A seaman serving on a freighter, tanker, or container ship must deal with some of the most hazardous job conditions in the shipping industry. Heavy equipment, massive containers, and treacherous footing can place workers in danger. These conditions can lead to serious injuries, which can put a worker on the shelf for days or weeks at a time, all while medical bills and other expenses pile up.
When a worker sustains an injury aboard a merchant vessel, that worker is entitled to “maintenance and cure” from the employer. Federal law grants that workers who serve on merchant vessels are eligible to receive compensation from the vessel owner for injuries they suffered on the job. Several federal statutes have been put in place to protect injured workers. However, some vessel owners may attempt to deny a worker’s injury claims, or pay them pennies on the dollar for their injuries.
Vessel owners have insurance providers and teams of attorneys on their side. Crew members, who put their health and their lives on the line every day, should know that the law is on their side. The best way that workers can protect their rights is to speak with an experienced maritime injury accident attorney. The attorneys and staff at Simon & O’Rourke have over a quarter-century of experience in handling maritime injury cases.
Causes of Maritime Injuries
Even the most routine daily tasks on maritime vessels can leave workers vulnerable to serious injuries. When conditions on board are less than ideal – which is often the case – the risks increase by a staggering degree.
Some of these conditions can include:
- Slippery decks and ladders
- Shifting loads
- Faulty rigging
- Poorly maintained equipment
- Electrical system failures
- Operator error
- … and much more.
Cargo Ship Accident Injuries
Heavy loads, poor weather conditions, and tight deadlines can lead to accidents aboard cargo vessels. Whether the vessel is a small operator or a large container ship, the margin for error is exceedingly small and the odds of serious injuries are often unbelievably high.
Some of the injuries that cargo ship workers can encounter include:
- Head and neck trauma
- Traumatic brain injury (TBI)
- Spinal cord damage
- Muscle strain
- Crushing injuries
- Internal organ damage
- Broken bones
- Ligament, tendon, and muscle tears
- … and much more
Tanker Vessel Accident Injuries
Tanker vessels make up a sizable portion of all the traffic that moves through the Port of Houston. Tanker crew members must often face hazards above and beyond those encountered by workers on other vessels. These vessels can contain toxic hydrocarbons, such as crude oil, liquefied natural gas, and petroleum by-products. These substances are also often highly flammable, so the risks of fires and explosion are also higher than normal.
In addition to the injuries that crews on cargo ships frequently encounter, some of the injuries that tanker crew members can experience include:
- Lung damage (coughing, pneumonia, etc.)
- Skin rashes
- Carcinogen exposure
- Eye irritation/blindness
- Nervous system damage (seizures, fatigue, etc.)
- Heart problems (arrhythmia, palpitations, etc.)
- … and much more
Maritime Injuries and Workers’ Compensation
When a shore-bound worker suffers an injury on the job, that worker can apply for workers’ compensation through their home state. When a worker on a vessel sustains an injury, the rules are different. Since many large vessels, including tankers, freighters, and container ships, move from one state to another (and, frequently, one nation to another), the state workers’ compensation laws do not apply.
With this in mind, federal lawmakers have instituted protections for crew members aboard these vessels. The Jones Act (LINK) provides protections for workers aboard traditional “blue water” (ocean-going) ships, such as container ships and freighters, as well as “brown-water” (river-going) vessels, such as riverboats and barges.
Grounds for Maritime Accident Injury Lawsuits
Although maritime labor has its share of dangers, vessel owners are still required by law to provide their workers with the safest possible work environment. When vessel owners fail to live up to this obligation, maritime workers who have been injured on the job may be entitled to pursue legal action against their employers.
The major requirement is that the owner provide workers with a “seaworthy” vessel. The Jones Act contains some of the conditions for a vessel to be considered “seaworthy.” These conditions include:
- The vessel can withstand the demands of the weather and sea conditions during the voyage.
- The crew has sufficient training and skill to maintain the vessel.
- The vessel’s equipment is in proper working condition.
- The vessel has adequate safety equipment for all crew members.
- The crew has been trained in safety procedures and emergency situations.
- The crew’s supervisors have sufficient training and experience to get the job done.
If the vessel owner failed to fulfill one or more of these requirements, the worker may have sufficient grounds to file a maritime accident injury lawsuit against their employer.
Compensation Available in Maritime Accident Injury Lawsuits
Workers who pursue legal action against employers can seek monetary damages that can cover expenses related to their injuries.
Economic damages can include:
- Hospital bills
- Doctor’s office visits
- Loss of income
- Loss of future earnings
- Physical/occupational therapy
- Prescription medications
- … and much more.
Non-economic damages can include:
- Pain and suffering
- Emotional/mental anguish
- Loss of consortium
- … and much more
Punitive damages are damage awards that punish the employer for the negligence that led to the worker’s injury. An experienced maritime injury accident lawyer can determine if the case merits pursuing punitive damages against an employer.
Contact A Maritime Accident Injury Attorney Today
If you have been injured while working on a cargo ship, a freighter, or a tanker vessel, you need to protect your rights. The attorneys and staff at Simon & O’Rourke have handled hundreds of cases for injured crew members. Our team stands up to vessel owners and insurance providers to make sure that our clients get the maximum compensation available for their injuries. Contact us today to schedule a FREE, no-obligation consultation session at our office and find out how we can help you.