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Maritime Injuries: Common Causes and Legal Recourse

From military operations involving the U.S. Navy and Marines to commercial boating and fishing operations, offshore oil extraction, and cruise ship operations, these are just some of the many different roles that comprise the over 12,860 domestic maritime industry jobs that the American Maritime Partnership claims we have here in Alabama. 

While many employment situations come with their own dangers, the hazards maritime workers face are particularly significant, according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). Let’s discuss maritime injuries and their common causes and what legal recourses you have if you get hurt. 

Common Injuries Maritime Workers Face

Some of the more common ways individuals employed in this industry get hurt include by:

  • Going overboard: Ship decks are often slippery, and no one has perfect balance at all times. These factors, especially if combined with rough seas, put those working on boats at risk of falling overboard. One injury that can occur when this happens is the worker may strike their head on the boat’s hard surface, rendering them unconscious and thus unable to tread water to avoid drowning. A person who falls may also strike a propeller, causing them to suffer significant cuts and bleed out.
  • Becoming a party to an explosion and ensuing fire: Working on a boat or oil rig often means that workers are surrounded by hazardous, combustible substances that can easily ignite under the right set of circumstances. Fires that ensue can not only lead to individuals suffering smoke inhalation but also burns.
  • The onset of repetitive stress injuries: From raising sails to steering a water vessel to tying knots after dropping anchor, these are just a few examples of job-related tasks that may leave maritime workers vulnerable to developing overuse injuries. Muscle strains, over time, can develop into debilitating conditions like tendonitis, making it challenging for someone to perform their job responsibilities. 
  • Being struck by another boat, containers, etc.: While boating navigation systems aim to help boaters avoid collisions with other water vessels, they’re not fail-proof. Additionally, at docks or harbors, shipping containers and shipbuilding materials may be moved about by heavy machinery such as cranes. In both scenarios and countless others, the prospect of something being misguided or falling due to rough seas or wear and tear is real, which can lead to struck-by injuries.
  • Slips and falls: While some of these injuries can cause someone employed in the maritime industry to go overboard, a slip and fall can lead to significant bruising, sprains, broken bones, and perhaps worst of all, potential blunt force trauma injuries to the head or brain and even spinal cord damage, leading to paralysis. Slippery decks are frequently to blame for these injury incidents.

Legal Options Available to You If You’re Hurt While Working in the Maritime Industry

While most individuals hurt on the job in Alabama would be entitled to workers’ compensation benefits, there are unique laws applicable to those employed in the maritime industry and situations where they get hurt. Some of those include:

  • The Jones Act: Also known as the Merchant Marine Act of 1920, this is a federal law that specifically applies to boat crewmembers. It allows seamen to be compensated for their injuries when the employer’s negligence plays a role or when the injury is due to the unseaworthiness of the vessel.
  • The Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act (LHWCA): This federal law applies to individuals employed in traditional maritime roles, including as harbor construction or longshore workers and as shipbuilders, provided they were hurt in U.S. navigable waters or harbors, terminals, docks, and piers.

In the case of the LHWCA, for example, injured maritime workers may be entitled to receive compensated medical care, lost wages, and vocational rehab training like those who are employed in more traditional, non-maritime roles would be eligible for under workers’ comp.

Your Next Steps if You Were Hurt in Your Maritime Role

Some of the first concerns you’ll want to address if you suffered injuries while working in a harbor or on a water vessel, for example, is making sure you report what happened to ensure it’s documented and getting immediate medical attention. If you have the ability to take photographs or preserve evidence of what may have led to your injury, that can be helpful as well. 

Your next step should be consulting with an attorney who regularly handles maritime injury cases. This is something we do here at Tobias & Comer Law. 

We’ll want to learn more about your maritime role, how you got hurt, and the injuries you’ve suffered before advising you on what legal remedies are available for you to pursue and what you can expect by doing so. 

Consulting with one of our lawyers about your injuries and your rights is completely free. So, get in contact with us right away to discuss your potential case.

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