Ship and rig owners and operators have a duty to provide the safest environment that is reasonably possible for crew members. When they fail to do so, accidents can happen. If the accident is the result of the owner or operator’s direct negligence, or because of the unseaworthiness of a ship or rig, victims may be eligible to file an offshore injury claim.
Anyone who has experienced an accident, physical injury, or medical emergency while in the service of their vessel or rig has the right to contact an offshore accident lawyer to determine their legal options.
You and your family are entitled to certain rights under maritime law. To discuss your offshore accident with one of our offshore accident attorneys, contact us today.
What Type of Offshore Accidents Can Occur?
The types of accidents that can take place will vary based on location. For example, some accidents can stem from explosions and fire. Individuals who work on vessels, platforms, and rigs are routinely surrounded by materials that are flammable and perhaps explosive. If a ventilation system malfunctions, if fuel is stored improperly or if vessels crash into each other, explosions and fire can take place and the injuries from such accidents can be disastrous and even deadly.
Accidents can also occur due to falling objects. In fact, being hit by a flying or falling object is one of the more common injuries to occur on oil rigs and other vessels. Support structures, as well as large, heavy machinery that are not properly or correctly secured, can potentially injure the people who are on deck.
Another type of accident that can take place is a slip and fall. In inclement weather, oil rigs and the decks of ships can be very difficult places to work. Wet surfaces tend to cause those working onboard to slip and fall. But it is not only bad weather than can lead to slips and falls. Loose stairway welds, corroded walkways, and ledges that do not have handrails can also play a role in causing a worker’s injuries.
Injuries Stemming From Offshore Accidents
The injuries that an offshore worker might experience can include burns, spinal cord and brain injuries, back and orthopedic injuries, eye injuries, and crush injuries. Burn injuries can lead to long-term or even life-long emotional and physical scars that can be quite severe. Spinal cord injuries or SCI can cause an individual to lose function in one or more of his or her limbs and/or they can lead to temporary or permanent paralysis.
Traumatic brain injuries, which are also known as TBI, are also injuries that workers can experience in extreme situations. If he or she sustains such an injury, the individual might experience issues with neurological functioning and long-term cognitive problems. Back and orthopedic injuries can negatively impact a worker’s ability to do his or her job. Additionally, when workers experience joint, tissue, or bone injuries, the effects can be short or long-term and can range in intensity from minor to very serious.
Eye injuries, much like back injuries, can substantially hinder a worker’s ability to perform his or her job, as any type of injury to the eye can result in vision impairment or even vision loss. Workers can also sustain crush injuries to a few digits or the entire body, particularly if the worker gets trapped under or in between heavy objects.
Offshore Injury Facts
Below is a list of offshore accident facts according to a report by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE). This report details accidents that were reported to the HSE from April 2012 to March 2013.
- 47 major offshore injuries were reported to the HSE, as compared to 36 the year prior.
- The most common injuries are due to handling, lifting, or carrying.
- The second most common injuries result from being hit by moving objects, slipping and tripping, and falling from heights.
- Handling, lifting and carrying; being hit by moving objects; slipping and tripping; and falling from heights result in 90 percent of reported injuries.
- Other top causes of injuries include exposure to dangerous substances, fire, electrical shock, and accidents resulting from working with machinery.
- Nearly 91 percent of all major injuries were to limbs.
- Maintenance and construction work continues to be the most dangerous environment and results in the most injuries.
- The second most dangerous work environment is desk operations, which produced the most major injuries.
- Other dangerous work environments include: diving, drilling, management, and production.
What to Do After an Offshore Accident
There are a number of steps that injured offshore workers should take following an accident. Although many workers may be shaken and scared at the time of the injury, it is important for them to be aware of these steps and follow them to the best of their ability.
1. Seek Medical Attention
On land, if you suffer an injury, help is available much more readily. On a vessel, victims are more isolated. Telephone and other communication services may not be working, which means emergency crews may not be reached until hours later. Even if they are reached quickly, a vessel may be out at sea in the middle of nowhere, and it can take several hours for an emergency team to reach the victim. Furthermore, not every vessel is equipped with onboard medical facilities. On land, victims who are injured can be transported to a number of hospitals or clinics, but that’s not the case at sea.
Regardless of when or where you receive an injury, it is crucial to seek medical attention immediately following the incident. Your health and wellbeing are of utmost importance, but some people choose to self-medicate or simply disregard their injuries altogether. Our attorneys advise against this and urge accident victims to promptly seek attention from their own doctor or a local hospital emergency room as soon as possible.
2. Inform Your Employer About the Injury
Injured offshore workers should always advise their employers of their injuries as soon as possible. That means at the very least, the harmed individual should advise his or her immediate supervisor or superior directly. Depending on the nature of the injuries, fellow co-workers may take it upon themselves to inform the employer of the accident; however, accident victims should not rely on those workers to handle that for them. In fact, accident victims are encouraged to write down what happened and provide the employer with a copy of that report as soon as they are physically able to do so.
3. Compile Necessary Information
Unfortunately, some employers will do their best to avoid properly compensating an accident victim for his or her injuries. That is why it is crucial for injured offshore workers to maintain complete documentary evidence of everything that took place after the occurrence of the accident. The documents should include contact information for all witnesses to the incident, as well as photos of the accident area and all equipment that may have caused the injury.
4. Keep Quiet and Never Sign Anything
While it is true that offshore workers should report their injuries to their employers, they should never speak to others about the specifics of the incident. Simple comments made to a friend at work or other co-workers may be used against you at a later date, should it become necessary to sue your employer. Likewise, victims should never sign any documents presented to them by their employers or accept any settlement offers without first consulting with a lawyer or admit any level of fault.
5. Seek Legal Guidance
The laws protecting offshore workers are very specific and can be quite complex. Accordingly, injured workers should seek legal advice from lawyers who are knowledgeable in maritime and offshore injury law. Working with such attorneys will provide victims with the best opportunity of obtaining just compensation for their injuries.
Employers have specific rules and obligations under the law, and when they fail to follow those rules, they can be held legally responsible.
Types of Offshore Claims
Generally, there are four possible ways in which most injured offshore workers and their families can recover. However, individuals should note that many factors must be considered when determining which method is best to use based on the specific facts of the case that caused the worker’s injury or illness. For instance, one must consider the kind of work being done at the time of the accident or the occurrence of the illness, along with where the accident or illness took place.
If an offshore worker has been injured or killed due to a maritime-related accident, he or she (or his or her loved ones) may be entitled to recovery under general maritime law, the Jones Act, the Death on the High Seas Act or the Longshoremen and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act.
Recovery Under Maritime Law
Over the years, maritime law was developed through common law and various court decisions. Today, the laws offer certain maritime workers benefits and protections. Some of the more significant developments in the law include shipowners’ obligations to provide seaworthy vessels, as well as maintenance and cure.
Vessel seaworthiness refers to the duty that owners have to properly maintain and equip their vessels. If an offshore worker or another type of seaman is hurt or becomes sick due to a vessel being deemed unseaworthy, the owner of that vessel can be held legally responsible for the worker’s damages. If you believe you have sustained injury or illness due to a vessel’s unseaworthiness, let a Lipcon, Margulies & Winkleman, P.A. lawyer help you protect your rights.
The Jones Act
Maritime workers undertake many dangerous jobs that have a very high risk of injury. Under the Jones Act, seamen who are hurt or become ill as a result of their job duties are entitled to sue their employers if it can be demonstrated that the vessel owner or another crew member negligently caused their injury or death. Injured individuals and/or their loved ones may be entitled to file claims under the Jones Act, and working with a knowledgeable attorney can help such victims obtain the just compensation they deserve.
Death on the High Seas
The Death on the High Seas Act (DOHSA) was enacted in 1920 in an effort to protect the legal position of families of seamen who die on international waters due to unseaworthiness or negligence. Under the Act, a seaman’s children, spouse, and other dependents are able to pursue damages to cover burial costs, medical bills, and lost support, among other things. Such individuals are referred to as dependant survivors. The claims for wrongful death must be brought by the personal representative of the estate. This person can be selected in a will or can be appointed by the court in accordance with state law.
The Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act (LHWCA)
The Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act provides workers with certain protections related to work-related injuries and occupational diseases. More specifically, the law provides medical care and compensation to those who are disabled by injuries that happened while on U.S. navigable waters or adjoining areas that are used to unload, load, repair and build certain types of vessels.
Some of the workers covered by the Act include longshoremen, harbor workers, shipbuilders, shipbreakers and ship repairers. Seamen who are covered under the Jones Act are not covered under LHWCA. State workers compensation may also be an alternative. This is a very tricky area of the law known as the twilight zone.
Contact Maritime Law Firm that has Recovered Over $200 Million Dollars for Clients*
If you or a loved one has been involved in an accident that has resulted in injuries, contact an offshore injury lawyer at Lipcon, Margulies & Winkleman, P.A. to learn more about your rights.