Maritime Law

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Maritime Laws and Head Injuries on the Job

It is often seen as a “given” that maritime industry jobs are relatively hazardous. Working aboard a ship or even on shore can come with a long list of possible threats and risks. Everything from rough seas and simple slip and fall accidents can lead to severe or disabling injury, and sometimes even to death.

While there are certainly incidents that are unpreventable, such as rough seas taking someone overboard or a full vessel loss due to severe conditions, there are also more accidents and injuries that were preventable. There are many federal and industry safety standards in place to reduce or entirely eliminate specific types of injury, and an employer who ignores them or neglects to implement them can be found liable should a worker be harmed on the job.

Of course, as in any industry, there are certain types of injuries that seem to happen a great deal more than others. In the maritime industry, it is head injuries that seem to occur on an almost regular basis, and this is because so much of the work is done on wet surfaces, unstable ground (such as the deck of a moving ship), or in confined places. This, however, is precisely why so many safety standards are in place, and why anyone sustaining a head injury doing maritime work should be sure that employer negligence did not cause the issue.

It Doesn’t Seem Serious…Why Should I Pursue It?

It is important to understand that a standard concussion is far from the worst injury you might sustain during maritime work. There are actually two ways that head injuries are described; closed and open. The closed injuries are not any less severe than open, even though they are without bone fractures and bleeding. In fact, closed wounds are seen as a bit more troublesome because they may go undetected until they have jeopardized the health of the individual or even put them at risk for death.

Obviously, a head injury comes from a strong blow to the skull, and though these can be due to an accidental fall, it is important to understand why any head injury happened when performing maritime work.

For example, a list of ways that workers sustain mild to life-threatening head injuries includes:

  • Slipping and falling
  • Improperly stowed equipment
  • Surfaces left unprotected with anti-skid and anti-slip materials
  • Cranes and cargo accidents
  • Failure on the part of the employer to provide safety gear (railings, clothing, helmets)
  • Poor or inadequate safety training

These are just a few of the more common reasons that a worker may sustain a head injury, and though an employer may not always be at fault, they are legally obliged to meet certain standards. When they fail to do so, and someone is injured, there are several laws that guarantee adequate compensation to the worker or their surviving dependents.

The Jones Act is for those working on the water and for almost all other maritime employees there is the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Act. These are designed to provide workers with appropriate compensation should they sustain an injury, disability, or even be killed due to employer negligence.  (OSHA.gov, 2015)

Though they are very clear and straightforward laws, most employers will attempt to reduce their liabilities at such times, and for obvious financial reasons. This is why anyone working in the maritime industry who sustains a head injury (or their dependents) should meet with a qualified maritime attorney. They can review the entire situation and pursue the employer to the fullest extent possible. No one should have their health and well-being jeopardized just to earn a living, and a qualified attorney will be your best approach to pursuing rightful compensation when an employer has been negligent and caused a maritime worker to sustain a head injury.