Maritime Offshore Injuries
Do You Need a Lawyer?

Last Updated: September 14, 2020

The maritime industry tends to be a high-risk working environment where workers are more likely to suffer injuries or accidents then almost any other industry.

Maritime Injury - Know Your Rights

Every worker has the right to the utmost safety that can be allowed and many situations of maritime injury can be prevented with the right training and precautions. 

Although it can be a very financially stable and rewarding career for many, almost every role in the maritime industry comes with some danger. When sailors, seamen, and offshore oil and gas workers head out to sea they can be exposed to a number of dangers including rough weather, harsh sea conditions, careless coworkers and these conditions can frequently lead to injuries and accidents.

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Why do You Need an Offshore Injury Lawyer?

If you have been injured when working offshore, you will likely be entitled to benefits of maintenance and care from your employer. The former deals with living expenses during the recovery period, e.g. bills, rent, etc., whereas the latter covers medical expenses. As might happen, however, your employer or perhaps your employer’s insurance company might look for ways to avoid paying for things you are entitled to, or less than you should receive. So, it’s wise to get maritime injury legal advice if you have suffered an accident. 

Additionally, if you believe the injury was caused by negligence on the part of your employer, then you might be entitled to greater financial compensation. If you believe your injury is a result of negligence, it is a good idea to hire an offshore injury lawyer. Should a loved one have died when working in the maritime industry, compensation for the family may be available through the Death on the High Seas Act. A legal professional specializing in maritime law and injury should be consulted.

Maritime Injury
Maritime Injuries - Dock Workers Longshoremen

Who Needs the Service of a Maritime Injury Attorney?

There are several types of maritime workers who might at some point in their careers seek the advice of a maritime injury lawyer.

1. Seamen

There are numerous risks for seamen. In fact, we could list 100s of injuries and potential hazards, and it would still not scratch the surface of all the dangers. However, common risks to seamen include falling overboard, falling from a height onto the deck or into the hold, being struck by falling objects and moving structures, burns, coming into contact with hazardous or poisonous cargo, cuts and lacerations from ropes and other moving parts of a ship, eye injuries, and fatigue-related injuries. The above list is not exhaustive. 

2. Dock Workers/Longshoremen

Dock workers are at risk of accidents involving heavy containers, which can lead to broken bones, crushing injuries, brain injuries and a wide host of other problems. Lifting heavy items can also cause ailments like strains and back problems. Depending on the nature of work, dock workers can be exposed to toxic materials. This is not limited to chemicals as there can also be a danger of exposure to the fumes coming from trucks and ships. 

3. Fishermen

Fishermen can face similar injury hazards as seamen, but there are some hazards particular to the type of job they do. For example, injuries can be caused by shooting or hauling fishing gear. Trawl doors on special fishing trawlers can also be especially dangerous. 

4. Harbor Workers

Harbor workers have similar risk exposure to dock workers and longshoremen (see below). Slips and falls can easily occur when working in areas with wet or greasy floors. Heavy-duty machinery, like forklifts and cranes, can lead to bodily injuries, and harbor workers can also be exposed to dangerous chemicals, including diesel fumes. 

5. Cruise Ship – Workers and Passengers

Working on a cruise ship might not seem as hazardous as, for example, working on a fishing trawler, but crew on cruise ships can still suffer from various injuries. Workers can fall, potentially breaking limbs and other bones, due to greasy, wet and slippery deck floors. Food poisoning, which can be fatal, is also a big risk for cruise ship workers and passengers, as is the flu. In 2019, for instance, there was a norovirus outbreak that impacted 475 crew and passengers on a Royal Caribbean ship, and this instance is more and more common. Recent Covid-19 outbreaks in the Seas was covered widely and impacted many ship crewmember and passengers.

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Maritime Injury
Maritime Injuries - Slips, Trips, and Falls

Compensation for Maritime Injuries

Every maritime worker has legal rights against employer negligence.  If you or someone you love are a maritime worker and has been injured while working Select Justice can help you fight back and claim compensation.

A maritime worker who would like to pursue compensation from their employer after suffering an injury due to negligence should speak to an experienced maritime lawyer who has the expertise in this unique type of employer negligence process. 

We have a number of experienced lawyers in maritime law in our network and we can connect you with the best legal counsel to give you personal advice and plan the best course of action to gain compensation. 

Fill out this short form with your contact details and a brief description of your injury/accident. Please make sure you have relevant documents if needed (health and medical records, employment documentation, any documentation or testimony form co-workers, friends, or family) and someone from our team will follow up with you as soon as possible.

A maritime injury attorney can pursue legal action against an employer for any injury, providing that there was some level of negligence involved or when the employer has not fulfilled their obligations of compensation under the Jones Act. In addition, it is possible to pursue a claim for non-physical injuries, such as PTSD, after an offshore accident. 

The Jones Act specifically states that seamen have a right to a safe place to work, but it also recognizes that working in a maritime environment is hazardous. In addition, it holds that maritime employers have duties of care towards their employees that are enshrined in law.  Employers must pay compensation to employees if they are injured at sea. This injury compensation is designed to help maritime workers through periods when they are not fit for work, as well as covering medical expenses. However, further compensation can be claimed in an event of an injury through negligence. In circumstances of negligence, you should consider contacting a maritime injury lawyer to pursue compensation. 

Different Law for Maritime Injuries

Individuals who work in the maritime industry are usually not covered by traditional workers’ compensation insurance. Instead the Jones act, a federal law, entitles these workers to file personal injury claims against their employer based on negligence.

Normally if a personal injury claim is filed for negligence the other party’s negligent actions must be the direct and majority cause of the injury. However in regards to the Jones act, maritime workers do need to prove that their employer was negligent but this negligence does not have to be the only or main cause of their injuries. All that a worker would need to show is that their employer’s negligence played some part, no matter how small or slight, in causing their injuries.

Maritime Injuries
Maritime Injury Lawsuits - Harbor Workers

Maritime Injury Lawsuits

If you are a maritime worker, you have certain rights enshrined in the Jones Act. This means that your employer is obligated to cover expenses if you are injured at work, regardless if that injury was caused by employer negligence. However, if there is evidence of negligence, then you have the legal right to bring an injury lawsuit against your employer. 

Dock workers, as well as harbor workers and longshoremen, are not technically covered by the Jones Act (In 2018, a federal court ruled that to qualify as a ‘seaman’, you must spend over 30% of your working hours at sea). Instead, workers’ legal rights are covered by the Longshore and Harbor Workers Compensation Act (LHWCA). It can be difficult to bring a lawsuit when you have already received compensation under the LHWCA, so, once again, the advice is to speak to an experienced maritime injury attorney to learn about your rights. 

While cruise ship workers are covered by the Jones Act, cruise ship passengers are not. If you are the former, your employer is compelled to provide measures for your safety and compensate you if necessary, for work-related injuries. The rights of cruise ship passengers, meanwhile, are enshrined in the Athens Convention, which allows passengers to file a compensation claim in their country of residence.

Notable Maritime Injury Settlements

There have been many instances of maritime employers settling cases for millions of dollars in compensation for injured parties. These include the Washington Ferry Settlement of 2008, where three ferry workers each claimed over $1 million in compensation after being exposed to dangerous chlorine gas; and, the SS Cape Jacob Settlement of 2013, where a seaman claimed $2 million after getting injured securing mooring lines. Countless other settlements have been made out of court when there was clear negligence on the part of the employer. Speak to a maritime injury legal expert if you are unsure of your rights.

Maritime Injury Claims

If you have been injured when working offshore, there are two main areas to consider when pursuing compensation. First of all, you should look at your rights to claim compensation under the Jones Act to cover your past and future medical expenses as well as lost earnings and lost earning capacity. Other inclusions include pain, suffering, and mental anguish. Secondly, you should speak to a maritime injury lawyer if you believe there was some negligence involved in causing your injury. Indeed, it’s important to note that a valid compensation claim can be made even if employer negligence did not directly lead to your injury but can be proven to have some role in it. 

Maritime Injury Law

The basis for much of maritime injury law comes from the 1920 Merchant Marine Act, or what is more commonly known as the Jones Act. While the Jones Act has been revised many times since it became part of federal law and covers areas related to injuries, it has the rights of seamen (and other maritime workers) at its core. Indeed, when the Jones Act was conceived, it recognized the unique hazards of working at sea, but also the obligations of maritime employers towards their employees. Employers are required to take the necessary steps to protect workers, as well as to compensate them if they do get injured.

What is a Maritime Injury Law Firm?

A maritime injury law firm is one that employs attorneys who specialize in offshore injury claims. Maritime law is characterized by unique rules and provisions, some of which date back a long time, one reason it is important to have lawyers who have specific expertise in the topic. Maritime injury law firms will employ special attorneys who understand the legal framework designed to protect the rights of maritime workers who suffer injuries as a result of negligence.

Maritime Injuries
Maritime Injuries - Falling Overboard

Common Types of Maritime Injuries

Falling Overboard

Falling overboard is an all too common accident for maritime workers, and more than many other types of accidents leads to fatalities. When seamen fall overboard out at sea they may never be found again and may die from drowning. Even when rescued, these falls overboard can lead to serious cases of hypothermia.

Falls are not limited to ships and fishing vessels, though. Falls into the water may also occur at docks and in the crowded waters of a port. In these cases, workers may drown, but they also run the risk of being crushed between boats or between a boat and a dock.

Head, Neck, and Back Injuries

Injuries to the head, neck, and back are among the most common in the maritime industry when accidents occur. Moving cargo in a port, for instance, can lead to workers being struck in the head. Slips and falls often result in back or neck injuries. Even seemingly small bumps on the head can end up being serious. The worst of these injuries result in lifelong health problems like chronic pain or even paralysis.

Lost Limbs

As terrible as it sounds, maritime workers are at risk for losing a limb on the job or requiring an amputation due to an accident. Working with equipment is a common cause for this, including getting a limb stuck in a fishing trawling winch or a conveyor belt. Lost limbs can be seriously traumatizing and may lead to post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD. Losing a limb may also mean that a worker can never return to his original job.

Chemical Exposure

Maritime workers necessarily work with cargo and often that cargo is a toxic chemical. When an accident occurs, workers are at risk of exposure to chemicals that may cause burns or respiratory illness. Flammable chemicals may start fires that can injure or kill workers.

Fire and Electrical Accidents

Both on ships and in port areas, electrical accidents and fires are possible. When electrical systems are not kept up to date or are not maintained, shocks and more serious accidents can happen. Electrical systems and other causes of fires can be devastating, especially on a ship at sea. When there is nowhere to go but overboard, these fires can lead to serious injuries and fatalities.

Repetitive Use Injuries

Many jobs on ships and in ports involve using the same movement over and over again. This can lead to repetitive use injuries, which cause damage, inflammation, and pain in joints, nerves, ligaments, tendons, and muscles. Common areas of the body that maritime workers suffer these injuries include the back, neck, ankles, feet, and hips.

Slips, Trips, and Falls

These kinds of accidents can occur in any industry and in any workplace, but the consequences in maritime settings can be much more serious. There are a lot of moving parts in maritime work, with equipment, people, and cargo moving from place to place. This makes slipping, tripping, and falling all too common. This may often lead to minor or no injuries, but a fall can also be into a deep cargo hold on a ship or into the water with disastrous consequences.

Shoulder Injuries

Many different kinds of maritime accidents can lead to shoulder injuries: slip and falls, repetitive motion, equipment accidents, or being struck with cargo. Common shoulder injuries include joint dislocation, fractures and broken bones, tendinitis, and even arthritis caused by years of overuse of the shoulder joint.

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We are here to help you and loved ones advocate for justice. Feel free to send us any questions you might have, either about an injury or the process for pursuing justice so we can help you exercise your rights.

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