Injury Aboard Cargo Vessel

Lipcon, Marguiles, Alsina & Winkleman, P.A

Cargo shipOur thoughts and prayers are with an injured crew member who was recently involved in an accident aboard a bulk carrier may soon be in need of an offshore injury lawyer as soon as possible to determine his rights. The seaman, a 24-year-old Filipino, sustained a right leg compound fracture and a head injury after falling nearly 20 feet into a cargo hold aboard the Majorca vessel near the East Coast of South Africa.

The Majorca, which was sailing from Brazil to Singapore, alerted all appropriate rescue and government channels and reportedly changed course en route to Durban, South Africa, so the injured worker could obtain proper medical care.

The victim was provided medical attention while on board the vessel, but given the nature of his severe injuries, he required treatment beyond that which the Majorca’s onboard medical staff could provide – another issue our firm has discussed numerous times. Maritime vessels often lack sophisticated medical facilities and as a result, many who are injured suffer life-threatening consequences because they are unable to obtain the fast and complex medical care they require immediately following their accident.

However, despite the lack of adequate medical care that is available on ships, Majorca operators appear to have taken swift action to ensure the injured crew member obtained the care he needed. A medevac helicopter from Durban airlifted the victim to the nearest hospital, where, last we heard, the victim was in serious, but stable condition.

We don’t yet know the nature of the accident or whether the incident was the result of some form of negligence on the Majorca’s owners’ or operators’ parts, but the victim has every right to consult with an offshore injury lawyer with experience in seafarer injuries to determine whether he has a viable claim.

Even though it seems like the Majorca’s crew did everything possible to assist the injured worker, news reports show it took a total of four hours between the time the Majorca alerted officials of the sailor’s injuries to the time the rescue operation was complete – meaning the time at which the victim reached the hospital. FOUR HOURS! In those four hours, the victim could have suffered complications related to his injuries and could have possibly even died as a result, especially since the accident resulted in head injuries for the victim.

Unfortunately, even if ships contact emergency officials the moment an accident occurs, too many factors can affect the speed at which the victim obtains necessary treatment. We already noted how onboard medical facilities often lack the proper equipment required to treat severe injuries or illnesses, which is one way the victim’s life can be placed in peril. Another factor that can threaten a victim’s life following an onboard accident is the fact that it can take hours just to obtain authorization for a medevac helicopter, especially when a ship is sailing in foreign waters. In this particular case, authorization for the medevac helicopter took an hour. Complications following an injury (especially one involving head trauma) can occur in the blink of an eye, so an hour is already too much time that has gone by.

Then, other circumstances can arise that can affect the medevac. For this accident, the rescue team encountered choppy weather, and if attempting a rescue in unfavorable weather, the rescue team themselves can sustain injuries.

There are a slew of things that can occur which can affect an injured seafarer’s ability to obtain proper medical treatment, but the only way to ensure said treatment is offered is for all maritime vessels to start expanding their onboard medical facilities, as well as employ a larger medical team. We’re not saying that each vessel needs to have a full hospital, but certainly, vessels can do more and better to try to emulate something of an urgent care-type facility in order to provide emergency treatment the moment a crew member needs it.