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 accident and take a look at what maritime law has to say.

If you have questions about maritime law, or have been injured in an accident as a passenger or employee of a maritime vessel, contact Brown & Brothers to find out more about your legal rights.  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 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, contact Brown & Brothers to speak with one of our maritime injury attorneys.  Fill out our online form to schedule your free injury consultation.







Former Cruise Employee Awarded $20.3 Million in Crush Injury Lawsuit

A former Royal Caribbean employee was recently awarded $20.3 million in a crush injury lawsuit.  The accident, which took place in 2008, occurred during a routine fire safety drill.  The result 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 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.  Contact Brown & Brothers to learn more.

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 Injury

If you have suffered a crush injury while working on a ship, it is important to take steps to protect your health, and your legal rights.  Maritime 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.

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 injury consultation with one of our attorneys.






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 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 ships, 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 Brown & Brothers 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.

In terms of safety, one of the most common problems aboard cruise ships 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?

If you work on a cruise ship or are planning a trip, if you have questions about cruise ship safety or maritime injuries, contact Brown & Brothers today.  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.






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

It is no secret that offshore 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 oil 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.  To learn more about your rights as an oil worker, contact Brown & Brothers to discuss your situation.

Talos Energy Platform Fatal Incident

According to the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE), an oil 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 Oil Workers

Between 2009 and 2016, the BSEE reported that offshore accidents 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: Oil 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 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: Oil 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 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.

If you have been injured while working on an oil platform, and you are concerned about your legal rights or getting the compensation you deserve, contact Brown & Brothers for a free case evaluation.  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.




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



Bomb Cyclone Highlights Winter Storm Risks for Maritime Workers

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 workers, 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 Workers

Maritime workers feel the harsh effects of 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 Brown & Brothers 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 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 safety and your legal rights, contact Brown & Brothers to speak with one of our skilled maritime injury attorneys.  Contact us by completing our online form.


Bomb Cyclone Shuts Hampton Roads Maritime Traffic








Cruise Ship Safety for Children Questioned after Fatal Accident

Cruise ship safety for children is being questioned after a fatal accident claimed the life of an 8-year-old girl aboard the Carnival Glory.  Cruise ships are considered a safe way to travel and vacation, and are often targeted at families.  Unfortunately, accidents do occur on cruise ships, and due to the complexities of structure and sea, these accidents often lead to injuries.

In this post, we will discuss the recent fall accident and how it has increased the focus on safety and security aboard cruise ships, especially for children.  Anyone with questions about accidents or injuries occurring in the maritime industry can contact Brown & Brothers directly for more information.

Cruise Ship Accident ends in Tragedy, Raises Safety Concerns

In October 2017, as thousands of people prepared to disembark the Carnival Glory, an 8-year-old passenger fell over a railing five stories high.  After the fall, she was taken to the ships medical center, and was then transferred to a hospital.  Unfortunately, at the hospital, she died from her injuries.  Such a tragic and traumatic accident has certainly taken a toll on the child’s family and those onboard, but it has also raised concerns about the overall safety of cruise ships.

According to the Cruise Lines Industry Association (CLIA), passenger capacity increased by almost 42 percent between 2009 and 2016.  During that same time, the number of onboard accidents remained steady, and the fatality rate was a slight 0.15 per billion passenger miles traveled.  To offer comparison, worldwide airline fatality rates equal 0.09 per billion passenger miles traveled.

Based on this data, traveling by cruise ship would seem to be more dangerous statistically than traveling by air, but still much less dangerous than traveling by U.S.  highways, which have a fatality rate of 7.4 per billion miles traveled.

Cruise Ship Safety Regulations and Laws

In the U.S., cruise lines must abide by a series of federal and international laws and regulations.  This includes regulations and laws governed by the U.S.  Coast Guard, the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), and the U.S.  Department of Transportation.  Each of these organizations has certain regulations and responsibilities related to accidents occurring at sea, including aboard cruise ships.

In terms of cruise ship and maritime safety, consider the following information about regulations and data gathered from these sources:

  • S. Department of Transportation: The U.S.  DOT collects incident reports from almost a dozen major cruise lines.  Between April and June 2017, the DOT reported 30 incidents on those cruise lines, including one missing person report and 19 sexual assaults.
  • National Transportation Safety Board: The NTSB has authority to investigate significant maritime accidents, including those occurring on cruise ships. The NTSB investigates and reports on serious accidents, such as a docking accident involving Carnival Pride in May 2016.
  • S. Coast Guard: The U.S.  Coast Guard manages all safety inspections on cruise ships bearing U.S.  flags, as well as those taking on passengers from U.S.  waters or ports.  Coast Guard requirements mandate that all cruise ships must meet national and international standards in terms of fire prevention, lifeboat adequacy, evacuation procedures, etc.  The Coast Guard also investigates serious incidents occurring in U.S., or territorial, waters.  Accidents that happen outside U.S.  waters are investigated by the jurisdiction where they occurred.

While these organizations regulate and uphold laws designed to protect travelers and maintain safety, there are some factors that may increase the risk of accidents occurring onboard cruise ships.  For example, cruise ships are not required to use building code inspectors in the same way that landlocked buildings are.  That means there are no inspections to ensure that cruise ships meet minimum standards for things like lighting, signage, step height, or architectural features.

Another area of concern is the fact that many cruise ships do not have active lifeguards on duty at their pools.  Some ships specifically catering to families or children have recently began to employ fulltime life guards, but many ships operate on a “swim at your own risk” basis.

Maritime Safety for Travelers

The U.S.  Coast Guard recommends anyone traveling on the water, whether it is a small boat or a massive cruise ship, take time to familiarize themselves with the basics of marine safety.  It is recommended that anyone traveling on a cruise ship do the following:

  • Familiarize yourself with vessel safety procedures and lifeboat locations
  • Review instructions on how to properly use life jackets or other safety gear
  • Participate in fire or “abandon-ship” drills, which are required weekly on cruise ships
  • Listen to, and review, all instructions from cruise ship staff
  • Follow safety protocols onboard a ship as you would on land, or at any given time
  • If traveling with children, never leave them without adult supervision

While you want the focus of your maritime adventure to be fun and relaxation, it is important to ensure that your family is safe and secure.

Getting Help after a Maritime Accident or Injury

If you or a family member have been injured while traveling on a cruise ship or while working in the maritime industry, you likely have many questions.  Who is at fault? What are my legal rights? Can I file a lawsuit to recover medical and other expenses? These are just a few of the most commonly asked questions about maritime accidents and injuries.

If you have questions about the maritime industry, related laws, or a specific accident or injury, contact Brown & Brothers to explore your legal rights and get answers to your questions.  Maritime injury law is complex, and our team has the knowledge and experience you need.  Fill out our online form today to get started.





How Dangerous are Heat-Related Illnesses?

While autumn has arrived on the calendar, many coastal areas of the United States are still battling unseasonably warm temperatures.  When temperatures are high, the risk of developing a heat-related illness increases, which begs the question – “How Dangerous are Heat-Related Illnesses?” Whether you work on a dock, in a warehouse, or in the hot confines of a seagoing vessel or oil rig, heat-related illnesses are a real, potentially disastrous concern.

Read on to learn more about heat-related illnesses, the real dangers, and what you can do to protect yourself.

Facts and Information about Heat Illnesses

If you work in the maritime industry, you may be aware of the risk of heat stroke, heat exhaustion, or other heat-related illnesses.  But do you know just how dangerous these illnesses really are? Let’s take a look at some facts:

  • Each year, heat-related illnesses kill more people than floods, lightning, hurricanes, or tornadoes combined.
  • According to OSHA, between 1999 and 2003, around 3,400 deaths were attributed to heat-related illnesses.
  • The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that, by mid-century, heat-related deaths could surge by 3,500 to 27,000 deaths per year.
  • Extreme heat puts a strain on your lungs and heart, and can cause serious medical emergencies or diseases to develop.

Heat-Related Illnesses and Dangers

Anyone who works in a hot or humid environment is vulnerable to heat-related illnesses.  This risk is even greater if your work entails heavy lifting, wearing heavy or bulky equipment, or are working in a confined space.  When your body cannot cool itself through sweating (or sweating enough), your internal temperature can rise to dangerous levels.  Heat illnesses include a variety of conditions that range from uncomfortable to life-threatening, such as:

  • Heat Rash: Also called “prickly heat”, heat rash occurs when sweat does not evaporate from the skin. Heat rash may cause clusters of red bumps that are irritating.  Clusters most commonly form on the upper chest, neck, or folds in the skin (joints, etc.).
  • Heat Cramps: When your body loses too much fluid and salt, your muscles may begin to cramp. Most common in the legs, arms, or abdomen, heat cramps can be incredibly painful and may be accompanied by muscle spasms.
  • Heat Exhaustion: Heat exhaustion occurs as a result of loss of fluids or salt through heavy sweating. Symptoms of heat exhaustion include nausea, headache, dizziness, irritability, excessive thirst, and heavy or uncontrollable sweating.
  • Heat Stroke: Heat stroke is the most dangerous heat illness. At this stage of illness, the body is no longer able to regulate internal temperatures, and can no longer sweat to shed excess heat.  Symptoms of heat stroke may include those associated with heat exhaustion, but escalates to include confusion, loss of consciousness, or seizures.

Any of these heat-related illnesses can exacerbate or be complicated by other factors.  It is incredibly important to protect yourself from heat-related dangers.

Employer Obligations and Safe Work Environments

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has specific guidelines for employers and employees to prevent injuries or deaths caused by heat exposure.  OSHA standards (29 CFR 1910) state the following:

  • Employers must perform a hazard assessment of any workplace to determine if personal protective equipment (PPE) is required for safety.
  • If PPE is required, employers are required to make PPE available, and ensure that it properly fits the employee and working environment.
  • If PPE is required, a PPE program should be created to address hazards, detail proper use and maintenance of PPE gear, train employees, and monitor program use and success.
  • PPE requirements and regulations vary depending on the work environment and classification (shipyard, marine terminals, longshoring, etc.).

If employers fail to adequately assess, prepare, and protect employees, they may be cited by OSHA under the “General Duty Clause”, which outlines the employer’s obligations to provide a safe working environment that is free of recognized hazards that are likely to cause harm, serious injury, or death.

If you have questions about heat-related illnesses and your legal rights, contact Brown & Brothers today.  Our maritime injury attorneys can help you understand the obligations of your employer, and what you can do if you have been injured as a result of an unsafe workplace or inadequate safety measures.

Know the Risks and Protect Yourself

Some of the best ways to prevent heat-related illnesses is to understand the risks, take adequate safety measures, and always put your health and wellbeing first.  To understand the risks and factors that increase risk, consider the following:

  • Heat Index: The heat index is not how hot it is outside on the thermometer, but rather how hot it feels. To calculate the heat index, meteorologists look at factors like air temperature, humidity, and wind conditions.  For example, if the air temperature is 95-degrees and the relative humidity is 80 percent, the heat index is 136-degrees Fahrenheit.  To better understand how dangerous the heat index is, consider this:
    • Heat Index 90-100: heat cramps, sun stroke, and heat exhaustion are possible with physical activity or prolonged exposure.
    • Heat Index 105-129: Heat cramps, sun stroke, and heat exhaustion are likely. Heat stroke is possible at this level with physical activity or prolonged exposure.
    • Heat Index 130 or Higher: Heat stroke or sun stroke is imminent.
  • Be Aware: When you are working, pay attention to how you feel, and how your co-workers feel. Never ignore symptoms of heat exhaustion or stroke, and do not try to “push through” any symptoms you do have.  By the time you experience symptoms, you may already be in danger.
  • Take Preventative Measures: Aside from protective gear, there are some things you can do to prevent heat-related illnesses, such as:
    • Drink plenty of water throughout the day
    • Rest in a shady location
    • Take breaks as often as needed or allowed
    • Limit time spent in the heat

Being aware, knowing the risks, and taking steps to protect yourself are the frontline against the dangers of heat-related illnesses.

If you have questions about heat-related illnesses and your legal rights as a maritime worker, contact Brown & Brothers to discuss your situation.  Fill out our simple online form to get more information, or to schedule a free case evaluation.










No Matter What Size Vessel, Boat Explosions Cost lives

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

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

Boat Explosions Cost Lives

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

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

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

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

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

Boat Explosion Accidents and Injuries

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

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

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

Getting Help After a Boat Explosion

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

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

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





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

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

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

Disability versus Ability

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

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

More Americans on Disability than Ever

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

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

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

Determining Disability in the United States

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

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

Maritime Workers and Disability Benefits

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

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

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

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





String of Louisiana Lawsuits Highlight Seaman Injuries

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

Louisiana Lawsuits and Seaman Injuries

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Common Seaman Injuries in Maritime Industry

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

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

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

What Causes Seaman Injuries?             

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

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

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

Understanding Your Legal Rights

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

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