Back Injuries and Maritime Laws

We all know that back injuries are often unavoidable. We bend down and lift something the wrong way, and we know instantly we’ve just made a terrible mistake. At times like this, the pain can be disabling and may require emergency, and ongoing medical care.

However, there are times when you bend to lift something, and feel that horrible back injury occurs; yet it was avoidable. If you are a maritime worker, such a back injury may occur because your job has you repeatedly lifting overly heavy objects, in a way that is unsafe and unfair. This would be a time to cite employer negligence.

Of course, back injuries are not limited strictly to the type described. Injuries can be sustained in a fall or slip, from being crushed, from falling from a height, and other similar situations. Clearly, many of these moments may have been avoidable had a maritime employer taken responsibility for the situation.

It is their legal obligation to do so. There are federal and industry safety standards that all maritime businesses must meet. Yet, year after year, there are reports of serious injury, and even deaths, due to avoidable situations.

What to Do When It Could Have Been Avoided?

Maritime or offshore work is known as a high-risk field. The unstable conditions aboard the different types of vessels can make it hard to avoid a variety of injuries. Though many workers accept that they’ll have to risk the occasional slip and falls, or a few rough bumps to the head, most understand that guidelines and protocols are in place, to avoid disabling injuries and deaths.

Just consider the following accidents or situations that lead to back injuries, and how easily they may have been avoided:

  • Repetitive movement while lifting heavy burdens
  • Slipping on surfaces without anti-skid or anti-slip treatment
  • Unsecured equipment causing slips or even moving and causing crushing back injuries
  • Objects falling or moving and causing back injuries
  • Lack of handrails or bars to prevent falling back injuries
  • Inadequate safety protocols around storing gear and keeping walkways clear

All of these issues fall within the description of “employer negligence,” should a worker sustain any back injuries. And while it may seem as if it is a clear-cut case of negligence, it often requires that a qualified and experienced attorney take on the case. After all, there are rules and laws that apply to one group of maritime workers, known as the Jones Act, and the rest of the maritime workers tend to be protected by the Longshore Harbor and Workers’ Compensation Act. Additionally, there is the issue known as maintenance and cure, and this is a maritime worker’s right to benefits and medical coverage as they recuperate from an accident.

Next Steps

If you or a loved one has sustained a back injury while on the job in the maritime industry, and you know it was due to negligence, it is important to consult with a legal expert immediately. Back injuries can make it impossible to work, or even to ever return to that particular field. You cannot risk a stable income and reasonable compensation by settling with a maritime employer immediately after an incident. Instead, work with a skilled attorney who understands the complexity of the laws and who can help you get what is rightfully yours.

The Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) says, “The law requires employers to provide their employees with working conditions that are free of known dangers.” (OSHA.gov, 2015) This is not limited only to the most obvious issues. Simply asking you to repeatedly lift awkward and heavy loads all day, may have caused your back injury, this means you are protected under the laws. Follow up with a lawyer as soon as possible following any injury, as the laws are on your side.