Far too often, injuries will occur on our nation’s inland waterways and at sea. At Sutliff & Stout, our attorneys help maritime seamen and their families recover full compensation for serious injuries and even fatal accidents. We help injured seamen and their loved ones recover physically, financially, and emotionally.
There are a number of dangers that are present at sea. From work boat injuries to oil platform injuries, there is no doubt that seamen work under some of the most dangerous conditions in the country.
Common types of offshore accidents and injuries include:
Offshore Rig Injuries
Working on an offshore drilling rig searching for oil and gas requires combines hard work on heavy machinery, rough seas, and long hours. This combination unfortunately results in all types of accidents and injuries. Many times, the cause of the accident can be traced back to the lack of safety regulations required by the employer or an employer allowing a careless person to work on the drilling or floor crew. Anyone working offshore on an oil rig has to do so under harsh and difficult conditions and the least an employer can do is to make sure that the crew and equipment are reasonably fit. According to the U.S. Minerals Management Service, there were more than 1,300 offshore drilling accidents that took place between 2001 and 2007, and human error played a significant role in the majority of these incidents.
Crew members may be struck by falling objects, swinging cables or raised loads on open decks. They may fall from wet stairs, slippery catwalks and unsecured ladders. They even risk the loss of hands and fingers in winches, cables or hoists. A rough sea or sudden ship movement can cause deck hands to lose their balance and fall from an open deck or through an open hatch, causing serious back and head injuries.
Maritime workers frequently have to deal with inevitable equipment failures. Hazards related to the use of machines and equipment include injuries to the hands, feet or limbs that become caught in moving parts and injuries to the head and other areas from falling objects or moving equipment. Other potential hazards include getting pinned under a load, falling from equipment and burns or electric shock.
Fires and Explosions
There are a number of risks for explosions and fires that maritime workers may not even know exist. For example, malfunctioning ventilation systems can cause the build-up of combustible fumes in closed engine compartments and result in deadly fires if ignited by a spark. If oil sprays from a poorly maintained pipeline pump onto a hot exhaust system, it too can ignite. Fuel that is not stored properly is volatile and can actually explode. Collisions in navigation channels and harbors can rupture fuel tanks. Fires from oil or fuel often spread quickly on ships and burn out of control, resulting in severe burn injuries and fatalities.
Jack-Up Rig Accidents
Jack-up rigs are common, shallow water drilling rig. The equipment used on these offshore structures can cause serious and fatal injuries. For example, the electrical arcing on the jack-up rig generators can cause fires. Corroded ring gaskets can lead to gas leaks and loss of well control or blowouts, creating the potential for explosions and injuries. Even though jack-up rigs are designed to withstand violent conditions, they can also move and tip over if not properly stabilized.
Oil Platform Injuries
Working on an offshore oil platform often entails various types of production related activities under harsh conditions. A gas or oil leak can result in an explosion and fire. A platform can become unstable in a storm. Getting on and off a platform is also very hazardous because most platforms lack a crane and, thus, workers are required to use a swing rope, which entails swing like Tarzan from the boat to a deck on the platform or vise a versa. This activity is especially dangerous in rough seas.
Inland Marine Injuries
Aside from seamen injured on vessels at sea or offshore rigs in the Gulf of Mexico, crews hurt aboard workboats or other marine vessel navigating rivers, lakes and inland waterways throughout the Gulf Coast also qualify as Jones Act seaman under maritime laws.
Just like offshore oil platforms and drilling rigs have to be safe, and ocean-going tanker and cargo ships have to operate in safe and seaworthy manner, marine workers on inland boats and vessels are also entitled to safe working conditions. Crewmembers and workers are entitled to collect benefits for medical care, lost wages, and other related expenses if they have been injured while in the service of a vessel.
Inland marine accidents due to negligence by a third party, like a helicopter crash on an oil platform at sea, or a vessel’s collision on a river, may also result in claims and potential third party lawsuits against other individuals or companies. Maritime laws can be complex, and require specialized assistance from an attorney with maritime personal injury experience.
Tugboat and Barge Injuries
Tugboats offer stability and are designed for maximum power and fuel capacity. It is unfortunate, though, that crew members still face tripping, falling and many other hazards while working on a tugboat. The dangers increase when the horsepower of a tug is combined with the weight of a barge. Workers injured in tugboat and barge accidents are thankfully protected under federal maritime laws.
Tugboats are designed to be powerful enough to hold a lot of fuel so that they can safely reach vessels such as barges and move them back to port. Their strength and power; however, can make it difficult for them to carry out their missions safely. The potential for errors exist when a tug is attached to a barge. The equipment, such as the tow winches and tow wires, are powerful and dangerous.
Barges are vessels that can be used for dredging, construction transportation and drilling. Some barges rely on tugboats for movement, while others are self propelled. All barges are large flat bottomed boats designed in a way that makes it difficult for them to change course quickly, often leading to accidents. Accidents can also occur if a barge accidently becomes separated from its tugboat. If a barge is loose, then it continues floating, and it becomes nearly impossible to be navigated by its crew.
Tugboat and barge injuries and accidents usually include:
• Tow lines parting
• Handling of heavy lines or shackles
• Slippery decks
• Falls off ladders or overboard
• Undermanned vessels
• Crew negligence
• Tow winch or equipment failure
Other serious injuries to maritime workers result from barges in tow. Primarily designed for seaworthiness versus crewmember safety, handling of time lines on a barge is where most injuries happen. Tugboats attached to barges are subject to many potential accidents. Severe tugboat and barge injuries can cut careers and lives very short. We can help ensure injured marine workers and their loved ones find full monetary compensation when these terrible accidents happen.
Working onboard a maritime vessel, from a push boat to a cruise ship, presents workers with unique challenges and hazards. The law provides special protection for maritime workers. In case of an accident on a workboat, it would be to your advantage to find a lawyer that will clearly explain your right to financial recovery under the Jones Act and general maritime law.
While workboat operators are trained to deal with accidents in physical terms, there are some rarely considered aspects of an operator’s reaction to an accident that can have big effects on his and his company’s liability. For instance, a workboat operator may mistakenly admit to error after an accident. This admission, unfortunately, will almost certainly find its way into the courtroom, most likely against the workboat operator. After an accident, the workboat operator may even be confronted by others, and his words may be held against him.
A workboat operator’s first reactions to any accident should definitely be to stabilize the situation and report the incident to a superior. He may encounter accidents that involve towboats, push boats, tugboats, and barges along inland waterways. Other accidents he may be a part of usually involve crew boats carrying workers to offshore rigs, survey vessels and supply boats that service offshore rigs. If you have been injured in a workboat accident in the Gulf of Mexico, off the coast of West Africa, or anywhere else in the world, Sutliff & Stout can provide experienced and effective legal representation.