Key Differences Between the Jones Act and Workers’ Compensation

Working in the maritime industry presents some unique dangers for employees, and with such, unique methods of resolving injury cases.  Here is what maritime employees need to know about the key differences between the Jones Act and workers’ compensation.  Understanding these differences could go a long way toward successfully resolving your injury case and getting the compensation you deserve.

Key Differences Between the Jones Act and Workers’ Compensation

Maritime workers who spend a great deal of time aboard a vessel are considered seamen.  Under most state laws, seamen are not entitled to traditional workers’ compensation benefits like their non-maritime counterparts.  Instead, seamen can file an injury claim under the Jones Act to obtain benefits if their employer was at fault for their injury.

Here is a breakdown so you can see the key differences between the Jones Act and workers’ compensation laws.  Of course, there are similarities, but the goal of the Jones Act is to provide benefits specifically to workers in the maritime industry since maritime workers often cannot file workers’ compensation claims.

After reviewing the differences between the two, if you still have questions, contact the maritime injury attorneys at Brown & Brothers to learn more.

Workers’ Compensation

Every state has workers’ compensation laws for land-based employees.  Workers’ compensation claims are not based on fault or responsibility, but are a generally guaranteed part of working in most businesses or industries.  That means that accidents caused by negligence or pure accident are both covered by most workers’ compensation claims.

As a general rule, workers’ compensation covers medical expenses and disability benefits when applicable.  Workers’ compensation is a standard coverage for most employees, but it is somewhat limited.  For example, most injured workers will find that they do not qualify for workers’ compensation coverage unless they have been out of work for a period of a few days or longer.

Workers’ compensation also does not provide coverage for lost wages while out of work.  In most cases, standard workers’ compensation coverage will not compensate workers for pain and suffering, future medical expenses, or injuries occurring on water.  Workers’ compensation claims also remove the employee’s ability to sue for negligence in many cases.

The Jones Act

Unlike workers’ compensation, to file a claim under the Jones Act, the worker must be able to establish that his or her employer was at fault for the injury that occurred, or that another party (crew members, officers, etc.) was negligent.  Seamen who can prove that their employer (or other party) was at least partially at fault for the injury are covered under the Jones Act.

One of the unique elements of claims under the Jones Act is that seamen can recover all lost wages and medical bills, regardless of how long he or she has been unable to work.  That means that employees who have been out of work for even a short period of time are entitled to recover wages for that period as if they had not been out of work.  Seamen who are covered under the Jones Act can also recover damages for pain and suffering, future lost wages, and disability benefits.  The Jones Act does not cover any injuries that occurred on land, even if you are a seaman.

Unlike workers’ compensation claims, if you file a Jones Act injury claim, you may still have the right to sue your employer or another party for negligence, which could allow you to pursue additional recovery.

Learn More about the Key Differences Between the Jones Act and Workers’ Compensation

There are some definite similarities between the Jones Act and workers’ compensation claims.  There are also some unique elements to each based on the type of employee you are classified as – maritime or land-based.  Employees in the maritime industry should contact a maritime injury attorney to learn more about which types of benefits they may be eligible to pursue.

State laws vary, and every case has unique qualities.  The best way to ensure that you get the compensation you need and deserve is to contact the maritime injury attorneys at Brown & Brothers.  Our team is experienced in a wide variety of maritime injury cases, and we know what it takes to protect your legal rights and get benefits that will keep your family financially secure.

To schedule a free injury consultation, fill out our online form, or call us toll free at 1-877-363-6148.

 

 

Sources:

http://www.jonesactlaw.com/blog/jones-act-vs-workers-compensation/

https://www.houstoninjurylawyer.com/jones-act-versus-workers-compensation/

https://www.offshoreinjuryfirm.com/common-questions/workers-comp-vs-lhwca-vs-jones-act/

https://www.investopedia.com/terms/j/jonesact.asp

Just How Dangerous are Oil Derricks for Workers?

The oil and gas industries are considered among the most dangerous professions.  And while there are many dangers involved in these industries, we want to focus this article on the question of “just how dangerous are oil derricks for workers?” What are the unique hazards of working on an oil derrick, and how can workers prepare or prevent injuries? Let’s take a closer look.

Just How Dangerous are Oil Derricks for Workers?

Year after year, the oil and gas industry continues to prove to be incredibly dangerous.  According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, workers in the oil and gas industry are six times more likely to suffer a fatal injury than workers in “average” jobs.

In 2008, 120 workers were killed in these industries.  In 2014, 101 workers were killed.  Most years on record have similar data, with some significant incidents causing hundreds of injuries or deaths on their own, such as the Deepwater Horizon explosion.

The majority of fatalities on oil derricks in 2014 occurred in Texas, with a reported 44 percent of fatal injuries occurring here.  Other states reporting significant injuries and fatalities include Oklahoma and North Dakota.  The most common causes of death were attributed to:

  • Falling objects
  • Material handling – using a forklift, crane, or winch
  • Moving rigging up or down
  • Laying down or picking up tubulars

While these were the primary causes of death in 2014 accidents, there are many other dangers that come with working on an oil derrick.

Why are Oil Derricks so Dangerous?

In considering the question “how dangerous are oil derricks for workers” we need to look at the dangers themselves – not just the number of injuries or deaths.  Some of the most notable reasons why oil derricks are dangerous include the following:

Fire

Petroleum is a highly flammable substance, and combined with the various chemicals used for oil drilling, fire is a significant risk.  According to the U.S.  Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), around seven percent of all oil worker fatalities between 2003 and 2006 were attributed to fire.  Oil drilling often requires chemicals like hydrogen sulfide, which can build up pressure and cause explosions.  Various chemicals used for cleaning, lubricating parts, or operating machinery can also increase fire risk.

Falls

According to the CDC, another seven percent of worker fatalities between 2003 and 2006 were caused by falls from “higher to lower levels”.  In the same study, the CDC reported that 22 percent of worker fatalities could be contributed to falling objects, such as tools or equipment.

Equipment and Machinery

On oil derricks, there are many machines and a lot of equipment.  Drills, cranes, forklifts, and other machines are heavy, noisy, and dangerous if they are not properly maintained and inspected.  Between 2003 and 2006, six percent of oil worker deaths were caused by crush injuries.  Workers can easily become trapped, entangled, or in the path of moving machinery.  The noise of these machines can also post a unique danger in that workers cannot adequately communicate with one another.

Fatigue

Most workers on oil derricks work 12-hour shifts, which is difficult in the best of circumstances.  In the case of oil derricks, workers have to deal with a variety of unique circumstances that make a 12-hour shift particularly dangerous.  A few examples include:

  • Working with heavy equipment
  • Working around combustible materials
  • Exposure to weather conditions
  • Being isolated on offshore rigs

Transportation

Transportation to and from oil derricks or fields can also be dangerous for workers.  In fact, some reports suggest that transportation-related accidents may be the leading cause of death among oil and gas industry workers.  Workers who are fatigued are often required to drive long distances to wherever they may be staying.  After 7-14 days of 12-hour shifts, this drive can be particularly dangerous.

Another transportation concern is the fact that offshore workers often must rely on helicopters to get them to and from the oil derrick.  Helicopter malfunctions, improperly maintained helicopters, or flying in poor weather conditions can all contribute to crashes.

Reducing the Dangers of Oil Derricks for Workers

With such a broad range of dangers, is there any way to prevent or reduce the dangers of oil derricks for workers? There are some strategies that could prove useful in preventing injuries and deaths, which boil down to improved workplace safety policies and procedures.  Consider the following prevention strategies:

  • Improved Safety Policies – Companies can prevent accidents and injuries on their oil derricks by providing more oversight of the facilities, conducting tougher inspections, and making safety requirements more strict.
  • Training and Equipment – It is also important that companies adequately train their workers and provide them with proper safety equipment for the job. Going above and beyond the basic safety standards can improve the workplace environment and improve safety.
  • Implementation of Existing Regulations – It is not uncommon for oil and gas companies to fall under the umbrella of government regulations, but choose not to follow them as strictly as they should. According to a CDC report in 2016, in 86 percent of fall-related deaths reviewed, proper protection was not used, or was improperly used, or equipment failed.  These deaths might have been prevented had regulations been followed.

Protecting the Legal Rights of Oil and Gas Industry Workers

If you work in the oil and gas industry and have been injured on-the-job, you likely have many questions about how to get compensation for your injuries.  Workers commonly have questions about workers’ compensation, disability, lost wages, and personal injury laws and processes.

To find out more about the dangers of oil derricks for workers or how you can protect your rights, contact Brown & Brothers to speak with one of our maritime injury attorneys.  Fill out our online form and our staff will be in touch shortly to schedule your free consultation.

 

Sources:

https://work.chron.com/dangers-onshore-oil-rig-23643.html

https://www.cdc.gov/niosh/docs/2017-193/2017-193.pdf

Oil Rig Dangers: Work-Related Injuries and Safety

 

Are Oil Drilling Accidents Becoming More Common?

The oil and gas industry is known for being hazardous, but some sources suggest that oil drilling accidents are becoming more common.  According to the US Energy Information Administration, forecasts for 2018 suggests that crude oil production will average 10.7 million barrels per day (bpd), up from four million bpd 10 years ago.  Those numbers are estimated to increase further in the upcoming few years.

As crude oil production has increased, so have the number of oil drilling accidents.  These accidents have a devastating impact on the victims and their loved ones, shareholders, and the industry as a whole.  For several years, researchers and investigative reporters have chronicled the increase in accidents.  Let’s take a look at some of this information about the increase in oil drilling accidents, as well as relevant example cases.

If you have questions about a specific work-related injury, contact Brown & Brothers to speak with one of our maritime injury attorneys.

Oil Drilling Accidents Becoming More Common

In 2014, the Houston Chronicle published an investigation titled “Drilling Boom, Deadly Legacy“.  This story focused on how an industry that built prosperity for so many has also built a legacy for death and injuries.  In 2012, accidents and injuries in the oil and gas industry hit a 10-year high, with 65 deaths occurring in 2012 alone.  That number was 60 percent higher than the previous year.

According to the U.S.  Bureau of Labor Statistics, between 2007 and 2012, 663 workers died while working in oil-related industries, including oil drilling and fracking.  Around 40 percent of those workers died in Texas.

What may come as a surprise to many readers is the fact that onshore drilling operations seem to be more dangerous than offshore drilling operations.  According to data from OSHA:

  • The federal government has had 22 years of failing to implement safety standards and protocols for onshore oil and gas drilling.
  • Even major incidents like the Deepwater Horizon oil spill have only resulted in more strict regulations for offshore drilling, but have not included regulations for onshore drilling operations.
  • OSHA is only required to investigate accidents that cause hospitalization of three or more workers, or death of one or more workers. That has resulted in about 150 of 18,000 work-related injuries or illnesses being investigated.
  • Of the accidents that OSHA did investigate, 78 percent included safety violations.

Oil Drilling Accident Example Cases

“Bogie Pad” Failure Case

In August 2018, the family of one oil rig worker filed a lawsuit in Harris County for $150 million.  The lawsuit named Occidental Petroleum, Helmerich & Payne, and AIP as defendants in the case, which stemmed from an accident on a land-based oil rig.  According to reports, the accident occurred in January 2018, when the worker was struck on the head by a 30-pound object that fell over 100 feet before hitting the man.

The object, known as a “bogie pad”, was not properly secured, and it was determined that the bolts designed to secure it were either damaged or missing.  The lawsuit further states that the design itself was dangerous, and that workers had used the wrong materials to operate and maintain the bogie pad.

The worker who was struck on the head suffered severe brain damage and was in a coma for several weeks.  He is now permanent disabled and will require ongoing medical treatment and assistance with care and supervision for the rest of his life.

Explosion Claims Multiple Lives

In July 2018, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) cited Patterson-UTI Drilling, Crescent Consulting, and Skyline Directional Drilling after an explosion on an oil drilling rig in Oklahoma killed five workers.  The companies were cited for failure to maintain proper controls, failure to inspect slow descent devices, and failure to implement emergency response plans.  All three were cited for failure to ensure that heat lamps used were approved for hazardous locations.

In this case, the three companies were facing penalties of just over $118,000.  Media sources have identified that the penalties are virtually “negligible” for companies with resources like these, especially in light of the violations and loss of life.

Will Oil Drilling Accidents Continue to Increase?

There are a few reasons why investigators and researchers believe that oil drilling accidents may continue to increase.  First, crude oil production in the U.S.  is slated to rise in upcoming years.  Second, regulatory oversight has been a contentious element among U.S.  government officials, including the President.

In the past year alone, regulations have not been implemented to keep up with the increase in lease sales and drilling.  Further, government officials have pushed for less strict financial penalties for violating rules.  In July 2018, the Trump Administration took further steps that could inhibit independent oversight of nuclear facilities.  That action caused many to fear what the future holds for hazardous industries like the oil and gas and power industries.

According to Robert Alvarez, who was influential in developing the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board, “we shouldn’t have to wait for something to blow up or catch fire in order to pay attention to a safety problem”.  With oil drilling accidents and deaths on the rise, Mr.  Alvarez makes a strong point.  It’s time for officials to look hard at safety policies, regulation, and oversight, and ensure that workers are protected.

Learn More about Oil Drilling Accidents and Your Rights

If you or someone you love has been injured while working in the maritime industry, including oil and gas related jobs, there may be several options for compensation that could help cover medical and other expenses.  Your options will depend largely on your job title and description, any contracts, and the details of the accident or injuries suffered.

To find out more about your legal rights and what you may have, contact Brown & Brothers for a free consultation with one of our skilled maritime injury attorneys.  Fill out our online form to get started.

 

Sources:

https://www.equities.com/news/oil-drillers-facing-increase-in-accidents-and-potential-liability

https://www.houstonchronicle.com/news/special-reports/article/Houston-Chronicle-exclusive-Drilling-boom-5259311.php

How To File A Maritime Injury Lawsuit

If you work in the maritime industry, the Jones Act and  Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act (LHWCA) help protect you and preserve your rights and livelihood if you are injured on-the-job. When injuries occur, it is important that you know how to file a maritime injury lawsuit, and what your rights and responsibilities are.

How to File a Maritime Injury Lawsuit

Before you make the decision to file a maritime injury lawsuit, you should consult an attorney who can help determine which laws apply to you, and how best to proceed with your injury case. A general overview of the process of filing a maritime injury lawsuit may consist of the following:

  • Preparing Your Case: The first step in filing any lawsuit is preparing your case. Your attorney will gather information from you and other sources, and will research applicable laws in order to draft the complaint, also called a petition. These documents, known as “pleadings”, are what gets filed with the Clerk of Court to initiate a legal claim.
  • Summons: After the court has filed the pleadings, a summons will be issued to notify the named defendants that they are being sued. The summons and a copy of the complaint or petition are delivered to the defendant by a third party, or via the mail.
  • Legal Process: After filing pleadings and notifying the defendant, the legal process will continue with a series of answers, requests for information (called interrogatories), filing of motions and additional documents, and communications between applicable parties. This process can be lengthy, but it is important that you have patience and work closely with your attorney to keep momentum going.
  • Resolution: The next step in the maritime injury lawsuit process is pursuing resolution, or recovery. Most maritime injury cases are resolved through settlements, but some do proceed to trial. If you win your lawsuit, resolution may include compensation for your medical expenses, lost wages, emotional trauma, pain and suffering, and other losses if applicable. There is not a “cookie-cutter” process or resolution for injury cases, and what you can expect here will depend on your case.

Understand Your Legal Rights

Understanding how to file a maritime injury lawsuit can be complicated. Fortunately, you are not alone. If you have questions about your rights or legal options, visit our contact form. Our team will review your information and contact you to schedule your no-obligation consultation. Follow this link to learn more about maritime attorneys.

Sources:

Offshore Injury Lawsuit

https://attorneypages.com/hot/filing-maritime-lawsuit.htm

Maritime Injury Highlights Cruise Ship Floor Safety

We have all heard of the dangers of slip-and-fall accidents, but what happens when there is a slip but no fall or vice versa? Or better yet, when the no-slip flooring works too well and causes a maritime injury? These are questions readers may be asking after learning about a cruise ship cornhole injury that is highlighting the issue of cruise ship floor safety.

Let’s take a look at the cornhole injury case, as well as cruise ship floor safety.  If you have been injured while a passenger onboard a cruise ship, contact our maritime injury attorneys to learn more about your legal rights. Learn more about maritime attorneys.

Cornhole Injury Case Information

A passenger onboard the dinner cruise “Spirit of Norfolk” is suing the owners after he reportedly suffered an injury while playing the game cornhole.  According to reports, in June 2016, the 66-year old man fell and was injured while in a part of the ship used to play cornhole.  The man alleges that the no-slip flooring resulted in his being unable to properly shift his weight while attempting to throw a beanbag.  The injuries he sustained have not been identified.

The lawsuit, filed in Federal Court, reportedly seeks around $375,000 in damages.  The Virginia-based owners deny that their flooring presented a risk to passengers.

Damages Sought in Maritime Injury Cases

When a personal injury lawsuit is filed, the case generally details the damages being sought.  In the cornhole injury case, the damages sought have not been specified.  In general, in maritime personal injury cases where a cruise ship owner or operator is found to be liable, damages awarded to the victim may include:

  • Lost wages
  • Medical expenses (past and future)
  • Non-economic damages (pain and suffering, disfigurement, disability, loss of enjoyment, mental anguish, etc.)
  • Interest that could have been, but was not earned, due to the injury

The damages that can be sought in any maritime personal injury case are unique to the individual facts and details of the case.  Any time you suffer an injury due to someone else’s negligence, recklessness, or wrongdoing, it is advisable to contact a personal injury attorney to discuss your individual situation.

Remember, just because you suffered an injury does not mean you are guaranteed compensation.  It is your burden to prove that the owner or operator were negligent, and that said negligence caused your injuries.  For questions about maritime injury laws, contact Brown & Brothers to speak with one of our personal injury and maritime personal injury attorneys.

Case Highlights Cruise Ship Floor Safety

Slip-and-fall and other floor safety-related accidents are among the most common accidents cited in maritime injury cases.  There are policies and regulations relating to floor safety and ensuring that ship surfaces stay dry and free from hazards.  Safety regulations are governed by the U.S.  Coast Guard, but unfortunately, there is a lot of inconsistency between laws and regulations.

In a case where there the no-slip surface is allegedly the cause of the injury, we must consider what the law says about liability.  In general, cruise ship owners and operators are responsible for ensuring that the ship is safe.  The owner or operator is liable for injuries occurring on the ship if a “reasonably careful ship operator” knew, or should have known, about something that could cause an injury.  Some of the most common cases where liability has been easily proven include when a passenger:

  • Slipped on a wet floor or surface
  • Tripped over a threshold (doorway)
  • Tripped on bunched carpet
  • Tripped on uneven flooring
  • Stumbled or fell down a stairway
  • Fell over a handrail
  • Fell overboard

These are just a few examples of situations that may cause a passenger to be injured.

Information about Maritime Injury Lawsuits

If you have been injured while on a cruise ship, it is best to contact a maritime injury attorney before taking any action of your own.  Maritime law can be complicated, and there are several steps to the process, beginning with determining if you are able to file a lawsuit at all.  Consider the following:

  • Check the fine print on your cruise ticket or passenger information. The Terms and Conditions of your ticket and purchase may include specific instructions related to injuries or lawsuits.
  • Some cruise lines require disputes be settled in a certain manner (arbitration or mediation), rather than in court. The terms may also include specific instructions for which jurisdiction cases must be brought in.
  • Every state has a statute of limitations for filing lawsuits in personal injury cases. Check with your state to see how long you have to file a lawsuit.
  • Collect all documentation of the accident and injuries you suffered, including medical summaries, billing statements, insurance documents, photographs, and any reports made by the cruise line. These will be valuable in proving your case.

In order to “win” any form of personal injury case, the victim must be able to prove that negligence was the cause of the accident and injuries.  That does not mean that the owner or operator has to knowingly do something dangerous.  Negligence includes acts and omissions – regardless of will or intent.

Proving negligence and establishing your losses can be a daunting process.  To schedule your free consultation, fill out our online form or call us toll free at 1-877-363-6148.

 

 

Sources:

https://www.delawareonline.com/story/news/2018/07/11/lawsuit-cruise-ship-cornhole-injury/775749002/

https://blogs.findlaw.com/injured/2018/07/cruise-ship-sued-for-no-slip-flooring-injury.html

https://blogs.findlaw.com/injured/2015/06/can-i-sue-a-cruise-line-for-an-injury.html

https://www.injuryattorneyfla.com/cruise-ship-staircase-accident-attorneys.html

 

What Does Maritime Law Say about Recent Duck Boat Accident?

Millions of people around the world have seen headlines about the duck boat that capsized on Table Rock Lake in Missouri.  With 17 deaths and numerous injuries, headlines now question – “what does maritime law say about the duck boat accident?” Could the victims and their loved ones pursue compensation? Let’s review the boat accident and take a look at what maritime law has to say.

If you have questions about maritime law, or have been injured in a boat accident as a passenger or employee of a maritime vessel, contact us today. Maritime law is a specific area of personal injury law, and you deserve to know what your individual situation could mean for your chances of pursuing compensation.

Missouri Duck Boat Accident Information

Table Rock Lake is located near Branson, MO – a popular vacation spot only 200 miles from Kansas City.  One of the most popular attractions at Table Rock Lake is the “Ride the Ducks” boat ride.  On Thursday July 19, 2018 dozens of people boarded the duck boats for what should have been a fun adventure.  For the 31 people onboard one boat, however, it became a nightmare.

According to reports, a storm hit the area and caused high winds and massive waves to develop.  Two duck boats full of passengers attempted to navigate back to shore, but only one made it.  One of the boats took on water and eventually capsized.  17 people died in the boat accident and numerous others were injured.

Following the accident, investigators enlisted the help of a barge crane, water pumps, and divers to retrieve the duck boat from the bottom of the lake.  According to reports, the boat came to rest on the bottom of the lake, under about 80 feet of water.

The ages of the individuals who died in the accident range from one to 76.  Several families onboard together lost loved ones.  One survivor has recounted the ordeal, including the deaths of three children and her husband who were with her when the accident occurred.  According to a witness, when her husband’s body was found, he had all three children with him.

Investigating Deadly Boat Capsize

Like most accidents of this proportion, the investigation into this duck boat capsize will likely take some time.  There are numerous factors that investigators must consider as they reconstruct the boat and the events leading up to it sinking.  Some of these issues include:

  • When did the captain know about the weather forecast and severe storm warning?
  • When did the captain decide to alter the planned route, and what led to that decision?
  • What actions did the crew take during the storm to prevent injuries?
  • Could life jackets have made a difference?
  • Did the crew have access to weather reports onboard?
  • Did the design of the boat canopy make it difficult for passengers to escape from underneath?

Law enforcement reported that none of the people who died were wearing life jackets when their bodies were found.  Officials stated that life jackets were on the boat, but passengers were not required to wear them.

Another factor that investigators are looking into is the design, structure, and operation of the boat itself.  CNN reported that in August 2017, a mechanical inspector found that the duck boat had a problem with its exhaust.  Rather than the exhaust being emitted from the back of the boat, beyond the passenger compartment, the exhaust was emitting from the front of the boat.  According to the Department of Transportation, such an issue would not pass regulations.

The mechanical inspector further noted that with the exhaust system in the front of the boat, as the unusually high waves hit the boat, water would be pushed up into the exhaust system, potentially causing the engine to be disrupted or eventually fail altogether.

Are Duck Boats Really Safe?

Duck boats are unique, as they are made as replicas of the amphibious vehicles used during World War II.  They have wheels for land use, and can be driven into the water as a water craft.  Because they are both land and water vehicles, they are regulated by two agencies – the Coast Guard and the Department of Transportation.  Both agencies have regulations, but unfortunately, regulations and consistency between the two agencies are often “disconnected” when it comes to the duck boats.

Over the past few decades, many engineers and boat designers have augmented the original design of the duck boat.  Of particular note is the fact that the owner of the Ride the Ducks boats used on Table Rock Lake altered the design in the 1980’s, and the boats were “stretched” by 15 inches by the 1990’s.  Media sources have noted that the individual who designed the stretched model does not have education or experience in engineering or mechanics.  His redesign of the boats was based on personal experience with mechanics.

The boat that capsized on Table Rock Lake recently was one of the newer designs.  Investigators will work to determine if the design of the boat was a factor in the capsizing and sinking.  The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is considering the design and previous concerns about safety, and has specifically identified this boat as a “stretch” model.

Maritime Law Considerations

Following the duck boat accident, a popular online news source published an article about the nuances of maritime law and what legal issues the victims and their loved ones face.  The article mentions that the victims and survivors could potentially be entitled to millions of dollars, or simply a piece of the shipwreck.  What the victims and their families may be entitled to depends on several factors that will be investigated, and must be proven if a lawsuit is filed.

The owner of the duck boat may attempt to claim limited liability for the accident, which could limit the ability of victims to obtain compensation from him or her.  Limited liability may be established if:

  • The owner of the duck boat can prove that the vessel was completely seaworthy as established by law
  • The owner had no way or reason for knowing that the storm was a danger

The limited liability may be broken if the victims can prove that:

  • The vessel was not seaworthy
  • The owner or operator did not do their due diligence
  • That the owner or operator was negligent in maintaining the safety of the vessel

Part of establishing duty, liability, and damages will depend on the individual facts of your case, as well as applicable laws.  In most vessel sinking cases, the Jones Act and the Death on the High Seas Act allow victims and their loved ones to pursue compensation.

To learn more about your legal rights and what options you may have, follow this link to learn more about maritime injury attorneys.  Fill out our online form to schedule your free injury consultation.

 

 

Sources:

https://www.businessinsider.com/victims-of-capsized-missouri-boat-entitled-to-millions-or-just-debris-2018-7

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/post-nation/wp/2018/07/26/self-taught-businessman-with-no-engineering-credentials-designed-missouri-duck-boat-records-say/?utm_term=.1b9bc51716df

https://www.cnn.com/2018/07/24/us/missouri-duck-boat-investigation/index.html

$20.3 Million Awarded in Crush Maritime Personal Injury Lawsuit

A former Royal Caribbean employee was recently awarded $20.3 million in a crush maritime personal injury lawsuit.  The crush maritime personal injury, which took place in 2008, occurred during a routine fire safety drill.  The injury was catastrophic damage to the woman’s hand.  Read on to learn more about the lawsuit, the dangers of crush injuries on cruise ships, and how you can protect yourself.

Crush Injury Lawsuit Information

While in port in 2008, the Royal Caribbean ship Voyager of the Seas underwent a routine fire safety drill.  A nurse onboard was unaware of the drill and as she attempted to pass through one of the semi-water tight doors, she tripped and fell.  The plaintiff in the lawsuit, who worked as a marketing manager, saw the nurse fall and lunged to help her.

The plaintiff grabbed the door handle to keep the door open long enough for the nurse to right herself and pass through.  As she did, the door lurched back into position in the recess in the wall, crushing the plaintiff’s hand into a space only large enough for a pencil.  The bridge was notified and an attempt was made to disable the door.  Unfortunately, the tremendous force on the door caused the woman’s hand to be sucked into the recessed pocket three more times.

The force of the crush maritime personal injury resulted in a broken middle and index finger, and the fingernails on both fingers were torn off the cuticles.  Following the injury, the woman was referred to a doctor in Barcelona (the ship was docked in Spain).  The doctor splinted her fingers in the improper position and misdiagnosed her condition.  For two years following the injury, the woman attended therapy.  She was subsequently diagnosed with chronic pain syndrome related to a nervous system malfunction.  She suffers from severe pain running from her head to her other arm.  She has lost mobility and proper use of her right hand.

Two years later, in 2010, the woman was discharged from Royal Caribbean who cited her inability to perform necessary safety tasks, which require the ability to lift 50 pounds.  In 2016, the woman filed a lawsuit claiming that the staff was not properly trained to operate the dangerous doors, and that Royal Caribbean was negligent in failing to provide proper medical care, discharging her for non-performance reasons, and breaching their contract with her.

In June 2018, a court ordered Royal Caribbean to pay the woman $20.3 million in damages, which included lost wages, medical expenses, and future medical expenses.  Royal Caribbean is planning to appeal the decision.

Anyone who has been injured while working on a cruise ship should contact an attorney right away to discuss their legal rights.

A String of Similar Crush Injuries Caused by Powerful Doors?

Attorneys in the above case hope that this substantial award will highlight the dangers of hydraulic and automated doors on cruise ships.  This case is not the first case against Royal Caribbean alleging hand injuries caused by the same type of door.  Between 2004 and 2007, 12 Royal Caribbean employees sustained hand injuries when the same type of door slid into the recessed pocket.

Royal Caribbean is not the only cruise line that has seen its share of crush injuries.  In 2001, an engineer officer on a P&O Princess Cruises ship suffered a severe crush injury to his arm after it became trapped in a power-operated watertight door.  The injuries were so severe that his arm had to be amputated.  In 2002, a subcontractor was killed when a watertight door with only an eight second closing time squeezed him to death.

In 2017, a chief engineer on a small passenger ship was killed after becoming trapped in a hydraulic watertight door.  He was trapped in the door for at least eight minutes before being found.  The pressure was estimated to be around 1,650 kg.  The speed of closing for the doors was found to be twice what is allowed by regulations.

Crush Injuries on Offshore Units Caused by Doors

There have also been several similar injuries reported on offshore units.  In 2001, a subcontractor on the Deepwater Nautilus died after being jammed in a hydraulic door.  His body was obstructing the operating lever.  In order to free his body, the door had to be forced open after the hydraulic pipes were disconnected.

Also in 2001, a worker suffered a severe crush injury to his chest when a hydraulic door closed on him.  He was able to activate the operating lever before losing consciousness and open the door.  The door was found to close too fast, and it was suggested that lights designed to signal workers that the door was closing may not have been operating properly.

In 2003 a crew member on the West Alpha drilling rig suffered serious injuries after a hydraulic door closed on him as he walked through it.  Regulations suggest closing time for such doors to be between 20 and 40 seconds, but in this case, the door closed in only four seconds.

In 2005, a worker on the offshore installation Kristin was killed when a watertight door closed on him.  Investigators suggest that a broken spring caused the door to close unexpectedly when it should have been in the open position.

Why are Doors so Dangerous?

Hydraulic and automated watertight and semi-water tight doors are dangerous for several reasons.  Consider the following:

  • Watertight doors often have different modes, such as “local control” or “remote”. These different modes determine who has control over the doors and how they are open or closed.
  • During safety drills, these doors may be set to automatically close. If those onboard are not properly trained, accidents and injuries can easily occur.
  • On offshore units, hydraulic doors are numerous, with some units having in excess of 48 or more of these doors. Workers may become too comfortable with the doors and controls, which can lead to lax attention to safety.
  • Many of the injuries described in this article suggest that ship operators are not following regulations in terms of how fast the doors open or close. Doors that open or close too fast can be hazardous to anyone passing through them.
  • Power fluctuations or loss can affect hydraulic doors. Further, some doors are set to continue operating on hydraulics for a certain number of openings or closings even after power has been cut.

What to Do after a Crush Maritime Personal Injury

If you have suffered a crush maritime personal injury while working on a ship, it is important to take steps to protect your health, and your legal rights.  Maritime personal injury cases are often complicated by statutes of limitations, applicable laws based on your position, and any contracts or agreements you may have with your employer. Learn more about Maritime Attorneys.

To find out more about protecting your rights and the possibility of getting compensation for your injuries, fill out our online form and schedule a free crush maritime personal injury consultation with one of our attorneys.

Sources:

http://www.miamiherald.com/news/business/tourism-cruises/article212495699.html

https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/media/547c710ee5274a42900000ff/royal-princess.pdf

https://www.marineinsight.com/case-studies/watertight-door-fatality/

http://www.gard.no/web/updates/content/20651844/injuries-and-deaths-caused-by-watertight-doors

What Failed Safety Inspections Mean for Cruise Ship Passengers and Crew

Thousands of people make reservations on cruise ships every year, with anticipation for adventure, onboard activities, great food, and fun for all ages.  If you are one of the many planning to take a cruise this year, do you know what failed cruise ship safety inspections mean for cruise ship passengers and crew? You are not alone!

Most people don’t really know what occurs during safety inspections, or what the results are.  The Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s Vessel Sanitation Program (CDC-VSP) is helping consumers and cruise ship crew members better understand what safety risks exist, and how to prevent accidents and injuries.  Let’s take a closer look.

Cruise Ship Inspection Concerns

According to the CDC, 2017 saw more cruise ships fail inspections than any other year on record (since the CDC began inspection protocols).  These failures are not limited to small cruise ship companies, but include the most popular carriers, including Carnival Cruise Line, Royal Caribbean, and Norwegian.

Carnival, the largest cruise line in the world, is facing the most criticism after five ships failed inspection in 2017.  Several others have already failed this year.  In January 2018, Carnival Liberty failed an inspection with a score of 80, while Carnival Vista scored an 88.  In February 2018, Carnival Ecstasy scored an 87.

What Failed Safety Inspections Mean for Cruise Ship Passengers and Crew

The CDC conducts inspections of cruise ship safety, generally at the request (and paid for) by the cruise line.  These inspections typically take place twice a year, and occur at random docks and ports.  The ships chosen for inspection are also random.  The inspection scores the ship on a 100-point scale.  Any score below 85 is considered a failing score.

Some of the elements of inspections include:

  • Examination of the ship medical center.
  • Review of ship medical logs to ensure accurate record-keeping and proper documentation of gastrointestinal illnesses like Norovirus.
  • Review of the ships procedures for potable water, including maintaining supplies and distribution.
  • Review of filtration and disinfection systems in swimming pools and jacuzzis.
  • Review of sanitation and disinfection systems in food storage, service areas, nurseries and kids’ clubs, and accommodations.
  • Examination of ship heating, air conditioning, and ventilation systems.

What is concerning for cruise ship crew members and consumers is the fact that inspections are focused on operations and sanitation, but leave out some very important risk factors that should be addressed to ensure safety.  For example, safety inspections do not include a check of safety measures including:

  • Adequate lighting
  • Properly maintained and lit staircases
  • Slippery surfaces
  • Railing height and stability concerns

Of course, operations and sanitation is an important part of maintaining a healthy and safe environment, but on a cruise ship, those are two of many elements that may present risks.  Safety concerns such as fire safety, electrical, and technical problems are overseen by the U.S.  Coast Guard, but still, there is little done to address safety risks onboard.

To learn more about cruise ship safety and maritime rights, contact us to speak with a maritime injury attorney today!

Is There Accountability for Failed Inspections?

Another element of concern is the fact that there is a lack of accountability among cruise ship companies.  The consequences for failing a safety inspection are often mild and limited.  The most severe consequence for failing a safety inspection is being issued a “no-sail” order, which identifies the ship as an “imminent public health risk”, and requires it be docked until the dangers have been resolved.

A “no-sail” order is rarely issued, regardless of how badly a ship performed, or failed to perform, on an inspection.  There are no civil or criminal penalties for failing a safety inspection.  Some in the legal industry believe there needs to be a serious change, with legislative initiatives aimed at improving accountability and implementing real consequences for failed inspections.

How Safe are Cruise Ships?

Before finalizing your cruise plans, consider checking the CDC’s website to review inspection information for the ships you are considering.  Their “Green Sheet” is a good way of reviewing the most popular ships and their recent scores.  You can also browse many topics on the CDC’s Vessel Sanitation Program website.

One of the most common problems with cruise ship safety is gastrointestinal illnesses like Gastroenteritis and Norovirus.  Gastrointestinal illnesses spread easily and quickly, and can be transmitted through contaminated water or food, or by coming in contact with infected surfaces.  On a cruise ship, hundreds of people come into contact with the same handrails, elevators, and food or drink areas.  Without proper disinfection and sanitation procedures, viruses can quickly get out of hand.

As for safety issues like railings, slippery surfaces, and adequate lighting, until there is more being done to address these potential safety risks, cruise ship passengers and crew members are urged to be aware and use caution.  Consider the following safety tips:

  • Review ship rules carefully before venturing out of your cabin
  • Always obey signage and warnings when near railings or ship equipment
  • Follow safety rules at all times
  • Do not share food or drink with strangers
  • Keep your cabin locked at all times
  • Wash your hands frequently
  • Never leave children unattended at pool areas
  • If you are drinking alcohol, be extra cautious on stairs, near pools, or near railings

You may not have control over how well a ship is maintained, or how well others follow protocols, but you can be aware and take steps to protect yourself and your loved ones.

Have Questions about Cruise Ship Safety?

Learn more about maritime attorneys. Our maritime injury attorneys can help you understand your legal rights and what options you have if you have been injured on a cruise ship.  Fill out our online form for a free injury consultation.

 

Sources:

https://www.law.com/dailybusinessreview/2018/03/30/health-safety-inspection-failures-on-cruise-ships-and-what-it-means-for-consumers-industry/

https://www.cdc.gov/nceh/vsp/related.htm

https://www.cruisecritic.com/articles.cfm?ID=241

Incident on Talos Energy Platform Claims Oil Rig Worker’s Life, Raises Questions

It is no secret that offshore oil rig workers, especially those involved in the oil and gas industry, are at risk for occupational hazards.  These dangers are reiterated when accidents occur, such as a recent incident on the Talos Energy Platform that claimed an offshore oil rig worker’s life, and raised questions about operators and regulations.

One of the most pressing issues facing the oil and gas industry is the safety of workers and facilities.  Read on to learn more about the type of accidents and injuries that are common, and why safety is so important.

Talos Energy Platform Fatal Incident

According to the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE),  an offshore oil rig worker was removing fire suppression equipment that was no longer in service when he became injured and later died.  The Incident did not cause any other injuries, and did not result in a fire or pollution to the area.  The BSEE is continuing to investigate the incident and death of the oil worker.

Fatal Incident Raises Questions about Safety and Regulations

This is not the first time that Talos Energy has been investigated after an oil worker died.  In 2013, the BSEE initiated a performance improvement plan for Talos’ subsidiary Energy Resource Technology (ERT).  Just three months later, a fatality was reported on one of their platforms.  In 2016, ERT was ordered to pay $4.2 million, and was placed on three years of probation, based on a review of offshore activities.

Accidents like those on the Talos Energy platforms highlight the dangers that oil workers face, as well as potential problems with operations and regulations.  The Trump Administration, for example, has proposed a rollback to some of the regulations put in place following the Deepwater Horizon accident in 2010.  It is unclear whether or not such rollbacks will be supported or implemented.

Most Common Risks for Offshore Oil Rig Workers

Between 2009 and 2016, the BSEE reported that offshore injuries claimed the lives of 29 people, including those killed in the Deepwater Horizon accident.  In addition to the fatalities, there have been numerous accidents causing injuries.  The most common risks for oil workers include:

  • Contact with Equipment or Objects: Offshore Oil rig workers work around a lot of heavy equipment. Cranes and machines often move or lift objects and equipment, which poses hazards to workers nearby.  Between 2003 and 2010, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimated that 16 percent of all offshore accidents involved contact with equipment or objects.
  • Fire or Explosion: Oil rig workers are especially vulnerable to fire and explosion risks due to the nature of the chemicals used, presence of flammable materials, harsh environment, and potential for leaks. Other factors leading to fire or explosion include equipment failure, circuit or wiring problems, or negligence in maintaining facilities.
  • Harmful Substances: Offshore Oil rig workers commonly come into contact with potentially harmful substances. Oil platforms are often equipped with solvents, crude oil, drilling fluids, and other chemicals.  These substances can be toxic, and if not handled properly can lead to allergic reaction, rash, respiratory problems, burns, asphyxiation, or death.
  • Slips, Trips, and Falls: Because of where oil platforms are situated, there is always the risk of slippery surfaces. Placement on the water makes it difficult to keep all surfaces dry, and there is always the risk for sudden changes in weather conditions.  Slips, trips, and falls are a common cause of injuries, especially when surfaces are not properly maintained, when railing or scaffolds are not properly secured, when lighting is poor, or when workers are not properly trained and equipped.
  • Transportation: Getting to and from oil platforms requires use of helicopters or water vehicles. These forms of transportation can be more dangerous, especially with factors like mechanical failure and changing weather conditions.

Learn More about Your Oil Rig Worker Rights

If you work on an oil platform, or in any facet of the maritime industry, you know that there are dangers associated with your job.  However, you are forced to place your trust in your employer and/or supervisor to ensure that your workplace is safe and secure, and that you have the proper training and equipment needed to do your job.  When employers and supervisors fail to ensure a safe and secure workplace, or fail to offer proper training, the lives of their employees are placed at risk.

We can help you understand your legal rights, determine if your employer was negligent, and ensure that you get the compensation needed to move forward. Fill out our online form to get started. Learn more about offshore injury lawyers.

 

Sources:

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-oil-talos-prod/oil-worker-killed-on-talos-energy-platform-in-u-s-gulf-of-mexico-idUSKCN1G42RX

BSEE investigating worker death on Talos Energy platform in Gulf of Mexico

https://www.houstoninjurylawyer.com/top-5-causes-of-offshore-oil-rig-injuries/

 

Bomb Cyclone Highlights Winter Storm Risks for Maritime Worker Injuries

As the “Bomb Cyclone” storm headed for the northeastern United States early in January 2018, the maritime industry felt the harsh effects.  Closure of the Chesapeake Bay highlighted winter storm risks for maritime worker injuries, as well as the detrimental financial effects cause by such unpredictable weather.

Called the Bomb Cyclone because of the rapid drop in barometric pressure, the intense winter storm hit the East Coast with a fury.  The Marine Corps and Navy froze operations along the East Coast and maritime commerce halted.  With the closure of the Chesapeake Bay entry, a quarter billion dollars in maritime commerce was also frozen.

The reason for closing the Chesapeake Bay and Hampton Roads was high winds and blizzard conditions on the water.  Visibility dropped to near zero in some areas due to blowing snow and all maritime traffic was halted or urged to halt until conditions improved.

Bomb Cyclone Highlights Winter Storm Risks for Maritime Worker Injuries

Some maritime worker injuries result from the harsh winter weather directly.  Their unique position on the water offers little protection from wind, water, or blizzard conditions.  Exposure to these conditions can lead to frostbite, hypothermia, or a series of other cold-related injuries or illnesses.

Winter storms can cause risks including cold-related illness and injury, as well as environmental or work-related hazards.  These risks may include:

  • Limited visibility
  • Slippery surfaces
  • Snow-covered tripping hazards
  • Limited access to emergency or quality of life supplies
  • Power outages
  • Wind gust damage
  • Icy surfaces that may break and cause ice chunks to fall from overhead

The most common illness or injury occurring due to weather exposure are frostbite and hypothermia.  Recognizing the signs and symptoms is important for anyone in the maritime industry so treatment can be administered immediately.  Keep watch for the following:

Symptoms of frostbite may include:  

  • Pale or blue skin, particularly on the hands, feet, nose, or ears
  • Skin is numb and cold
  • Joints and skin may appear stiff and rubbery
  • Severe frostbite may cause skin to turn black (necrosis)
  • Severe frostbite may cause blisters to form under the skin (may appear fluid filled)

Symptoms of hypothermia include:

  • Core body temperature of 95 degrees or lower
  • Uncontrollable shivering
  • Loss of dexterity
  • Skin is pale and cool
  • Incoherence
  • Severe hypothermia may cause confusion, slurred speech, difficulty breathing, and irregular heartbeat

Reducing Winter Storm Risk Factors for Maritime Workers

To help protect workers assigned to cold environments, the United States Department of Labor recommends the following:

  • Recognize environmental and weather conditions that may be dangerous.
  • Monitor weather reports and take advisories seriously.
  • Train all workers about illnesses and injuries caused by cold conditions.
  • Ensure that all workers know the signs and symptoms of conditions like frostbite and hypothermia, and how to respond.
  • Ensure that workers are equipped with proper gear to reduce risks associated with cold, windy, or wet working environments. Dressing in layers with hat, gloves, and insulated boots can help keep moisture and cold away from your skin.
  • Allow individuals working in cold environments to take routine breaks in a warm, dry environment.
  • Schedule work in cold conditions during the warmest part of the day.
  • Avoid working when tired or fatigued, as lack of energy can lessen the body’s ability to warm muscles.
  • Drink fluids that are warm and sweet, but do not contain caffeine or alcohol.
  • Eat foods that are hot and high in calories and carbohydrates.
  • Recognize that some medications – prescription or over-the-counter – can increase risks associated with cold working environments.

Employers are tasked with ensuring that work environments are safe.  If you have questions about workplace safety, accidents, or your legal rights, contact us today.

How to Respond to Winter Storm-Related Illness or Injury

When winter storm conditions lead to illness or injury, maritime workers must be prepared to take action.  For environmental or work-related hazards, employers and workers must take steps to prevent accidents and reduce hazards in the work environment.  Keeping surfaces clean and secured, wearing proper gear, and taking appropriate measures to stay safe are paramount.

Response to Work-Related Accidents:

  • If safe to do so, move the individual to a dry, warm location
  • If not safe to move the individual, take steps to keep him or her as dry and warm as possible
  • Get medical attention immediately
  • If medical attention is unavailable, attempt to stop bleeding and immobilize the individual
  • Fill out a complete accident report to document the incident and injuries as best as possible
  • Take action to prevent other workers from suffering a similar injury

For cold-related illness or injury, it is sometimes necessary to take action before formal medical attention can be obtained.  If medical care is not immediately available, consider the following:

Response to frostbite:

  • Move to a warm, dry room
  • Avoid walking if your feet or toes are frostbitten
  • Place affected areas (feet, hands, etc.) in warm but not hot water
  • Use body heat to warm affected areas if warm water is not available
  • Avoid massaging frostbitten areas as this can exacerbate damage
  • Avoid using a heating pad, lamp, stove, or fireplace to warm affected areas. Frostbitten areas are more susceptible to burns due to numbness.

Response to Hypothermia:

  • Move to warm and dry room or shelter
  • Remove any wet clothing
  • Start warming the body from the center, focusing on the chest, neck, head, and groin areas
  • Use body heat from skin-to-skin contact to gradually warm the body
  • Provide warm beverages that do not contain alcohol
  • Avoid giving food or drink to someone who is unconscious or nearly so
  • Once body heat has increased, keep the individual warm with blankets
  • Get medical attention as soon as possible

Learn More about Maritime Worker Injuries and Safety

Maritime workers and employers can take steps to reduce risks and improve safety.  Unfortunately, sometimes accidents, injuries, and illness still occur.  In some cases, injuries or illness are a result of an honest accident.  In other cases, there may have been negligence that contributed to, or caused, the accident.

To learn more about maritime worker injuries, safety and your legal rights, contact us by completing our online form.

Sources:

Bomb Cyclone Shuts Hampton Roads Maritime Traffic

https://www.osha.gov/as/opa/cold_weather_prep.html

https://www.cdc.gov/disasters/winter/duringstorm/outdoorsafety.html

https://www.cdc.gov/disasters/winter/staysafe/frostbite.html

https://www.cdc.gov/disasters/winter/staysafe/hypothermia.html