If you or a family member has been seriously hurt while working as a harbor or maritime employee, our maritime personal injury lawyers are here to help. Working in the commercial maritime industry is difficult and often dangerous.
Offshore maritime accidents are a regular occurrence and they often have tragic outcomes for those involved. When these accidents result in serious personal injuries or death, the victims and their family members are entitled to financial compensation. On this page, we will look at how to go about getting compensation for an offshore accident.Common Offshore Accidents
Almost any type of accident can occur offshore in the maritime industry, however, there are certain categories of offshore accidents that tend to generate the most personal injury claims.
One of the biggest maritime industries today is offshore oil drilling and exploration. Offshore oil drilling operations are inherently dangerous because of the combustible nature of oil and the volatile process of extracting it from the earth. Although offshore drilling fires are infrequent when they do occur they are the most disastrous type of offshore accident.
The blowout and resulting explosion on the Deepwater Horizon served as a very public reminder of the damage that these types of accidents can cause. 11 workers were killed and countless more suffered very serious injuries.
Offshore fires and explosions are not limited to drilling operations. Fires offshore occur even more frequently on commercial vessels. All large ships and vessels carry massive amounts of diesel fuel to power their engines. This makes the fuel supply and storage systems on commercial vessels a common source of fires. The constant stress of commercial operations on the open water wears down parts, pipes, and all types of mechanical systems. A simple lapse in maintenance can result in major fires and explosions.
Accidents on deck are the most common cause of offshore injuries in the commercial maritime industry. The deck of a commercial vessel is usually a crowded, busy place with a maze of heavy equipment moving all over the place. Add to this the moving and rocking of the ship and it's not hard to see why deck injuries are so common.
Failures in equipment or machinery on a ship is another common cause of offshore accidents and injuries. Equipment in the offshore maritime industry tends to be very big and heavy. This means that just about every piece of equipment onboard a ship can be dangerous and potentially even deadly if it malfunctions. Equipment failures are often the result of improper maintenance or incorrect use.
Tugboat & Barge Injuries
Tugboats are incredibly powerful vessels that push and pull ships of immense size and weight. To accomplish this heavy-duty task, tugboats utilize some of the biggest, and most powerful equipment in the maritime industry. Tugboats crews operate this equipment under some of the most intense and high-pressure circumstances. This makes the deck of a tugboat an extremely dangerous place, especially when a barge or large ship is attached. The most common source of injuries on tugboats are the massive tow lines and shackles.
Offshore accidents in the commercial maritime industry have all sorts of complex causes, but here are some of the most common reasons why offshore injuries occur.
Most offshore maritime accidents are the direct result of the negligence of other crew members onboard the ship. The commercial maritime industry can be very hard and crews often work grueling schedules, so fatigue, distraction, and neglect are a constant problem. With all the various moving parts and equipment on a crowded deck, however, the margins for error on a commercial vessel are much narrower than in a regular working environment. This makes crewmember negligence the leading cause of offshore accidents.
Cell Phone Distraction
Cell phone or wireless device distraction is becoming an increasingly common cause of offshore maritime accidents and injuries. Just like texting and driving, texting, or cell phone use while working on a commercial vessel can be very dangerous and leads to a lot of accidents. Cell phone distraction has been linked to accidents with on-deck equipment and also vessel collisions and groundings. The problem has become so prevalent that the U.S. Coast Guard recently issued a safety notice warning mariners about the dangers of cell phone distractions.
Coast Guard advisory regulations suggest that ship owners and operators adopt and enforce strict policies on cell phone use while on duty on a commercial vessel. Most owners and operators have followed this advice and banned cell phone use while on the clock.
Maritime workers who are injured in offshore accidents are protected under a federal law called the Jones Act. The Jones Act gives injured maritime workers the right to bring personal injury claims against their employer for negligence. The Jones Act also allows claims to be filed if the vessel was "unseaworthy." Injured maritime workers who bring claims under the Jones Act can get damages for medical expenses and also for pain & suffering.
The statute of limitations for filing a claim under the Jones Act for an offshore accident is 3 years from the date of the injury. If you don't file your Jones Act claim within 3 years of the injury, you will lose your right to compensation. There are some limited exceptions to this. For instance, if you suffer an internal injury and you learn about it until you get diagnosed years later, your 3 years would not start until you discover the injury.
There is a much shorter time limit, however, if your offshore injury occurred on a vessel owned by the U.S. Government.
You can only bring a claim under the Jones Act if your employer was negligent and caused the accident. However, if the accident was caused by the negligence of someone other than your employer, you can bring a regular maritime personal injury claim. For example, if you are injured offshore because of a design defect in a piece of equipment, you can bring a product liability case against the manufacturer.
The maritime personal injury lawyers at Miller & Zois can help get the compensation you are entitled to for an offshore maritime accident. Call us today at 800-553-8082 or contact us online.