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.




Fatal Offshore Injury Data You Need

We have gathered fatal offshore injury data you need to know if you work in the maritime industry. You undoubtedly know that there are many dangers and risks involved in offshore work, but do you know how many fatal injuries occur each year? Are you aware of the most common dangers and how to protect yourself? Read on to learn more and find out how to get help after an offshore injury.

Fatal Offshore Injury Data You Need

Fatal Offshore Injury Data

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the oil and gas industry (onshore and offshore) fatality rate is seven times higher than all other industries in the United States. Among all workers and industries, the CDC estimates 3.8 fatalities out of every 100,000 workers, while in the oil and gas industry, the rate is 27.1 fatalities out of 100,000 workers.

In 2013, the CDC published a report highlighting the most dangerous aspects of the oil and gas industry. The report was compiled using data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and the Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries. Analyzing information from 2003-2010, the CDC found that there were 128 fatalities in the offshore oil and gas industry during that time. The breakdown of the cause of injuries included:

  • Transportation-related injuries accounted for 51 percent of all fatal injuries reported. These injuries were sustained either during a transportation accident, or as a result, such as drowning. These events included:
    • Aircraft-related injuries – 75 percent
    • Transportation and material movement – 24 percent
  • Contact with equipment or objects accounted for 16 percent of injuries.
  • Explosions and fires accounted for 13 percent.
  • Exposure to harmful environments or materials accounted for 13 percent.
  • Poor weather conditions and power failure accounted for a small portion of fatalities with eight and seven fatalities respectively.

The most common employment titles reported in the report indicated particular dangers for the following:

  • Well servicing – 49 percent
  • Drilling contractors – 30 percent
  • Oil and gas operators – 21 percent
  • Transportation and material moving – 18 percent

Hidden Dangers in the Maritime Industry

It is important to understand what this offshore injury data really means. For example, transportation-related incidents accounted for the highest number of fatalities in the CDC report. However, the editors noted that the majority of these incidents were helicopter crashes, often caused by poor weather conditions, power failure, or mechanical defect. In addition to the trauma associated with a helicopter crash, several fatalities were attributed to drowning, rather than the accident itself.

Another example of a hidden danger could be in the locations where more fatal injuries occur. According to the CDC’s data, all but one of the fatalities studied between 2003 and 2010 occurred in the Gulf of Mexico. In 2009, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) implemented the Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast technology (ADS-B) as a response to concerns over fatal injuries in the Gulf of Mexico. ADS-B is designed to transmit information via satellite to aircraft and controllers, including:

  • Enhanced weather information
  • Improved communications
  • Flight tracking
  • Traffic and terrain information

These improvements have gone a long way toward protecting maritime workers, transportation pilots, and other workers who are exposed to similar environments. Since implementation in 2009, no weather-related helicopter crashes resulting in fatalities have occurred in the oil and gas industry (as of 2012).

Protecting Yourself in the Maritime Industry

There is no question that the maritime industry, and specifically offshore oil and gas employment, is dangerous work. It is critical that you understand the nature of the work you will be doing, as well as any safety precautions and procedures your employment requires. Following safety guidelines in the maritime industry can literally save your life. Be aware of your environment and the potential injuries that you could sustain, and always take measures to protect yourself.

As an employee or contractor, your supervisor, employer, and the property owner have the responsibility of ensuring the safety of your workplace. In the maritime industry, that may include thorough assessments of all safety procedures, regular equipment maintenance, ensuring that lighting and fixtures are operating properly, and following the guidelines by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and applicable laws.

Getting Help after an Offshore Injury

If you have been injured while working offshore, or have lost a loved one in a maritime injury accident, you may have many questions about maritime law and your rights. As an employee, if you are injured while in the course of your employment, you may have the option of pursuing financial relief to help you cover the cost of medical expenses or lost wages. Further, if you have lost a loved one in a fatal offshore injury accident, you may have the right to pursue relief to help you cover funeral or medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering, and other expenses you may incur.

To find out more about maritime law, your rights, and what options you may have to protect your rights and future, fill out our online form to schedule your free injury consultation. There is no question that you are facing a difficult time. You do not have to go it alone.


Lightning Poses Serious Risk for Maritime Injuries

If you work in the maritime industry, you know that lightning poses a serious risk for maritime injuries.  With hurricane season officially beginning in June, weather – and particularly lightning – becomes an even greater risk factor if you work offshore.  With storm season here, it is important that you know how to protect yourself from the devastating effects of lightning and not underestimate its power.

Lightning Poses Serious Risk for Maritime Injuries

Lightning Risk for Offshore Workers

Any job that requires you to work outdoors places you at risk when dangerous weather occurs.  Lightning is one of the most significant dangers for outdoor workers, and is a very real concern for maritime workers.  Even if the platform or rig you work on is considered to be “grounded”, do not assume that you are immune from the dangerous effects of lightning.  While lightning strikes on open water are less frequent than those occurring on land, when they occur, the damage can be extensive.

Offshore platforms and rigs are generally considered grounded because they connect to the bottom of the ocean.  Unfortunately, oil, rust, and decay can impede the direct path that energy would travel to the ground, making offshore structures extremely susceptible to electric failure, surge effects, and fire.  Due to the nature of offshore work, there is the extended risk of lightning striking cranes or tall metal structures, helicopters, pipelines, and even ships.  In contrast to the open water, offshore structures are excellent electricity conductors due to their prominence and metal composition.

Lightning and Maritime Injuries

In general, lightning is considered one of the top three weather-related causes of death in the United States.   It is important to remember that lightning does not necessarily have to strike the direct surface you are working on in order to cause injuries.  According to MedScape, there are six primary types of lightning strikes that can affect humans, which are:

  • Direct strike – Where lightning hits you directly
  • Side splash – Where lightning splashes from a nearby object
  • Contact voltage – Where electricity is conducted from an object to your skin, such as through a pipe, wiring, or plumbing
  • Ground current – Where lightning strikes and the electricity travels over the ground
  • Upward leader – Where lightning channels are incomplete
  • Blunt trauma – Where lightning strikes forcefully enough to cause an explosive blunt force reaction

Depending on which type of lightning strike you suffer, the injuries you sustain may range from mild discomfort to permanent injury or death.  Maritime injuries caused by lightning may include:

  • Brain damage – Including headaches, nausea, seizures, sleep disturbances, and personality changes
  • Autonomic nervous system damage – Including GI problems, blood pressure irregularity, dizziness, impotence, and pain syndromes
  • Peripheral nervous system damage – Including chronic pain and sensory problems
  • Burns
  • Blunt force, concussive trauma, or crush injuries
  • Cardiac arrest
  • Paralysis
  • Spinal cord injury

In addition to these injuries, there are numerous injuries that may occur as a result of lightning striking a structure and causing debris-related injuries.

How to Prevent Lightning-Related Maritime Injuries

You may be familiar with the saying that “lightning never strikes the same place twice”.  The fact of the matter is that it only takes one strike to change your life.  The U.S.  Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) recommends the following basic strategies to protect yourself from the dangers of lightning:

  • Use the “30-30 Rule”: Count the seconds that elapse between a lightning strike and the sound of thunder.  If less than 30 seconds elapse between the two, you should move indoors and take adequate measures to protect yourself.  Before returning to outdoor activities, wait 30 minutes after the last lightning or thunder to be sure that the storm has passed.
  • Lightning can travel a long distance, and is visible even if the storm is several miles away.  As a general rule, if you see lightning but do not hear thunder, the strike occurred at least 15 miles away.  Once you hear thunder following the lightning strike, it is important for you to begin safety measures.
  • If you are working offshore and there is a tropical storm or hurricane approaching, do not hesitate or wait until the last minute to evacuate.  Tropical storms can be extremely dangerous to offshore structures, and can complicate standard safety protocols.
  • If you are an owner, manager, or safety official working on an offshore structure, consider utilizing specific programs and strategies to assess risks, protect your assets (physical and human), reduce downtime, and improve overall safety.
  • Always know the risks of the environment you are working in.  When storms roll in, stay away from danger zones with:
    • Heavy machinery (cranes, tractors, and open vehicles)
    • Electrical current and conductors (plumbing, utility lines, water, and metal)
    • Tall structures (scaffolding, utility poles, ladders, cranes, etc.)
    • Explosive or flammable materials

Getting Help with Maritime Injuries

If you have been injured while in the course of your job as a maritime worker, it is important that you understand your legal rights.  Maritime workers are not covered under the same workers’ compensation laws that cover many other industries, which makes it crucial that you know what your options are to protect your financial security and livelihood.

To learn more about maritime injuries and your rights, contact the maritime attorneys at Brown Wharton & Brothers.  Let our knowledge and experience help guide you through the process of managing a maritime injury claim.  Contact our office to schedule a free case review, and to learn more about maritime laws that may help you get the compensation you deserve after an on-the-job injury.  Fill out our online form to get started today.



5 Tips About The Jones Act

Employees in the maritime industry who are injured on the job may find themselves in a unique predicament if they need financial assistance. Traditionally, maritime workers do not qualify for standard federal or state workers’ compensation, but are covered under The Jones Act. The Jones Act is a federal statute regulating the maritime industry, and also offers protections for maritime workers who have been injured by negligence.

5 Tips About The Jones Act

If you are a maritime worker and you have been injured by the negligence of an employer or other party during the course of your employment, it is important that you understand your rights and options. Here are 5 tips about The Jones Act to help you maximize protection of your rights and future:

  1. Get Medical Treatment Promptly after an Injury: If you have been injured on the job, your first priority should be getting prompt medical attention and treatment. Make sure that you keep records of any treatment, invoices, prescriptions, tests and results, and communications between you and your healthcare providers.
  2. Report your Injury: Under The Jones Act, you are required to report a workplace injury to your supervisor within seven days. In most cases, it is best to report the injury immediately if possible, or immediately following medical treatment.
  3. Make Sure you Meet the Requirements to File a Claim: In order to file a claim under The Jones Act, you must meet certain requirements. For example, you must be considered a “seaman”, must work on a vessel in “navigable waters”, and must meet certain negligence criteria. An outline of the process for Jones Act claims can be found here.
  4. Consult a Maritime Attorney: For many workers in the maritime industry, the provisions of The Jones Act are the only option they have to recover financially after a workplace injury. The guidance of a maritime attorney can be an invaluable resource to help manage communication, protect your rights, and achieve the best outcome possible.
  5. Discuss Options of Settlement Versus Trial: As a general rule, it is advised that you do not settle or resolve a Jones Act case until you have been restored to “maximum health”, or have returned to work. You may have the option of settling your case out of court, or proceeding to trial. The individual facts of your case will largely determine which option is best for you. In any case, it is helpful to discuss your options with your attorney.

If you are a maritime worker and have been injured on-the-job, it is important that you explore your legal rights and the unique protections of The Jones Act. These 5 tips can be a helpful starting point as you assess your eligibility and legal options. To learn more about maritime law and The Jones Act, please fill out the contact form on this page for a no-obligation, no-cost case review.


Choosing a Jones Act Lawyer in Texas

If you have been injured on a ship, near docks, or on an oil rig or derrick, it is important to be aware of your rights and understand how best to protect yourself, your family, and your future. To help, our maritime lawyers have offered some helpful advice for choosing a Jones Act lawyer in Texas that is right for you.

Why Choose a Jones Act Lawyer

If you work in the maritime industry and have been injured on-the-job, you need legal guidance that is tailored to the needs of your individual case. Admiralty law, also called maritime law, is the area of law that protects seamen, longshoreman, and other maritime workers who have been injured due to the negligence of an employer or other party. Because maritime law is very specialized, it is important to choose a lawyer who has experience managing maritime law cases.

How to Choose a Jones Act Lawyer

In order to choose a lawyer who is right for your case, there are some specific steps you can take when weighing the many legal options available. Some helpful things to remember when choosing a Jones Act lawyer include:

  • Choose a lawyer who has verifiable experience successfully managing maritime cases. Research prospective attorneys online to find out more about their reputation, successful cases, and practice areas.
  • Find out what resources the prospective lawyer has, such as relationships with experts or specialists in various areas of the maritime industry, as well as healthcare if you are injured.
  • If a law firm has more than one lawyer on staff, make sure that you know which attorney will be directly managing your case, and any other parties that may be involved.
  • Choose an attorney who represents clients in the state where the accident or injury occurred, or who can form a relationship with legal counsel in other jurisdictions if needed.
  • Schedule a consultation with each perspective lawyer or law firm prior to entering a contractual relationship. Ask questions, address concerns, and determine if there is the foundation for a working relationship.

Jones Act Lawyers in Texas You can Trust

At Brown Wharton & Brothers, our Jones Act lawyers take an individualized approach to every case. We bring passion, skill, and experience that our clients can count on. If you have been injured in Texas or elsewhere, and you have questions about maritime law, the Jones Act, or how to file a lawsuit, contact our office today to learn more.


Oil Rig Injury Lawyer in Houston Offers Information about Crush Injuries

Oil rig workers are susceptible to a variety of risks. A recent crush injury case has prompted our oil rig injury lawyer in Houston to provide information about these risks and the devastating consequences. The recent case stems from an incident in March that resulted in crushing injuries to a maritime worker in Norway. While this example case occurred overseas, the risks of similar injuries are very real for workers in the United States.

Oil Rig Injury Lawyer in Houston Discusses the Case

In March, a drill floor worker was working on a monkey board located inside a Transocean oil derrick drilling for Shell. The exact details of the incident were not immediately reported, but sources indicate that the worker suffered severe crush injuries. He was flown from the derrick site to a hospital in Norway. Since that time, the Petroleum Safety Authority Norway (PSA) has launched an investigation into the incident, which appears to be ongoing.

Dangers of Oil Rig Crush Injuries

Crush injuries are among the most severe injuries sustained by oil rig workers. Unfortunately, these injuries are among the most common type of injury due to the nature of working on oil rigs and derricks. Crush injuries can be minor, with injuries that are easily treated; however, most often crush injuries result in significant damage, disability, or death.

There are numerous risks associated with crush injuries and possible complications, such as:

  • Infection: any time there is an open wound, the patient is at risk for developing an infection. In conditions that are less than sanitary, infections may be more likely, and more difficult to treat.
  • Chemical disruption: When chemicals in the muscles and cells of the body are disrupted, the result can be breakage, strain, or death to these areas. Severe instances of chemical disruption leading to leakage of sodium, calcium, or potassium can lead to a condition known as rhabdomyolysis. Rhabdomyolysis can have devastating consequences if not properly treated, including organ failure, decreased blood pressure, and bone or nerve damage.
  • Disability: One of the most common devastating outcomes of crush injuries are permanent disabilities associated with disfigured or amputated limbs. Around 75 percent of crush injuries occur to the legs, which can have a drastic negative effect on the individuals overall mobility and quality of life.

Ways to Prevent Oil Rig Crush Injuries

Working around heavy machinery and equipment, especially in damp or poorly lit conditions, is dangerous for anyone. Employers in the maritime industry are tasked with providing a safe working environment, including providing proper training and safety gear, maintaining machinery and equipment to avoid malfunctions, and taking steps to prevent accidents and injuries. When employers fail to meet these tasks, they place maritime workers at risk.

While there may be no real way to prevent an accident or crush injuries, it is important that maritime workers understand that they have rights. Anyone who has been injured in a crushing oil rig accident due to the negligence of another party should explore his or her legal rights by contacting a maritime injury attorney.