No Matter What Size Vessel, Boat Explosions Cost lives

Boats of all shapes and sizes are used around the United States for the purposes of trade, transportation, fishing, living, recreation, military, law enforcement, and numerous other purposes.  Two recent media reports highlight the unique complexities and dangers of boat explosions, which is what we will discuss in this article titled, “No Matter What Size Vessel, Boat Explosions Cost lives”.

Read on to learn more about how boat explosions on any size vessel can be devastating, as well as what you can do to stay safe and get help if injuries occur.  To find out more about your individual legal rights and maritime law, contact Brown & Brothers to discuss your case.

Boat Explosions Cost Lives

The type and severity of injuries suffered after a boat explosion vary greatly.  The severity of injuries often varies depending on how significant the explosion was, the source of ignition, and how directly those onboard were exposed to the explosion, flames, or debris.  Injuries may be minor, such as burns or small cuts, or may be catastrophic or even fatal.

Consider two recent examples that demonstrate just how dangerous boat explosions can be, and how no matter what size vessel or location, the dangers do not discriminate.

  • Large Vessel Example: Toward the end of April 2017, the news of an explosion off the coast of Cape Cod sent ripples throughout the maritime industry. An explosion in the front storeroom of bulk carrier Tamar claimed the lives of two people onboard, and severely burned several others.  Transporting cargo from Baltimore, Maryland to Azores, Portugal, the crew of Tamar was assisted by several agencies including the U.S.  Coast Guard, the New York Air National Guard, the Portuguese National Guard, and the Canadian Coast Guard.

The cause of the explosion was not immediately determined and was extinguished without catastrophic damage to the ship.  Investigations have been ongoing to determine the cause of the explosion, with preliminary reports suggesting a methane gas leak in the front storeroom moving to adjacent areas.  The gas could have been sparked by a variety of ignition sources, as many electrical fittings were not explosion proof.

  • Small Vessel Example: The size of the vessel does not equate with the level of danger should a boat explosion occur. Consider, for example, recent reports of an explosion aboard a house boat situated on Lake Powell.  The explosion reportedly occurred when someone onboard attempted to start a generator.  One person was killed in the explosion and four others were flown to nearby hospitals.  There were 25 people onboard at the time of the explosion.

Boat Explosion Accidents and Injuries

Whether you are working onboard a yacht, sailboat, houseboat, bulk carrier, fishing ship, oil rig, or any other unique maritime vessel, boat explosions are a very real concern.  While in some cases boat explosions are accidental, often times fires or explosions are caused by preventable or needless factors.  Some of the most common causes of boat explosions include:

  • Improper maintenance or use of equipment
  • Negligence in training or supervising those onboard
  • Defective or malfunctioning equipment
  • Electrical hazards, such as faulty or poorly managed wiring

Boat explosions also have unique complexities due to the fact that seagoing vessels may not be able to withstand damage caused by the explosion.  This presents another set of related dangers due to the possibility of the boat sinking.  For those onboard, this amplifies the dangers as they may be exposed to harsh weather conditions, cold water temperatures, or be vulnerable to drowning.

Getting Help After a Boat Explosion

If you work in the maritime industry, or are planning to be a passenger aboard a seagoing vessel, you may be particularly interested in what the law says about onboard hazards and how to get help if you are injured while onboard.  Federal laws, such as the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act (LHWCA) and the Jones Act, offer specific guidance for maritime workers depending on their title and classification as a maritime worker.

Maritime laws are complex, and have unique elements that make working with an attorney vital.  Factors like the location of the accident, applicable state laws, classification of the vessel, and various factors directly related to the accident may all influence what laws apply to your case.  Anyone who has been injured while working onboard a seagoing vessel should contact a maritime law attorney to discuss their legal rights and any unique elements of their case.

At Brown & Brothers, our qualified attorneys are well versed in maritime and personal injury law.  We are well equipped to sort through the complexities of your case and determine the best course of action.  We have successfully navigated cases for clients throughout Texas and beyond, including cases involving defective products or employer negligence.  To learn more, fill out our online form and schedule your free case review.



What Maritime Workers Need to Know about Disability and Ability to Work

The maritime industry has many unique dangers and reports of workers being injured is not uncommon.  Whether you work on an oil rig or a shipyard, here is what maritime workers need to know about disability and ability to work after an on-the-job injury.

Workers in the maritime industry often worry about what would happen to their livelihood if they become injured or disabled.  Not only are workers’ compensation laws different for maritime workers, but navigating the waters of what “disability” versus “ability” to work means can be difficult.  Further, in the maritime industry, the work required is often strenuous.  What happens when an illness or injury causes you to be unable to return to that same position?

Disability versus Ability

There is no diagnosis for “disability”, which makes it difficult for someone who has been injured or become ill to understand their rights and what sort of protection they may be eligible for.  Two individuals with the exact same medical diagnosis of diabetes, for example, may be classified as disabled or not based on other factors.  What’s more, who gets to decide what qualifies as a disability warranting benefits?

The federal government considers someone disabled if he or she is unable to work due to a medical condition.  In most cases, however, it is a judgment call made by doctors and verified or refuted in courtrooms.  Some countries like the UK use “fit to work” tests to determine if someone is physically capable of returning to their jobs.  Ultimately, however, it is still a matter of judgment as the injured person is judged to be fit or not.  Falling somewhere in a gray area could leave individuals “fit to work” on paper, but actually physically unable to resume their employment as previously done.

More Americans on Disability than Ever

In recent decades, it seems that doctors and the government are more apt to classify someone as disabled, or maybe there are more conditions now considered disabilities.  Over the last three decades, the number of Americans receiving disability payments has increased significantly.  It is estimated now that each month, 14 million Americans get disability checks.  The breakdown of common causes of disability, and the causes growing, includes the following:

Condition: 1961 2011
·         Back pain and musculoskeletal problems 8.3% 33.8%
·         Mental illness and developmental disabilities 9.6% 19.2%
·         Heart disease and stroke 25.7% 10.6%
·         Cancer 8.3% 9.2%
·         Other 22.4% 7.7%

Another possible reason for the rise is doctors like one in rural Alabama who considers the overall condition of the individual when recommending him or her for disability.  For example, someone with a college degree and chronic back pain can likely find a reasonably accommodating job, whereas someone with a grade school education and chronic back pain likely would be undesirable – and thus, unhireable.

Determining Disability in the United States

Determining who is disabled is managed by the Social Security Administration (SSA).  The SSA uses a series of questions and guidelines when determining who is eligible for disability benefits.  The five questions found in the SSA Disability Planner include:

  1. Are you working? Individuals who are employed and make more than $1,130 per month generally cannot be considered disabled.
  2. Is your condition “severe”? The condition must interfere with work-related activities.
  3. Is your condition found in the list of disabling conditions? The SSA has a list of conditions that automatically equate with disability. Conditions that are not listed as decided on based on the severity and other factors.
  4. Can you do the work you did previously? If your condition is severe but does not interfere with your ability to do the same job you previously did, you may not be eligible for disability benefits.
  5. Can you do any other type of work? The SSA considers your overall health, age, education, and any experience or unique skills when determining whether you are able to secure another job.

Maritime Workers and Disability Benefits

Many workers in the maritime industry find that traditional workers’ compensation or disability benefits do not apply to them.  In such cases, maritime workers should explore their rights under The Jones Act and the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act (LHWCA), two laws that specifically protect the rights of maritime workers who have been injured on-the-job.

Rather than offering traditional disability benefits, these two laws provide coverage for what is known as maintenance and cure (general expenses and medical care expenses), along with other damages depending on your situation.  Some maritime workers find that their employers are eager to help them heal and return to work.  Other times, maritime workers must file a lawsuit in order to get the help and benefits they are entitled to.

In order to be protected under The Jones Act or the LHWCA, you must be classified as a seaman, longshoreman, harbor worker, or a worker in a shipyard, terminal, or dock area.  There are also certain guidelines related to the vessel or working conditions, time spent working onboard, etc.

The only way to really know what disability benefits you qualify for as a maritime worker is to contact an attorney.  To learn more about The Jones Act, the LHWCA, or SSA disability benefits as a maritime worker, contact Brown & Brothers today.  Fill out our online form to get in touch with one of our skilled Texas maritime injury attorneys.



String of Louisiana Lawsuits Highlight Seaman Injuries

March 2017 saw a string of Louisiana lawsuits that highlight seaman injuries common in the maritime industry.  At Maritime Injury Guide, we want to help our readers stay informed about cases like these to help them better understand the risks of working in the maritime industry, as well as their rights and options when an injury occurs.

Louisiana Lawsuits and Seaman Injuries

The Louisiana Record and other news sources have published information about three lawsuits that highlight different types of seaman injuries.  A brief summary of each of these lawsuits and injuries includes the following:

  • Spinal Injury Lawsuit – In September 2016, a Louisiana seaman filed a lawsuit alleging that the owners of a crane and a vessel did not take sufficient measures to prevent injuries. While working on a vessel in December 2015, the seaman sustained serious injuries to his spine while attaching a mud hose to a crane hook.  The lawsuit claims that the owners did not provide a seaworthy vessel, and that the crane operator did not see and/or obey signals to stop given by the seaman.

The spinal injuries sustained in the incident cause permanent damage to the seaman.  The lawsuit seeks $3 million in damages for medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering, mental and physical pain, maintenance and cure, and legal fees.  The plaintiff has requested a trial by jury.

  • Multi-Injury Lawsuit – In March 2017, a Louisiana seaman filed a lawsuit claiming that his employers failed to provide a safe working environment. In December 2015, the seaman reportedly sustained serious injuries to his cervical and lumbar discs while lifting a cable from the side of a barge.  He further sustained injuries to his joints, muscles, bones, tissue, and organs.

The lawsuit claims that the employers failed to provide proper equipment, failed to warn the seaman of the unsafe conditions, and failed to provide adequate personnel to complete the task.  The seaman is seeking a trial by jury with damages to be determined by the court.  He seeks recovery for maintenance and cure, legal fees, and all forms of relief provided by law.

  • Disc Injury Lawsuit – In March 2017, a Louisiana seaman filed a lawsuit claiming that he was injured when the vessel he was employed on struck a submerged island. The March 2016 incident resulted in serious injuries to his cervical and lumbar discs.  The lawsuit alleges that the defendants were negligent in taking precautions to discover and correct unsafe conditions.  Further, it is alleged that the defendant failed to provide adequate and prompt medical care and treatment.

The seaman is seeking a trial by jury and is pursuing recovery for medical expenses, pain and suffering, loss of earning capacity, maintenance and cure, loss of household services, and legal fees.

Common Seaman Injuries in Maritime Industry

As these example cases suggest, there are multiple risks and possible injuries when working in the maritime industry.  Injuries to the spine, discs, bones, and joints are among the most common reported among seamen.  Other common injuries include:

  • Head Injuries (open and closed)
  • Lost Limbs (severed in the accident or in response to crushing injuries)
  • Repetitive Use Injuries
  • Shoulder Injuries
  • Hypothermia
  • Drowning
  • Crush Injuries

These are only some of the most common seaman injuries.  There are a plethora of possible injuries that may occur to anyone working on a vessel or on a dock or shipyard area.  From crew boats to cruise ships, the maritime industry has many nuances that do not factor into other industries.

What Causes Seaman Injuries?             

As the lawsuits described above suggest, there are many possible causes for seaman injuries.  Seaman and other maritime workers are exposed to a variety of dangers, whether they are working in harsh weather conditions, or are required to operate heavy machinery.  Some of the most common causes of seaman injuries include:

  • Improper training and use of cranes and cargo moving equipment
  • Inadequate training and safety procedures for working around toxic chemicals
  • Improper maintenance and safety procedures for conveyor belts
  • Broken, defective, or improperly maintained steps and ladders
  • Extended exposure to plate freezers or freezing temperatures
  • Fires
  • Trawl Winch malfunction due to improper training, use, or maintenance

It is crucial that maritime employers and employees follow proper safety, training, maintenance, and operation guidelines in order to prevent accidents and injuries from occurring.  When injuries do occur, employers must also follow specific legal guidelines related to covering medical costs and compensating employees for lost wages, such as the Jones Act.

Understanding Your Legal Rights

Unfortunately, not all employers follow proper procedures or legal guidelines, which can have a detrimental effect on maritime workers and their loved ones.  It is important that anyone working in the maritime industry understand his or her legal rights when an accident occurs due to the negligence of someone else.  Injured workers may have the right to maintenance and cure benefits (covers medical and living expenses during recovery), lost wages or loss of earning capacity, pain and suffering, additional medical expenses, and even punitive damages if the employer was reckless or willfully violated their duty.

If you work in the maritime industry, or have questions about seaman injuries, contact us today to learn more about your legal rights.  Our team of skilled maritime injury attorneys can help you explore your legal rights and options, and pursue the compensation you deserve.  To schedule your free case review, fill out our online form.  Our staff is prompt and will respond to your inquiry as soon as possible.



Who Has Accountability for Shipbuilder Injuries?

It is no secret that working in the maritime industry has unique dangers, especially if you work for a shipbuilder, or in or near a shipyard.  With dangers well known, it must be asked “Who has Accountability for Shipbuilder Injuries?” This is a question many shipbuilders and maritime workers are asking in light of an Alabama lawsuit gaining a lot of attention.

Imagine your employer asks you to work with a dangerous tool.  On the surface, that may seem like a normal part of your responsibilities.  But what if that tool had been modified from its intended, manufactured use and you were injured as a result? Read on to learn more about just such a scenario, as well as what you can do to get help after a maritime injury.

Shipbuilder Lawsuit Background

Between January 2011 and March 2015, The Center for Investigative Reporting found at least 53 reports of injuries related to a modified tool used by employees at Austal USA – a shipyard in Mobile, Alabama.  The tool causing these injuries is a Metabo grinder, which is designed to be used with cutting discs in a straight line.  Austal officials realized that replacing the factory-intended discs with saw blades containing teeth would speed up the cutting process, and placed the modified version into the hands of their workers.

According to the Metabo Corp.  operator’s manual for the grinder, using blades like the one Austal chose can cause “frequent kickback and loss of control”.  That is exactly what has happened causing the injuries to so many Austal employees.  The reported injuries include cuts, gashes, and tears to the face, neck, and upper extremities.  Many of the injuries were to the hand or fingers, and required amputation.

Even with a manufacturer’s warning and numerous reports of injuries specifically related to the tool, Austal officials continue to put their employees in danger.  For years, the tool has been referred to as a “widow maker” by Austal officials and employees, including its top Safety Manager.

Shipbuilder Lawsuit

Based on the information and investigation into Austal and the injuries, an Alabama trial court has allowed a lawsuit to be filed by eight former or current Austal workers.  The lawsuit claims that Austal officials intentionally endangered workers by requiring them to use a tool that was modified and knowingly dangerous.  The lawsuit names Austal, Metabowerke, GmbH and Metabo, and the distributor Southern Gas and Supply Inc.

Austal has filed an appeal with the Alabama Supreme Court citing immunity under the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act (LHWCA).  The company’s attorneys maintain that their immunity is solid, “even assuming that Austal acted intentionally with regard to each plaintiff’s workplace accident”.  It is unclear exactly how the LHWCA will factor into this lawsuit.

Traditionally, the LHWCA offers limited or no coverage to U.S.  government employees.  This is one aspect of this lawsuit that will undoubtedly be reviewed as it is determined whether the injured workers could be considered government employees.  This is often a gray area when there are government contracts and multiple entities involved.  Another element of the LHWCA that will be relevant is determining whether the injured workers have state workers’ compensation benefits.

To find out more about your rights as a maritime worker, or to learn more about filing a maritime injury lawsuit, contact Brown Wharton & Brothers today.  Maritime law is complex and defending your rights is best done with the guidance of a skilled attorney.

A Bigger Issue

Safety concerns like this one are not uncommon among shipbuilders.  What makes these concerns even greater is the fact that the U.S.  government relies on these specialized manufacturers to supply vessels for the Navy and Coast Guard.  The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has been working for years to improve safety for shipbuilders, but unfortunately, these companies are not being held accountable.

Since 2008, over $100 billion in contracts were given to seven major shipbuilders by the Navy and Coast Guard despite the fact that these companies were subject to serious safety violations.  Austal specifically has been fined more than $61,000 by OSHA, including a penalty of $4,125 related to their exposing employees to “amputations, severe lacerations, and other injuries”.  During the same period that these fines and penalties were imposed, the Navy contracted more than $6 billion in work with Austal.

The issue here is that the U.S.  government expects those obtaining contracts to conduct business in an ethically and legally acceptable way.  Unfortunately, there is no real means of holding these companies accountable.  Even fines and penalties for safety violations resulting in injury or death are not halting unsafe or dangerous behavior.

What Maritime Workers Need to Know

As consumers, patients, and employees, we expect those who manufacture, distribute, care, or supervise us to keep our safety in mind.  Modifying a tool outside of its intended use certainly seems like questionable behavior.  At what point does such action become negligence or worse, malice?

Employees have some rights via workers’ compensation or maritime injury laws, but those do not help alleviate the problem of employers knowingly endangering their workers.  Lawsuits like this one can help raise awareness and demand attention be given to the lives of shipbuilders and all maritime workers.

Maritime workers who have questions about their legal rights, workers’ compensation or other laws, or need help after a work-related injury should contact an attorney who specializes in maritime injury cases.  At Brown Wharton & Brothers, we have the knowledge and experience you need to defend your rights and demand justice.  Fill out our online form to provide your information and our staff will contact you right away to set up your free consultation.



Five Tips for Avoiding Maritime Hypothermia

When most people think about the dangers of being at sea, they think of sunburn, lack of fresh water, or sharks.  In this article titled “Five Tips for Avoiding Maritime Hypothermia”, we want to discuss one of the threats that is more common than any of those.  Maritime hypothermia is considered one of the biggest threats to maritime workers.  Read on to learn more about maritime hypothermia and our five tips for staying safe in the maritime industry.

What is Maritime Hypothermia?

Hypothermia occurs when there is a severe drop in body temperature, such as falling into cold water, or working in inclement weather conditions.  You don’t have to work in the Arctic in order to be susceptible to hypothermia, either.  In fact, hypothermia can occur in any situation where your body temperature lowers from the normal 95 degrees to just under 89 degrees.

For maritime workers, falling into the water is one of the biggest threats for hypothermia.  If the water is colder than you are, you are susceptible to hypothermia because water conducts heat away from the human body faster than air.  That means that even in the warmer waters of the Gulf of Mexico, you could still become hypothermic without taking proper safety measures.

When you become hypothermic, your body will experience a range of symptoms.  A breakdown of these symptoms based on core body temperature may resemble the following:

  • 96-98 degrees – Uncontrollable shivering and diminished motor skills. You will be able to walk and speak without difficulty at this stage.
  • 93-96 degrees – Walking and speaking becomes difficult, emotions are heightened, and you may feel aggressive or violent.
  • 86-93 degrees – Blood begins to move toward the internal organs to preserve heat. Shivering is inconsistent, and it may be difficult for you to stay awake.  At this stage, it is critical to get medical treatment immediately.

Five Tips for Avoiding Maritime Hypothermia

While you may not be able to prevent a maritime accident that lands you in the water, there are some helpful tips you should remember that could save your life.  Consider the following:

  1. Be Prepared for Immersion – Any time your body is submerged into water colder than your body temperature, there is a shock of immersion that occurs. Think about jumping into a cold swimming pool or running out of hot water in the shower.  In most cases, you will involuntarily gasp when the cold water hits your skin.  If you work in the maritime industry, it is important to remember that this shock occurs and try to avoid inhaling water into your lungs.
  2. Find a Way Out – One of the best ways to prevent the onset of hypothermia is to get out of the water as soon as possible. The longer your body is exposed to colder water, the faster your core body temperature will fall.  If you don’t have access to a lifeboat, try to find a piece of floating debris, or anything you can use to get as much of your body out of the water as possible.  Even if you feel colder, remember that your body loses heat faster in the water than in the open air.
  3. Stay Still – This may be one of the more difficult tips to remember, but it is important to preventing hypothermia.  The more you move in the water, the faster your body loses heat and your core temperature falls.  Swimming can cause your body to lose heat as much as 50 percent faster than staying still.  Unless you are certain that shore, a boat, or someplace out of the water is less than a kilometer away, your best bet might be keeping as still as possible until help arrives.
  4. Get in Position – The Heat Escape Lessening Position (HELP) is one of the movements you should make when in the water. To assume the HELP position, cross your legs and bring your knees to your chest.  Cross your arms over your chest also, so as much of your body is touching as is possible.  If you are in a group with others in the water, bundle up together as close as you can to preserve body heat.
  5. Stay Clothed – In some cases, maritime workers have immersion suits to protect them if they fall into the water. In other cases, you may find yourself weighed down by your clothing and be tempted to take it off.  It is always advised to keep your clothes on, even if they are wet and heavy.  The more protection you have between your skin and the water, the better your chances of regulating your core body temperature.

Important Safety and Treatment Information

If you or someone with you becomes hypothermic, it can be difficult to make sense of the situation and figure out what to do.  Here are some additional safety and treatment tips that could help save yours, or someone else’s life, during a maritime hypothermia situation:

  • Once safety is reached, never apply heat directly to the individual’s arms or legs, as this can force blood back to the brain and heart too quickly resulting in damage or death.
  • Apply indirect heat (hot water bottles, warm towels, heating pads, or body heat) to areas of the body like the neck, chest, head, and groin.
  • Keep the hypothermic person laying on their back. If possible, lay down with them and cover you both with blankets, as your body heat will transfer to them.
  • If the person is conscious, give them warm liquid to drink.
  • Never give a hypothermic person alcohol or caffeine if possible.
  • Call for help as soon as possible, and never leave someone who is hypothermic alone.

Workers in the maritime industry may not be able to prevent exposure to water or the elements, but with proper safety, training, and these helpful tips, the risk of developing hypothermia because of an accident may be a little less.



Common Questions about Maritime Maintenance and Cure

If you work in the maritime industry, you are probably familiar with the term “maintenance and cure,” but might not be sure of the best way to get the help you need and deserve.  In response to the many common questions about maintenance and cure our clients ask, we have compiled a list of answers that may help you if you have been injured while working in the maritime industry.

Please check out the answers below, and don’t hesitate to contact us if you have other questions or concerns about maritime injuries.

Common Questions about Maritime Maintenance and Cure

Do I qualify for maintenance and cure benefits?

If you are a seaman who was injured on-the-job, you very well may qualify for maintenance and cure benefits.  There are some complexities to the maritime industry that may challenge your eligibility or affect the amount you can receive.  Generally speaking, however, if you meet the legal definition of a seaman (someone who spends the majority of work time on a navigable vessel), then you should qualify for maintenance and cure.

My employer chose a doctor for me to see, but I would rather choose one myself.  Do I have to follow their recommendation?

Generally, your employer cannot force you to use a doctor they selected.  Remember that doctors selected by your employer may work for the company, meaning his or her focus may be on the company’s best interests and not yours.  Further, your employer may have provided the doctor with information about your injuries without your knowledge, which can complicate you getting the right diagnosis and treatment.  It is always advisable to choose a doctor you can trust.

Do I have to pay for a doctor I chose?

No! Maritime law absolutely allows injured seamen to choose their own doctor, and the employer must cover the expense.  The Jones Act specifically allows you the freedom to choose a doctor you are comfortable with, and whom you trust to make an accurate diagnosis.

What are the risks of seeing a company selected doctor?

The primary risk of seeing a doctor you did not choose is not getting the medical care you really need.  Doctors that work for your employer’s company may try to save the company money, which can result in you not getting proper diagnostics or treatment.  Remember, your employer is only required to pay for treatment that is recommended by the doctor.  Here are some of the risks of seeing a doctor you did not choose:

  • If the doctor is focused on saving money, rather than finding the best treatment for your injuries, he or she may refuse basic tests like MRIs, X-rays, nerve testing, or certain treatments.
  • Incomplete or lack of diagnostics can result in misdiagnosis or delayed diagnosis, which can cause further damage to your health.
  • Your condition may be generalized, which can result in inaccurate treatment plans.

What if my employer refuses to pay maintenance and cure benefits?

Maritime employers are required by law to pay maintenance and cure benefits to injured seamen.  If you were injured on-the-job and your employer is denying your maintenance and cure benefits, then you should definitely contact Brown Wharton & brothers to learn more about your legal rights, eligibility, and what you can do to get the financial help you deserve.

What can I expect maintenance and cure benefits to cover?

So long as your doctor makes an accurate diagnosis and recommendations to your employer, maintenance and cure should cover all of your related medical expenses, plus the cost of daily living while you recover.

Maintenance and cure are two separate concepts, defined as the following:

  • Maintenance – Benefits covering day-to-day expenses, such as mortgage or rent, utilities, insurance, food, and property taxes. Maintenance does not cover expenses like internet, cable, or car payments.
  • Cure – Benefits covering medical expenses and ongoing treatment. Cure benefits may cover transportation related to medical appointments, as well as the cost of diagnostics, treatment, and medications.

Remember that maintenance and cure pays for illnesses as well as injuries.  If you become ill while working as a seaman, you may be entitled to maintenance and cure benefits, even if the illness was not directly caused by the work being performed.

How long will I receive maintenance and cure?

In legal terms, maintenance and cure are benefits paid to an injured maritime worker until he or she is fit to return to duty, or reaches a point where further treatment will not help.  This is called maximum medical improvement (MMI).  Basically, reaching MMI means that your condition has improved as much as it is ever going to.

At the point of MMI, the doctor may discharge you from treatment.  You may reach MMI without being fully recovered if your doctor determines that your condition will not improve with further treatment.  If you suffered a permanent disability, then you may be able to pursue additional financial support outside the scope of maintenance and cure.

Do I need an attorney to help me with maintenance and cure benefits?

While your employer is required to pay maintenance and cure benefits, you may find it very helpful to contact a maritime injury attorney after an on-the-job injury occurs.  A maritime injury attorney can assess your case, help ensure that you get the maintenance and cure benefits you are legally entitled to, and can help make sure that all options for optimum recovery are considered.

If you have questions about your on-the-job maritime injury, contact us today.  We offer every client a free case review, so please fill out the form on your screen and our team will contact you right back.



Cruise Ship Lifeboat Accident Dangers

If you work in the maritime industry, you likely know that there are many dangers. A recent cruise ship lifeboat accident highlights dangers that seem unlikely, but are actually a very real concern.

Cruise Ship Lifeboat Accident Dangers

Cruise Ship Lifeboat Accident

Early in September 2016, the crew aboard the Harmony of the Seas – the largest cruise ship in the world – were conducting an “abandon ship drill” when a lifeboat became disconnected from its rigging. The lifeboat fell over 30 feet into the water, with crewmembers onboard.

One person died in the lifeboat accident, and four others were injured. Media reports indicated that two people were being treated for critical or life-threatening injuries.

This lifeboat accident was the second in three months, and the second to cause fatal injuries.

In July 2016, a crewmember on the ship Norwegian Breakaway was killed in another lifeboat accident. Both accidents are under investigation.

These two lifeboat accident examples are only a glimpse into the dangers of the maritime industry, specifically working on passenger ships.

In 2013, five crewmembers onboard the Thomson Majesty were killed when the lifeboat they were in plunged into the water landing upside down. In 2014, a cable snapped aboard the Coral Princess while a lifeboat was being raised into its rigging. One crewmember died in that accident.

Lifeboat Accident Risk Factors

Any time you work around heavy equipment or rigging, there is a risk of malfunction, negligent handling, or inadequate safety procedures. In the case of these two lifeboat accidents, part of the investigation is determining whether the lifeboats were secured and handled properly. The lifeboat drill process will also be examined.

Lifeboat drills are required as part of Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) guidelines.

The Harmony of the Seas is outfitted with 44-ton lifeboats, each set to hold 370 passengers. The lifeboats are designed to be efficient, with minimal work required to lower and navigate passengers off the ship. Abandon ship drills are a critical part of ensuring passenger safety, and making sure that the ship is safe for everyone onboard.

Lifeboat Accident Causes

According to the Nautical Institute, most lifeboat accidents are caused at the time when human and mechanical structures interact. The most common factors leading to accidents include:

  • Equipment failure
  • Quick release mechanism failure
  • Lack of maintenance
  • Design failure
  • Failure to follow correct procedures
  • Lack of proper training

Experts argue that the davits (rigging) used to secure the tons of mass required to support lifeboats and passengers may be vulnerable after years of use.

Experts also warn that the complex series of actions required to safely and properly release the boats may be confusing for crewmembers.

Lifeboat Accident Prevention

The International Maritime Organization (IMO) is responsible for safety standards, regulation, and other matters relating to the maritime industry. The IMO has a variety of publications designed to improve safety standards, training, and implementation of safe lifeboat management.

The IMO also works closely with the Maritime Safety Committee (MSC) and the United Nations to propose and adopt laws and amendments to laws and regulations.

The IMO specifically addresses regulations within SOLAS, and works diligently to improve safety precautions and address risk factors. SOLAS includes regulations and treaties pertaining to the following areas of the maritime industry:

  • Fire protection, detection, and extinction
  • Life saving appliances and arrangements (including lifeboats)
  • Radiocommunications
  • Safety of Navigation
  • Carriage of cargo
  • Management for the safe operation of ships
  • Verification of compliance

In addition to the IMO and MSC, the Cruise Line International Association (CLIA) also has advised certain provisions for its members, including mandating the following:

  • For training purposes, lifeboats may only be loaded while the ship is waterborne, and only while lifeboat crewmembers are onboard.
  • During lifeboat loading drills, lifeboats should be filled with an equal number of crewmembers to the certified capacity of the lifeboat.
  • Lifejackets should always be worn by lifeboat crewmembers, and all such crewmembers must attend the lifeboat loading drill.
  • Lifeboat loading drills should be conducted every six months.

Union Organization Calls for Change

In light of the more recent injuries and deaths during lifeboat drills, the Union organization Nautilus International is calling for change.

According to Nautilus General Secretary Mark Dickinson, the dangers of lifeboat drills are well documented, and the organization advises against lifeboats being manned while drills are performed. Dickinson states that it is “appalling” that the maritime industry has not solved this issue.

Nautilus states that this issue has consistently been raised between themselves and the IMO, and believes that a more concentrated effort needs to be made to protect crewmembers from known dangers. Dickinson further states his opinion that the entire concept of lifeboats should be reviewed, as well as potential alternatives for evacuation systems.

Lifeboat Accidents and Human Error

Of course, as humans we have limited control over equipment malfunction or breakdown.

What we can control, however, is our response to the responsibility to maintain equipment, service it properly, and train employees to practice safe actions and behavior.

In the maritime industry, employers are required to do this and more to protect their workers. When they fail to do so and injuries result, they may be subject to consequences based on applicable laws, regulations, and company policies.

Injuries and loss of life caused by negligence are never acceptable, and it is the right of every maritime worker to have adequate training and a safe working environment.

Workers who believe these rights have been violated, or who have been injured in a lifeboat accident, may find it beneficial to contact a maritime injury attorney to discuss their legal rights.



Why Are Maritime Lawsuits So Challenging?

One of the more vexing questions about maritime law is deceivingly simple to ask: “Why are maritime lawsuits so challenging”? In this article, we hope to answer this question by providing you with information about what sets maritime lawsuits apart from other personal injury or workers’ compensation lawsuits, as well as offering some guidance if you have been injured while working in the maritime industry.

Why are Maritime Lawsuits so Challenging?

There is no simple answer to why maritime lawsuits are challenging.  The fact is that maritime lawsuits are multi-faceted–that is, there are several elements that factor into such lawsuits that do not apply to other lawsuits.

Maritime Law/Admiralty Law

Maritime law (or admiralty law) is a specific body of laws that apply to individuals classified as seamen, longshoremen, or harbor workers.  A brief summary of these laws includes:

  • The Jones ActThe Jones Act protects seamen who have been injured while in the course of their employment. To qualify as a seaman, you must work at least 30 percent of your job onboard a vessel in navigable waters.  The Jones Act specifically protects seamen who are injured as a result of employer negligence.
  • The Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act (LHWCA) – Maritime workers who do not qualify as a seaman are covered by the LHWCA. The LHWCA protects workers who work onboard vessels, but also those who work in harbors, shipyards, or other maritime positions.  To qualify for LHWCA benefits, you do not have to prove negligence caused your injuries.
  • The Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act – The Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act was created to specifically protect workers on oil rigs, platforms, and permanent structures located along the continental shelf regions. These workers are not classified as seamen or harbor workers, which made it necessary for a specific set of laws to be formed in order to ensure that these workers can pursue benefits if they are injured on-the-job.
  • Death on the High Seas Act (DOHSA) – The DOHSA pertains to surviving family members of maritime workers killed on-the-job. Under the DOHSA, family members have the right to pursue compensation for their losses, including medical or funeral expenses, loss of financial support, and pain and suffering.

Requirements for Maritime Lawsuits

Similar to the specific, individualized nature of maritime law, there are several requirements that must be met in order to file a maritime lawsuit.  Further, depending on your classification and the individual facts of your situation, the laws that apply to your case may vary.  Some of the basic requirements for maritime lawsuits include:

  • Classification – In order to be eligible to file a maritime lawsuit, you must be classified as a maritime worker who is covered under maritime law. It is a common misconception that only seamen or sailors are covered under maritime law.  The fact is that individuals who work on a vessel in navigable waters, and who contribute directly or indirectly to the operation of the vessel may be covered.  That includes workers who contribute to such positions as cooks, clerks, stewards, musicians, bartenders, maids, or other contributory roles.
  • Time Spent on Vessel – Another requirement for filing a maritime lawsuit is that you can prove that you spent a significant amount of time working on a vessel. In most cases, the requirement is at least 30 percent of your employment.  That means that if your time is split between a shore position and a position on a vessel, then you must show that at least 30 percent of your time was spent on the vessel.
  • Navigable Vessel – As the name suggests, a navigable vessel is one that is capable of making seagoing voyages. It is important to note that the vessel does not have to be at sea when an injury occurs in order for you to seek benefits under maritime law.  Rather, the vessel has to be capable.  If you were injured on a vessel that does not operate, is still being built, or is unable to navigate on the water, you may not qualify to file a maritime lawsuit.

The Maritime Lawsuit Process

One of the elements of maritime lawsuits that many people find challenging is the process itself, and the little details that factor therein.  Here we will take a look at some of the elements of the maritime lawsuit process that may be challenging.  Consider the following:

  • Documentation – One of the most important elements of a maritime lawsuit is documentation of the accident, your injuries, medical statements and invoices, and any communication between you and your employer. Many people fail to keep detailed records, or omit information that may be helpful in establishing a case.  When that happens, the legal process may become delayed or even dismissed.
  • Statute of Limitations – Like most legal matters, there is a statute of limitations for filing maritime lawsuits. In most cases, this is three (3) years from the date of the injury.  However, in some cases, the statute is reduced (sometimes significantly), which can preclude you from filing a lawsuit if you do not act quickly.
  • Proving Negligence – Employers may have the responsibility of maintaining safe work environments, but you may have to prove that negligence occurred, which can be very challenging. Employers and insurers often try to contend that the worker was at-fault for the accident and injuries in order to avoid paying compensation.
  • Statement Pitfalls – If you have been injured on the job, it is important to file an accident report with your employer and seek medical attention immediately. What you should avoid are statement pitfalls, such as answering questions about the accident, fault, or your responsibility without your attorney present.  Often, injured workers are asked a barrage of confusing questions and are not aware of maritime law, resulting in statements that may not be completely accurate, or may be damaging to the case.
  • Appeals – After filing a maritime lawsuit, your employer has the right to appeal the case, or deny the accusations. This is one of the most challenging and time consuming elements of a maritime lawsuit.  The process of going back and forth between sides, filing motions, and seeking information can complicate and lengthen the time the case is in court.

How to Avoid Maritime Lawsuit Challenges

Some of the challenging elements of maritime lawsuits are inherent to the process and cannot be avoided.  What you can do to minimize the challenges and their effects on your case starts by consulting with a maritime injury attorney who can guide you through the process.  A skilled maritime injury attorney can help you understand what laws protect you, how to seek compensation, and what steps you can take to avoid lengthy, expensive, or unnecessary processes.

Sailor Suffers Back Injury in Long-Haul Voyage

A sailor has suffered a back injury in a long-haul voyage between Mombasa, Kenya and Corpus Christi, Texas.  Just one of several recent maritime accidents highlighting the dangers of working at sea, this accident also highlights the dangers of long-haul and deep sea voyages, where emergency services and communication may be limited.  If you work in the maritime industry, read on to learn more about this accident, and what you can do if you have been injured while working offshore.

Sailor Suffers Back Injury in Long-Haul Voyage

Sailor Injured after Fall

According to media reports, a 35-year-old Filipino sailor fell down a flight of stairs onboard a ship heading between Africa and the United States.  After falling, the sailor fell overboard, and had to be rescued by the National Sea Rescue Institute (NSRI).  After communicating with a doctor via Telkom Maritime Radio Services, the ship’s crew was advised that the sailor needed medical attention at a hospital.

The ship diverted course toward Port Elizabeth, where they were met seven miles out by the NSRI Eikos Rescuer IV and ambulance service.  The sailor was transported to a hospital where he was diagnosed with injuries to his back and leg.  Once the sailor was in the care of the medical team, the ship he was working on continued on with her voyage toward Corpus Christi.  Unfortunately for the sailor, his journey ended – and depending on the nature and extent of his injuries, his career may also be affected.

Back Injury Accidents in the Maritime Industry

Back injuries are one of the leading causes of healthcare woes for workers across industries.  Often preventable, back injuries can have a serious affect on your overall health, wellbeing, and ability to support you and your family.  In the maritime industry, back injuries can be caused by many factors, with the most common being:

  • Repetition – Every day, we bend, flex, twist, and otherwise subject our backs to a great deal of pressure and stress. Working in the maritime industry, you are required to lift heavy objects, work in extreme weather conditions, pull and move large ropes and equipment, and stretch or reach.  All of these movements, when repetitive, can put stress on your back and make you more susceptible to a back injury.  What’s more, if you work in an unsafe or poorly supervised environment, you may be even more likely to become injured.
  • Unsecured Equipment – When equipment onboard a vessel is unsecured, workers are placed at risk for slips or trips, crush injuries, or falling overboard. Ship supervisors and operators have the responsibility of training sailors and crew members to ensure that equipment is always secured properly.
  • Inadequate Safety Measures – If you work in the maritime industry, you likely have already had some form of safety training, and have been briefed on proper safety standards. If you or other crew members have not been trained, then the safety of everyone on board may be placed at risk.  Supervisors and operators must ensure that proper safety measures are in place, including structural, medical, training, and supervision.
  • Slip and Fall InjuriesSlip and fall injuries are among the most common injuries sustained by workers in the maritime industry. The Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) estimates that over 40 percent of all maritime injuries are caused by slip and fall accidents.  Slick surfaces, extreme weather conditions, or improperly maintained work environments can all result in slips, trips, or falls.  The most common injuries associated with slip and fall accidents in the maritime industry are injuries to the spine (back), neck, head, or lower extremities.

When Accidents are Caused by Negligence

While it is certainly true that maritime accidents can be caused by factors outside human control, there are many instances (like those mentioned above) that could be prevented if employers, supervisors, or operators maintained their duty to employees.  When someone else is negligent and you are injured as a result, you should make it a priority to speak to a maritime injury attorney right away.

Workers in the maritime industry are protected by laws like the Jones Act and the Longshore Harbor and Workers’ Compensation Act.  These laws are designed to protect maritime workers should they become injured on-the-job, as traditional workers’ compensation laws do not apply to workers in the maritime industry.  Understanding maritime injury laws and taking action can be complicated, and when you are injured or suffering a loss, you may feel overwhelmed.  That is why you should contact the maritime injury attorneys that you can trust to advocate on your behalf in the pursuit of justice.

Maritime Injury Attorneys

Our team of maritime injury attorneys know well how devastating a back injury, permanent disability, or loss of life is to your family.  You may have a moderate injury with weeks of downtime, or you may be permanently disabled and unable to continue working.  No matter what the severity of your injury is, if you have been harmed by the negligence of someone else, we want to help you.

We work hard to fight for the rights of our clients and help ensure that their future is bright and promising.  While we cannot take away the pain and anxiety that surrounds a maritime injury, we can offer your family confidence that you are not alone.

To get answers to your questions, or to schedule a free injury consultation with one of our attorneys, send us an email, or call our office.  Do not let the strain of your situation overwhelm you when you may be entitled to compensation for your injuries and losses–compensation which could have a dramatic, positive impact on you and your family.


Tugboat Accident Highlights Crush Injury Dangers

Accidents can happen anywhere at any time, and maritime workers know this better than many.  Working on a tugboat can be particularly dangerous, as illustrated in a recent tugboat accident that highlights crush injury dangers.  Read on to learn more about crush injury dangers in the maritime industry and what you can do to protect your rights.

Tugboat Accident Highlights Crush Injury Dangers

Tugboat Accident Information

The previously mentioned tugboat accident occurred in Alaska aboard the Cross Point.  According to police reports, a 20-year-old deckhand was working to repair a mooring line when the line became tangled underneath a buoy.  The deckhand and another man climbed to the buoy, fully outfitted with Personal Floatation Devices (PFDs), and attempted to untangle the lines.  Unfortunately, the tide was moving too rapidly, and the three nearby moored barges began to move toward one another.

The deckhand was pushed into the water, where he clung to one of the barge lines before being pulled under the surface by the tide.  After being pulled under one barge, the deckhand resurfaced, but he was stuck between two barges, and they were moving toward one another.  His coworkers tried to instruct and guide him to swim under the surface so he would avoid being trapped, but his PFD limited his movement, and he was unable to dive below the surface.

The result of the accident was the deckhand being crushed between the two barges, and his body being pulled downriver from the accident site.  His body was later recovered by fellow crewmembers aboard a smaller vessel.  The crew attempted CPR, but he did not survive his injuries.  The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the U.S. Coast Guard are investigating the tugboat accident, and the deckhand’s body has been sent for autopsy.

Tugboat Accidents

Tugboats are used in harbors, on the ocean, and in rivers.  The work they and their crews perform is crucial to the maritime industry.  An unfortunate reality of working on a tugboat is that there are also many dangers.  The most common reasons for tugboat accidents are:

  • Capsizing: Because tugboats are small and often are exposed to harsh elements, close proximity to other vessels, and may experience operational problems, capsizing is a real concern.  Dangerous for several reasons, capsizing can cause injuries or death due to crush injuries, exposure to the elements (hypothermia), or drowning.
  • Hazards on board: Not only is the external environment a hazard for tugboat workers, but on-board hazards can also cause injuries or death.  Slick, wet, or poorly maintained surfaces can lead to falls or broken bones.  Improperly maintained equipment and machinery can lead to crush injuries, broken bones, or cuts.  Further, improper training can result in any of these, and other injuries.
  • Mechanical breakdowns: Mechanical breakdowns, such as broken ladders, defective equipment, or power loss can lead to many injuries and a very dangerous work environment.
  • Vessel collisions: As illustrated in the tugboat accident story above, vessel collisions are a very dangerous risk to maritime workers.  Vessel collisions are one of the leading causes of crush injuries, and often are fatal.

Crush Injury Information

As noted above, crush injuries are common in maritime and tugboat accidents.  Crush injuries occur when excessive pressure or force is placed against a body part, or when the body is squeezed between two objects.  Crush injuries can cause a variety of injuries, ranging in severity from minor scrapes to fatal trauma.  The most common injuries include:

  • Bruising
  • Bleeding
  • Fractures or breaks
  • Nerve damage
  • Smashed extremities
  • Lacerations (wounds that are open)
  • Compartment syndrome (pressure on a body part resulting in severe nerve, blood vessel, muscle, and tissue damage)
  • Secondary infection

If you or a fellow crew member suffers a crush injury in a tugboat accident, it is important that you understand basic first aid options, and seek medical attention immediately.  Basic first aid measures include:

  • Applying pressure directly on a wound to stop or slow bleeding
  • Cover the wound with wet cloth or bandages to protect the area from debris
  • If possible, elevate the injured body part above heart-level
  • If the injury appears to be to the neck, head, or spine, immobilize those areas and limit movement or exposure
  • Get medical attention immediately

What to do After a Tugboat Accident

While some tugboat accidents are simply that–an accident–many others are caused by negligence on the part of a supervisor, vessel operator, owner, or other party.  If you sustained crush injuries in a tugboat accident or other maritime accident, and you believe that the vessel was not properly maintained or supervised, safety procedures were not being followed, or there was a lack of proper training, you may have the right to pursue compensation for your injuries and financial losses.

To find out more about your rights, and to explore your legal options, please contact us today by filling out our online form.  Maritime injury law can be complicated, and when you are injured the last thing you need to be worried about is your employment, finances, or the stability of your family’s future.