Types of Offshore Accidents and Injuries

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Offshore Accidents and Injuries

Far too often, injuries will occur on our nation’s inland waterways and at sea. At Sutliff & Stout, our Board-Certified attorneys help seamen and their families recover full compensation for serious injuries and even fatal accidents.

There are a number of dangers that are present at sea. From workboat injuries to oil platform injuries, there is no doubt that seamen work under some of the most dangerous conditions in the country. Anyone who has suffered an injury or medical emergency while serving on board a vessel or rig has the right to contact an offshore accident lawyer to find out what legal options they may have. Certain rights apply to you and members of your family under maritime law. Get in touch with one of our personal injury and accident attorneys today to discuss your offshore accident.

Common Types of Offshore Accidents and Injuries

Offshore Rig Injuries

Working on an offshore drilling rig searching for oil and gas requires a combination of hard work on heavy machinery, rough seas, and long hours. This combination unfortunately results in many 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, so employers need 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.

Deck Accidents

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 limbs in winches, cables or hoists. A rough sea or sudden ship movement can cause deckhands to lose their balance and fall from an open deck or through an open hatch, causing serious back and head injuries.

Equipment Failures

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. 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 rigs. 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, thereby requiring workers to use a swing rope. 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 while aboard workboats or other marine vessels navigating rivers, lakes, and inland waterways throughout the Gulf Coast also qualify as Jones Act seamen under maritime laws.

In the same manner that offshore oil platforms and drilling rigs have to be safe and ocean-going tanker and cargo ships have to operate in a 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 increases when a tug is attached to a barge. The equipment, such as tow winches and tow wires, is 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 accidentally 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 timelines 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.

Workboat Injuries

Working onboard a maritime vessel, whether that be a push boat or 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 reaction to any accident should 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 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.

Injuries Resulting from Offshore Accidents

Offshore workers are prone to suffering burns, spinal cord and brain injuries, back and orthopedic injuries, eye injuries, crush injuries, limb loss, electrocution, and chemical exposure. Injuries from burns can leave lasting, even deadly, emotional and physical injuries. An individual may suffer a spinal cord injury (SCI), resulting in loss of function in one or more of their limbs and/or be rendered permanently paralyzed.

  • Traumatic brain injuries: TBIs, or traumatic brain injuries, are injuries that can occur to workers in extreme circumstances. A worker who sustains a TBI might experience long-term cognitive issues and neurological dysfunctions as a result.
  • Back and orthopedic injuries: Workers can suffer from back and orthopedic injuries that negatively affect their job performance and capabilities. Further, the effects of a joint, tissue, or bone injury can be short-term or long-term, with an intensity that ranges from minor to severe.
  • Eye injuries: Any injury to an eye can lead to vision impairment or loss of sight and therefore reduce a worker’s ability to do their jobs.
  • Crush injuries: Crush injuries can also be sustained by individuals if they are trapped under or in between heavy objects and can result in limb loss.
  • Electrocution: High-voltage electricity is dangerous, and when it combines with water, it can be deadly. Electrocuted victims can suffer serious bodily injuries, including heart damage, burns, and internal organ damage.
  • Chemical exposure: Asbestos, silica, and vinyl chloride are some of the chemicals to which workers at sea can be exposed. The consequences of exposure to toxic chemicals include respiratory illness, cancer, compromised immune function, and chemical burns.

Types of Offshore Injury Claims

Injured offshore workers and their families generally have four choices for recovering compensation. It is important to note, however, that many factors need to be considered when determining which form of recovery to pursue based on specific facts surrounding any injury or illness that occurred to the worker in question. For instance, one must consider the kind of work being done at the time of the accident or the occurrence of the illness, along with where the accident or illness took place.

Workers injured in maritime-related accidents (or their loved ones) may be eligible for recovery under general maritime law, the Jones Act, the Death on the High Seas Act, or the Longshoremen and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act.

Recovery under Maritime Law

Benefits and protections for maritime workers are provided by the law. Recent developments in maritime law relate to the shipowner’s obligation to provide seaworthy vessels. They also relate to maintenance and cure obligations.

Keeping a vessel seaworthy implies maintaining and equipping it properly. The owner of an unfit vessel can be held legally responsible for damages incurred by an offshore worker or another type of seaman injured or sickened by the vessel’s unseaworthiness. The Board-Certified attorneys at Sutliff & Stout can help protect your rights if you were injured or became ill as a result of working onboard a vessel that is not seaworthy.

The Jones Act

Many maritime workers are involved in hazardous jobs that carry a high injury risk. Under the Jones Act, seamen who are injured or become ill while exercising their work duties have the right to sue their employers if the injury or illness was caused by the negligence of the vessel owner or another crew member.

Death on the High Seas

A national law known as the Death on the High Seas Act (DOHSA) was enacted in 1920 in order to provide a legal remedy to the families of seamen who died in international waters due to lack of seaworthiness or negligence. Children, spouses, and other individuals dependent on a seaman are able to seek compensation via the Act to pay for things such as burial costs, medical expenses, and lost support. In wrongful death cases, the personal representative of the estate must file the claim. A will can specify this person, or the court can appoint the estate as per state law.

The Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act (LHWCA)

As part of the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act, workers are entitled to certain protections related to accidents and illnesses that occur on the job. A special provision of the law provides healthcare and compensation to people who are disabled as a result of an injury sustained while navigating U.S. waters or areas adjacent to them accessed for the purpose of unloading, loading, repairing, and building certain types of vessels.

Longshoremen, harbor workers, shipbuilders, shipbreakers, and ship repairers are all covered as workers under the Act. A seafarer covered by the Jones Act is not protected under the LHWCA. Worker’s compensation is another alternative.

Hire Sutliff & Stout to Help with Your Offshore Accident Case in Texas

Our experienced offshore accident lawyers at Sutliff & Stout are here to help you get your life back on track following an injury or wrongful death on an oil rig. We have successfully litigated these kinds of injury cases around Texas, and we are well acquainted with the rights of seafarers and the types of damages they may be able to recover. In our efforts to advocate for you, we will interview witnesses, consult offshore and medical experts, and perform any investigations that may be necessary to get a complete understanding of your case.

With your or your family’s best financial, emotional, and physical recoveries in mind, we provide unwavering guidance and support in the midst of difficult situations like these. Contact our top injury lawyers today at (713) 987-7111 or complete a contact form, and someone from our firm will reach out to schedule your free, no-obligation case consultation.

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