treatment, including any and all medical care that is needed to help an injured seaman to get to the best physical condition that is possible based on their injuries.
Cure can include acute care like hospitalization and rehabilitation care. The obligation for cure stops when the seaman reaches the maximum of their potential following the injury, even if they are not able to return to their job. The obligation for maintenance and cure is separate and apart from the ability of the seaman to sue their employer under the Jones Act.
What You Need to Know
Despite the fact that laws such as the Jones Act, which are aimed at protecting seamen, have been in place for almost 100 years, many maritime companies will still attempt to act to subvert the rights of an injured seaman. It is rare that a vessel owner will notify an injured employee of their rights under the Jones Act; instead, they often try to get an injured worker to sign off on papers or give statements that may be used against the seaman’s claims in the future. Because of this, it is essential that if you are injured on the job while offshore or at sea, you do not sign any papers or provide any statements. You should always notify your supervisor of your injury right away, try to collect statements from any witnesses about both your injury and how it happened and what conditions were onboard the ship at the time, make certain that you have the contact information of those who witnessed your accident, and most importantly, get in touch with a qualified, experienced maritime attorney as quickly as possible.
Though there are many attorneys who may offer their services, only a maritime lawyer has the specific knowledge and experience that can provide you the protection that you need and can get you the maximum benefits and damages from your injury.
Of all of the injuries that can occur on board a ship, the one that is most likely to occur is laceration. Lacerations are cuts in the skin where the tissue is separated – they are different from abrasions, which is where the surface of the skin is scraped. When you have a laceration, the connective tissue is actually separated. It is usually caused by some kind of sharp object. Just as lacerations can occur on dry land for a variety of reasons, they can happen on board a ship very easily. Lacerations are the most common reason for seamen to seek medical help onboard ship.
In addition to concerns about the wound itself, shipboard lacerations are often vulnerable to serious infections which are beyond the scope or capabilities of the ship’s medical staff. When an injury involving a serious puncture or cut occurs onboard a ship, immediate medical attention is essential, but every seaman has the right to seek further medical assistance beyond the scope of what is offered to them onboard. Additionally, there are special laws that have been established to ensure that if your injury results in any time needing to be taken off of work, or if you become incapacitated and need to be seen at a hospital, go through rehabilitation, or if you are permanently disabled as a result of a laceration, maritime law enables you to do so without fear and with full compensation.
Types of Lacerations
Because seamen work with heavy equipment and around sharp implements, many lacerations can occur as a matter of that equipment being mishandled or people not paying proper attention. They can also occur as a result of a malfunction of the equipment, as a result of a fall, and even as a result of fights or bites. There are many different types of lacerations, and they all require medical attention.
• Cuts are the simplest and most basic form of laceration – no skin is missing, and it is usually caused by some kind of sharp object such as glass or a blade of some kind. A cut is generally very clean and straight.
• A laceration is generally a bit more serious than a cut, and has a jagged edge that has more of a torn appearance. Lacerations are generally caused by some kind of blow or trauma.
• A gash is a term used to describe a laceration or cut that is a bit more serious – a gash is generally longer or deeper than a cut or laceration.
• An avulsion is a cut or laceration where flesh has actually been torn away.
In all of these cases, a wound is formed that bleeds and is vulnerable to infection, so it is important that proper care be provided to ensure that pain is minimized, scarring is prevented and so that medical professionals can be certain that no serious damage has been done to the tissue that lies below the injury. It is essential that prior to boarding a ship, all seamen are either certified as having had a vaccination against tetanus or that they are provided with a tetanus shot to prevent serious illness in the case of injury, and that if injury does occur, appropriate medical care is provided as quickly as possible.
What to do if you suffer a Laceration while on a Ship
Because there are so many different kinds of lacerations, it is nearly impossible for the medical crew onboard a ship to be able to handle all of them; additionally, because the environment onboard ships is so rife with contamination, it should be assumed that infection is likely to happen. Because of this it is essential that a seaman who is injured offshore on onboard a boat of any kind notify his supervisor of the injury immediately so that an accident report can be filed and so that proper procedures can be followed to ensure that appropriate medical care is provided.
Do not allow your supervisor or any representatives of the company that you work for to convince you that you are not badly hurt or that you should return to work if you do not think that you should, and be sure to consult a qualified maritime attorney about what your rights are if you have suffered a serious injury while working on board a ship. Depending upon the circumstances of your injury, you may be entitled to compensation for any damages that you incur, and you are certainly covered by laws that provide you with compensation for your medical care.
The experienced attorneys at our law firm are qualified to listen to the particulars of your case, what led to your injury and how badly you were hurt, and give you expert advice on your rights under maritime law. Only a qualified maritime attorney will know the ins and outs of how these laws apply to you, so be sure to avail yourself of their services.