The ocean is the most dangerous workplace on the planet. US maritime industries are found in nearly every state, employing more than 400,000 workers across the nation. Maritime workers find employment in a variety of fields such as, shipyards, marine terminals, fishing, aquaculture, seafood processing, commercial diving, and marine transportation. According to the Centers for Disease Control, maritime workers face a higher risk of fatality, injury, and illness than the average American worker.
From slips and falls to equipment failures, collisions, fires, and unsafe work practices and negligence, offshore injuries usually require costly medical care — sometimes long-term. Catastrophic injuries can mean an injured worker who relies on his or her physical ability may not be able to return to work. This can be devastating for families, particularly if the worker is the sole breadwinner and can no longer earn a living.
Offshore injuries are covered by laws that are different from those that apply to land-based workers. If you or someone you love has been injured or fallen ill while working offshore, we encourage you to get in touch with an experienced offshore injury attorney at Montagna Maritime Law as soon as possible to request your free case evaluation.
TYPES OF OFFSHORE INJURIES
When an offshore worker takes on employment in the maritime industry, it’s understood the job is physically demanding and comes with inherent risks that are far more dangerous compared to land-based work. Injuries are common and range from the very minor to the horrific, and even death. In many cases, minor injuries can become much more significant over time.
Some of the most common types of offshore injuries include:
- Traumatic brain injury – TBIs can be sustained in any number of ways. Offshore workers are consistently putting themselves in construction and industrial-like environments. A blow to the head from a slip or fall, or being struck by a swinging or unsecured cargo, can cause traumatic brain injury. This can result in permanent cognitive or personality changes.
- Spinal and back injuries – Operating equipment, carrying heavy loads, and hard labor can be back-breaking work, requiring many hours of standing, lifting, twisting, and pulling. Offshore workers can sustain injuries from falls or being struck by vehicles or unstable loads. A back or neck injury can result in chronic pain, limited mobility, and in the most severe cases can result in paraplegia or quadriplegia. Even when medical attention is administered promptly, there can be long term disabilities associated with spinal and back injuries.
- Slips and falls – Injuries experienced in slips and falls are among the most common — and can be serious. Accidents caused by slips and falls can result in concussions and contusions to broken bones. In some cases, slipping on the deck of a ship or platform can send you overboard, which immediately escalates into a very hazardous situation.
- Loss of hearing – If hearing protection is not provided or mandated, it’s possible that over time, workers will be exposed to enough significant noise to diminish their hearing. In some cases, where work environments are loud enough, tinnitus or total hearing loss can develop.
- Loss of limbs – Inadvertently walking into the path of a truck or forklift, working with cables under tensions, or getting a leg caught and crushed beneath unsteady cargo like coils, pipes, plates, and tires can lead to injuries requiring amputation. The loss of a limb is a life-changing injury and often requires a prosthetic.
- Crushing injuries and broken bones – Offshore work usually entails a significant reliance on heavy machinery, either for construction or for day-to-day work. Injuries can often occur when this machinery breaks down or when safety procedures are not followed. These injuries often result in broken or crushed bones. Crushing injuries can also result in damage to internal organs and create life-threatening situations.
- Hypothermia and frostbite – Offshore and maritime employees often work in extreme environments and at all times of the day and night. This means that offshore workers are often exposed to extremely cold conditions, which can cause hypothermia or frostbite. These dangers are exacerbated by exposure to the water, either through harsh conditions or a fall overboard.
- Drowning – A fall overboard can quickly escalate into a life-threatening injury, especially if recovery is not immediate. Additionally, hypothermia can become an issue even in relatively warm waters.
- Lung damage – When safety procedures are not followed or not enforced, or when accidents cause spills, workers can suffer serious chemical injuries. When these chemicals are inhaled, severe and long term lung damage can occur. In certain cases, exposure to high quantities of these chemicals can become immediately life-threatening. In other cases, smaller exposures can result in smaller injuries that can become chronic or cumulative.
- Fatalities – Each year, offshore workers tragically die in accidents along the East Coast of the United States. If you have lost a loved one who died as a result of an accident or negligence, you have a right to seek damages for their death.
CLAIMING COMPENSATION FOR OFFSHORE INJURIES
A serious injury offshore can be life-altering, especially if it’s classified as catastrophic. Depending on the severity of your injuries and the circumstances that contributed to them, you may be entitled to compensation for:
- Lost earnings – A claim for lost wages can be very important for injured offshore workers and their families. If you are no longer able to work because of your injury, you can seek damages for the earnings you have lost, are losing, and will lose as a result of your injury.
- Medical expenses – If you’ve suffered a serious injury offshore, there’s every chance your medical bills are piling up. You may be able to claim present expenses as well as anticipated future medical expenses. Claims may include costs for surgery, rehabilitation, physical therapy, mental health care, and transportation costs for receiving treatment.
- Pain and suffering – This can be broken down into physical and mental pain and suffering: The pain of your actual physical injuries, as well as the pain and suffering from scarring, disfigurement, and ongoing complications; and the mental pain and suffering, including mental anguish, stress, anxiety, and loss of enjoyment of life.
Additionally, if you qualify as a Jones Act seaman you are entitled to Maintenance and Cure, which is a basic right of all seamen. If you’ve suffered a work-related injury, your employer must pay your general living expenses (maintenance) and medical expenses (cure) while you are out of work recovering.
Offshore workers who do not meet the definition of “seaman” may qualify for benefits under a different federal law, the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act (LHWCA).
In the most severe cases, offshore injuries can lead to death. Workers’ families may be entitled to compensation through a wrongful death claim against the responsible party.
CHOOSING THE RIGHT OFFSHORE INJURY ATTORNEY
If you’ve been injured in an offshore accident, it’s critical that you have an experienced maritime or offshore injury lawyer by your side who can fight aggressively for your legal rights. Maritime attorneys are skilled litigators who understand federal and state maritime laws and international agreements, and have sound judgment when it comes to helping you win your case and getting you the maximum compensation you deserve for your injuries.
Maritime law is a highly skilled and specialized area of law and there aren’t many attorneys who practice in the field as effectively as the attorneys at Montagna Maritime Law. Contact us today for your free case evaluation to discuss your legal options with an experienced maritime attorney, at no up front cost