Maritime Head Injuries

Maritime work can be a lucrative career for many people, but it doesn’t come without its risks. Head injuries in particular happen frequently in the maritime industry, which can lead to a multitude of medical conditions that, if severe enough, can require lifelong treatment. Although in some instances, head injuries stem from accidents that couldn’t have been prevented, there are numerous head injuries that may have never happened if not for the negligence and carelessness of maritime employers, companies and/or vessel owners.

Common Causes and Complications of Maritime Head Injuries

Head injuries can be either open or closed. An open head injury occurs when the skull is cracked, fractured, or pierced, whiled a closed head injury doesn’t cause any breaks or cracks in the skull at all. Although it seems like an open head injury would be the more serious of the two, closed head injuries are often much more difficult to diagnose, and can be just as serious if not more severe than open head injuries. If these injuries are not treated in time, additional medical conditions may arise.

The most common reasons for head injuries in the maritime industry includes:

  • Failure to provide safety equipment and features to workers, including safeguards, railings, protective clothing, and protective gear
  • Slip and fall accidents
  • Accidents involving cranes and cargo
  • Conveyor belt accidents
  • Improperly stored equipment
  • Surface that aren’t covered with slip and skid protectant

Complications stemming from head injuries can include:

  • Traumatic brain injury
  • Concussions
  • Hemorrhaging and brain bruising
  • Hematoma
  • Coma
  • “Locked-in” syndrome
  • Cerebral fluid buildup
  • Blood vessel damage
  • Nerve damage
  • Infections
  • Chronic ringing in ears
  • Memory and cognitive issues

Cautions to Look Out For

Head injuries may not seem serious at first, but as previously mentioned, closed head injuries are often hard to diagnose, and a more severe problem may exist. Contact a healthcare provider immediately for any of the following symptoms:

  • A persistent headache that won’t diminish
  • Chronic vomiting and/or nausea
  • Dilated pupils
  • Unexpected seizures, especially if you’ve never had seizures before
  • Convulsions
  • Disorientation and/or confusion
  • Weakness and numbness in the arms and legs

Head injuries are in many instances an unfortunate part of life. Even with the most cautious amount of care, someone may bump or hit their head. However, in maritime work, as mentioned earlier, there are times when the sheer negligence of another party results in these types of injuries. Maritime workers who suffer from head injuries that happened because of the another’s carelessness are protected under the Jones Act and general maritime law.

It’s important to mention, however, that seamen should always report head injuries to their employers and seek medical assistance, regardless of how minor the accident may seem. Should the injury become more severe over time, proof must already be established that it occurred while on the job.

In addition, make sure to thoroughly look over all medical and any other relevant documents for complete accuracy before signing. This will work as added protection in the event an employer tries to deny or cover up what actually happened. Although the Jones Act statute was written specifically to help seamen recover damages when injured, some employers and vessel owners are not quick to take responsibility, so it’s important to ensure that everything is accurately documented.