Maritime accidents commonly result from the negligence of the captain or crew. Sometimes they’re triggered by bad weather. Often they involve serious injuries, illness and even death. The causes of the accidents are as varied as the vessels they occur on. Maritime workers who are injured on the job are protected by admiralty law and the Jones Act. These laws provide medical testing, treatment, rehabilitation, room and board and lost wages to injured workers. Maritime law also covers personal injury suffered by passengers; this is known as duty of reasonable care.
The American maritime industry has evolved from simple sea trade to a complex network of ocean highways and waterways. It involves transporting billions in consumer goods to customers around the country and across the globe. The Maritime Industry Foundation reports there are currently around 1.2 million people employed in the industry. While that’s great news for our economy, it also presents 1.2 million opportunities for a worker to be hurt on the job.
Latest Maritime Accident Reports
Since 1996, The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has been responsible for coordinating federal assistance to victims and their families of maritime and aviation accidents. When a major accident occurs, such as an oil platform explosion, engine room fire or sinking vessel, the NTSB launches an investigation and publishes its findings on their website.
If you or a loved one is involved in a major maritime accident, you can use the findings of the NTSB report to support your personal injury claim.
Common Offshore Vessel Accidents
Vessels are the backbone of the maritime industry. No work can be done on the open sea or along our waterways without them. Vessels come in many shapes and sizes, but they each pose significant injury risks to seamen, longshoremen and passengers.
Tugboats maneuver vessels that cannot move on their own, such as barges or ships stranded in emergency situations. Even though they’re smaller than most boats, they can cause big injuries as a result of collision with other boats, capsizing, slip and falls and mechanical malfunctions.
Cargo ships are massive commercial vessels used to carry bulk items across the ocean. The weight and size of their containers requires a crane to load and unload goods. Cargo ships pose dangers from equipment malfunction, pinch point injuries, explosions and collisions when tugboat coordination doesn’t go as smoothly as planned.
Cruise liners are roughly the shape and size of cargo vessels, but are used for passengers on pleasure voyages. Flooding, virus outbreak, capsizing, dock accidents and on-shore excursion injuries are covered under maritime law.
Offshore drilling for oil is made possible through the use of these offshore platforms. Due to the hazardous working environment from both the sea and extraction of highly flammable substances, minor and severe accidents are frequent. According to the Centers for Disease Control, the U.S. oil and gas extraction industry has a fatality rate seven times higher than any other occupation.
Oil tankers are classified by their size, and all are responsible for transporting hazardous – and often combustible – materials between refineries and consumer markets. The risks of injury from fire, explosions, onboarding and unloading are similar to those on oil rigs.
Barges are flat-bottomed vessels used to carry freight down canals and rivers. Usually, they are towed by tugboats. Collisions, rigging accidents, falling hazards, pinch point injuries, spinal cord injuries and even death to a crew member are possible while working on a barge.
Charter vessels are used for recreational and commercial fishing. Capsizing, man overboard, slip and fall injuries, and equipment malfunction are common injuries incurred on a charter boat. Accidents typically result from misconduct, negligence or unseaworthiness of the vessel.
Much of the system of navigable waterways that connect our nation’s states were made so through the help of dredging vessels. They excavate sediment through the use of heavy machinery, such as a cutting tool and a crane arm. However, these tools can also cause horrific injuries, such as amputation, paralysis or death.
Ferries are small boats used in passenger and vehicle transport for short distances across the water. Mooring accidents are common, as are slip and falls and injuries related to vessel unseaworthiness.
Crew boats are primarily used to bring fresh supplies and crew members to offshore drilling platforms, jack-up rigs, drilling ships and barges. Rough seas, high winds and bad weather can cause deck accidents while loading and unloading cargo and transferring personnel.
A jack-up rig is a mobile offshore drilling unit that drills the most offshore wells. Injuries on a jack-up rig can be due to machinery and work performed on the platform, or a malfunction or collapse of the unit itself.
Common Types of Maritime Accidents
The following is a list of common injuries sustained by maritime workers:
- Bone fractures, sprains and dislocation
- Slip and fall
- Defective and malfunctioning equipment
- Pinch point injury
- Spinal cord injury
- Herniated disks
- Fall from tall heights
- Falling overboard
- Chemical or fire burns
- Wrongful death
Causes of Maritime Accidents
Sometimes nothing can prevent an accident from happening, especially on the ocean where Mother Nature has control. However, the number one cause of accidents and injuries to workers on vessels is negligence. Improper training, failure to repair broken equipment, overworking seamen, poor navigation, and failing to install no-slip deck surfaces or keep decks free of debris, all contribute to workplace injuries. Accidents caused by negligence on behalf of captain or crew members are covered under the Jones Act.
Maritime Accident Claims
There are four laws and regulations that assure maritime workers who are injured or suffer a work-related illness will be compensated. The exact amount always depends on the severity of the injury or illness, and the incident that caused the accident.
- The Jones Act, also known as the Merchant Marine Act of 1920, can cover costs of medical exams, treatment, rehabilitation and lost wages. It may also provide further compensation depending on the severity of injury.
- The Longshore Harbor and Workers’ Compensation Act covers seamen who are not considered under the Jones Act. This includes harbor and dock workers, ship repairers, ship builders and ship breakers.
- Death on the High Seas Act allows the family of a worker who dies on the job to be compensated when the death results from negligence.
- Maintenance and Cure covers medical benefits and day-to-day living expenses while an injured worker heals.
When you are injured on the job, seek medical attention immediately. Be sure to save any medical reports or receipts of out-of-pocket costs incurred from the injury.
Maritime law does not have a simple workers’ compensation claims process, so it’s in your best interest to secure an attorney experienced in maritime law. Your lawyer can help you understand which maritime law applies to your situation, as well as gather evidence to support your negligence claim.
At Pierce | Skrabanek, we are those lawyers. We’re prepared to help maritime workers receive the compensation that will help them heal and support their families after a workplace injury.
If you’ve been hurt on the job, take action today. Our attorneys want to help you get your life back on track. A consultation is always free and at no obligation to you. Call us today at (832) 690-7000 or email us for a free case evaluation.
When you hire the attorneys of Pierce | Skrabanek, your best interest becomes our top priority.