The ocean is the most dangerous workplace on the planet. US maritime industries are found in nearly every state, employing more than 400,000 workers across the nation. Maritime workers find employment in a variety of fields such as, shipyards, marine terminals, fishing, aquaculture, seafood processing, commercial diving, and marine transportation. According to the Centers for Disease Control, maritime workers face a higher risk of fatality, injury, and illness than the average American worker.
From slips and falls to equipment failures, collisions, fires, and unsafe work practices and negligence, offshore injuries usually require costly medical care — sometimes long-term. Catastrophic injuries can mean an injured worker who relies on his or her physical ability may not be able to return to work. This can be devastating for families, particularly if the worker is the sole breadwinner and can no longer earn a living.
Offshore injuries are covered by laws that are different from those that apply to land-based workers. If you or someone you love has been injured or fallen ill while working offshore, we encourage you to get in touch with an experienced offshore injury attorney at Montagna Maritime Law as soon as possible to request your free case evaluation.
TYPES OF OFFSHORE INJURIES
When an offshore worker takes on employment in the maritime industry, it’s understood the job is physically demanding and comes with inherent risks that are far more dangerous compared to land-based work. Injuries are common and range from the very minor to the horrific, and even death. In many cases, minor injuries can become much more significant over time.
Some of the most common types of offshore injuries include:
- Traumatic brain injury – TBIs can be sustained in any number of ways. Offshore workers are consistently putting themselves in construction and industrial-like environments. A blow to the head from a slip or fall, or being struck by a swinging or unsecured cargo, can cause traumatic brain injury. This can result in permanent cognitive or personality changes.
- Spinal and back injuries – Operating equipment, carrying heavy loads, and hard labor can be back-breaking work, requiring many hours of standing, lifting, twisting, and pulling. Offshore workers can sustain injuries from falls or being struck by vehicles or unstable loads. A back or neck injury can result in chronic pain, limited mobility, and in the most severe cases can result in paraplegia or quadriplegia. Even when medical attention is administered promptly, there can be long term disabilities associated with spinal and back injuries.
- Slips and falls – Injuries experienced in slips and falls are among the most common — and can be serious. Accidents caused by slips and falls can result in concussions and contusions to broken bones. In some cases, slipping on the deck of a ship or platform can send you overboard, which immediately escalates into a very hazardous situation.
- Loss of hearing – If hearing protection is not provided or mandated, it’s possible that over time, workers will be exposed to enough significant noise to diminish their hearing. In some cases, where work environments are loud enough, tinnitus or total hearing loss can develop.
- Loss of limbs – Inadvertently walking into the path of a truck or forklift, working with cables under tensions, or getting a leg caught and crushed beneath unsteady cargo like coils, pipes, plates, and tires can lead to injuries requiring amputation. The loss of a limb is a life-changing injury and often requires a prosthetic.
- Crushing injuries and broken bones – Offshore work usually entails a significant reliance on heavy machinery, either for construction or for day-to-day work. Injuries can often occur when this machinery breaks down or when safety procedures are not followed. These injuries often result in broken or crushed bones. Crushing injuries can also result in damage to internal organs and create life-threatening situations.
- Hypothermia and frostbite – Offshore and maritime employees often work in extreme environments and at all times of the day and night. This means that offshore workers are often exposed to extremely cold conditions, which can cause hypothermia or frostbite. These dangers are exacerbated by exposure to the water, either through harsh conditions or a fall overboard.
- Drowning – A fall overboard can quickly escalate into a life-threatening injury, especially if recovery is not immediate. Additionally, hypothermia can become an issue even in relatively warm waters.
- Lung damage – When safety procedures are not followed or not enforced, or when accidents cause spills, workers can suffer serious chemical injuries. When these chemicals are inhaled, severe and long term lung damage can occur. In certain cases, exposure to high quantities of these chemicals can become immediately life-threatening. In other cases, smaller exposures can result in smaller injuries that can become chronic or cumulative.
- Fatalities – Each year, offshore workers tragically die in accidents along the East Coast of the United States. If you have lost a loved one who died as a result of an accident or negligence, you have a right to seek damages for their death.
CLAIMING COMPENSATION FOR OFFSHORE INJURIES
A serious injury offshore can be life-altering, especially if it’s classified as catastrophic. Depending on the severity of your injuries and the circumstances that contributed to them, you may be entitled to compensation for:
- Lost earnings – A claim for lost wages can be very important for injured offshore workers and their families. If you are no longer able to work because of your injury, you can seek damages for the earnings you have lost, are losing, and will lose as a result of your injury.
- Medical expenses – If you’ve suffered a serious injury offshore, there’s every chance your medical bills are piling up. You may be able to claim present expenses as well as anticipated future medical expenses. Claims may include costs for surgery, rehabilitation, physical therapy, mental health care, and transportation costs for receiving treatment.
- Pain and suffering – This can be broken down into physical and mental pain and suffering: The pain of your actual physical injuries, as well as the pain and suffering from scarring, disfigurement, and ongoing complications; and the mental pain and suffering, including mental anguish, stress, anxiety, and loss of enjoyment of life.
Additionally, if you qualify as a Jones Act seaman you are entitled to Maintenance and Cure, which is a basic right of all seamen. If you’ve suffered a work-related injury, your employer must pay your general living expenses (maintenance) and medical expenses (cure) while you are out of work recovering.
Offshore workers who do not meet the definition of “seaman” may qualify for benefits under a different federal law, the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act (LHWCA).
In the most severe cases, offshore injuries can lead to death. Workers’ families may be entitled to compensation through a wrongful death claim against the responsible party.
CHOOSING THE RIGHT OFFSHORE INJURY ATTORNEY
If you’ve been injured in an offshore accident, it’s critical that you have an experienced maritime or offshore injury lawyer by your side who can fight aggressively for your legal rights. Maritime attorneys are skilled litigators who understand federal and state maritime laws and international agreements, and have sound judgment when it comes to helping you win your case and getting you the maximum compensation you deserve for your injuries.
Maritime law is a highly skilled and specialized area of law and there aren’t many attorneys who practice in the field as effectively as the attorneys at Montagna Maritime Law. Contact us today for your free case evaluation to discuss your legal options with an experienced maritime attorney, at no up front cost.
HIGHLY RATED OFFSHORE ACCIDENT ATTORNEYS IN NORFOLK, VIRGINIA
Montagna Maritime Law is located on 425 Monticello Ave Suite B, Norfolk, VA. From Norfolk International Airport follow Airport Rd, Robin Hood Rd and VA-165 S to US-13 S. Then head east on Norview Ave toward Airport Parking Dep Rd and slight right onto Airport Parking Dep Rd. After that, turn right toward Airport Rd and turn right at the 1st cross street onto Airport Rd. Next, continue onto Robin Hood Rd and turn left onto VA-165 S. At this point, continue on US-13 S. Take I-264 W to St Pauls Blvd and take exit 10 from I-264 W. Then continue onto US-13 S and pass by Taco Bell (on the right in 1.0 mi). After that, turn right to merge onto I-264 W toward Downtown Norfolk/Portsmouth and use the right lane to stay on I-264 W. Next, take exit 10 for City Hall Ave and continue on St Pauls Blvd. Drive to Monticello Ave. Finally, turn right onto St Pauls Blvd and turn left onto E Charlotte St. Turn left onto Monticello Ave and Montagna Maritime Law will be on the right.
We’re open Monday – Friday: 9:00 AM – 5:00 PM
For additional questions, you can call us at (757) 622-8056
Common Causes of Offshore Accidents
Offshore and oilfield accidents are often preventable. They can happen during basket transfers, line handling, vessel collisions, and diving operations. Many accidents are the same as you’d encounter in many workplaces, such as equipment failures and slip-and-falls. But because working offshore is a more high-risk workplace environment, an injury may also result from a fire or explosion.
Despite the big budgets associated with the oil industry, there is sometimes very little training and oversight on an oil rig. This type of employer negligence can result in an unsafe working environment that leads to underqualified employees performing dangerous tasks that they aren’t properly trained for, resulting in serious injury.
Offshore accidents commonly lead to head trauma, spinal injuries, severed limbs, and other serious injuries. These injuries are often specifically caused by:
- Oil rig injuries. Workers on oil rigs use complex and cumbersome equipment to drill and perform other tasks. Many workers aren’t properly trained on how to use the needed equipment, which increases the risk of offshore accidents caused by human error.
- Deck accidents. The deck of an oil rig can be a chaotic environment where frenzied workers must constantly be on high alert. Workers are surrounded by trip hazards, fall hazards, electrical hazards, crush hazards, and pinch point hazards. They can easily be struck by heavy equipment, slip on wet surfaces, or fall when the sudden lurch of the vessel causes them to lose their balance.
- Equipment failure. When equipment on an offshore vessel fails, it can result in a number of severe injuries. Workers can be burned or electrocuted, crushed, and even lose limbs. Operating machinery on an oil rig requires a high level of caution to prevent injuries from occurring.
- Fires and explosions. While not common, fires and explosions are some of the most deadly causes of offshore accidents. They can happen as the result of improperly stored fuel, poorly maintained pipelines, or collisions between vessels. When there’s a fire, workers may have to jump off the rig into the ocean — often from a height of at least 100 feet. Even though workers are typically trained in the proper way to jump, the stress of the situation may result in a jump that leads to severe injury or drowning. Accidents caused by fire and injury can lead to life-altering injuries and even the loss of an entire vessel (and the people on it).
- Other vessels. Injuries also commonly occur on tugboats and barges. These include falling overboard, tow lines parting, and handling heavy lines. If helicopters are used to transport workers offshore, there’s a risk of injury from a helicopter crash.
When you’ve experienced any type of offshore accident, no matter the cause, it can be physically and emotionally traumatic. You may find yourself trying to heal from your injuries while figuring out how to deal with the loss of a regular and substantial paycheck that supports your family. Our offshore accident lawyers in Austin, Texas, are here to help you determine the cause of your accident and the best way to get you financially on your feet again.
Damages in an Offshore Accident Case
An offshore accident can be devastating to you and your family. You may have injuries that require extensive and ongoing medical attention and rehabilitation, leading to medical bills that seem to keep piling up. Or a family may have experienced a fatal accident that has caused endless pain and suffering. When you’ve also lost your main source of income, it can feel like you’ll never find relief.
An offshore accident lawyer can help you determine the amount of damages you may be able to recover and negotiate on your behalf to make sure you get the best recovery possible. Depending on your case, you may be eligible for damages that include lost wages, medical expenses, disfigurement, emotional trauma, and pain and suffering.
Your attorney will make sure you have all the needed medical records and documentation to prove tangible costs associated with your injury. They will also show how your loss of wages (both presently and in the future) affects you financially, and make sure any third parties are held responsible for their negligence.
What Factors Can Affect Your Offshore Accident Case?
Offshore accident cases can be complicated. You’ll need to determine who you can legally bring a claim against, how workers’ compensation affects your claim, how much insurance coverage is available, and in which jurisdiction you can bring your lawsuit. There are a variety of factors that can affect your case, especially when you are attempting to show negligence on the part of the employer, including the following:
- The amount of risk taken. Working offshore and in oilfields is extremely high risk. The steps you may be required to take to get oil and gas out of the ground may not even be permitted in many other industries. But because of how lucrative the results can be when you hit pockets of oil or gas, you may feel pressured by your employer or other employees to engage in unsafe practices or take bigger risks to get your job done. These practices are often commonplace. However, in order to lessen the perception of their negligence, your employer may try to show that you didn’t have to engage in those high-risk behaviors.
- Lack of oversight. There is often no engineering oversight on a rig, meaning equipment and structures are makeshift and assembled by people who learned from experience rather than official training. When you are doing things like drilling or running high-pressure fracking lines on the fly without technical guidance, accidents are bound to happen.
- Insufficient training. Employees often use machinery on an oil rig without any training, which can result in injury. They may also be performing tasks that are way outside of their regular duties, such as acting as fire crew, which can put all other employees at risk as well.
- Sleep deprivation. The average offshore worker works at least 12 hours a day for weeks on end — and is often woken up in the middle of the night to receive or unload a ship. Even when there’s a night crew, there may be a need for extra crew on deck. Because of the amount of profit that may be lost when there’s a delay, many employers want employees to go as fast and far as they can, which often means little sleep and more room for error.
- How much insurance will pay out. Most oil companies are self-insured up to a point. After that, they have an insurance company pay out the rest. Insurance companies may try to adjust their portion of the claim or make sure the oil company attempts to settle the claim reasonably so they don’t have to pay out any money.
Oil companies often take shortcuts when it comes to operation of oil rigs because it can be less expensive than making sure employees are properly trained to do things the right way. While this may be the standard in the industry, it can lead to many preventable injuries.
How an Offshore Accident Lawyer Can Help
As a tactic to avoid paying out damages, it’s common for employers to deny that they are responsible for any injuries to their employees on an offshore rig or oilfield. Instead, they usually attempt to pass the buck onto their employees and claim that it was their actions alone that caused the offshore accident. They may claim that the employee had a right to speak out and stop the entire rig in its tracks if they saw something unsafe or needed more time to sleep. Some employers may even attempt to retaliate against employees who bring a suit by making it more difficult for them to find other jobs in the industry.
Because of all this, it can be difficult to decide if you want to pursue a lawsuit, especially if you fear that you’ll be blamed for the offshore accident or blacklisted from the industry. An offshore accident lawyer will help ensure that this doesn’t happen and that the facts of your injury are brought to the surface. A lawyer experienced in offshore accidents knows how to detect these types of tactics and make sure evidence doesn’t get skewed to fit the employer’s version of events. They can also help you round up witnesses to the offshore accident and get statements that show your side of the story.
Offshore accident attorneys are also intimately familiar with maritime law, which was created to help protect workers in the event of injuries, accidents, and illnesses. Maritime law only protects people who work offshore, and specific requirements must be met to recover in an action under the law. An experienced attorney will know how to make maritime law, and any other laws that apply, work in your favor.
Why Hire FVF to Help with Your Offshore Accident Case?
Our experienced offshore accident lawyers at FVF are here to help you get your life back on track following an injury or wrongful death on an oil rig. We have litigated these types of injuries around Texas and frequently travel around the state to prosecute offshore accident claims. We work tirelessly to advocate for you, interviewing witnesses, consulting with offshore and medical experts, and conducting any needed investigations into your injury.
We aim to get you or your family the best financial recovery, and to provide support and guidance in the midst of difficult circumstances. Contact us today to schedule your free, no-commitment case consultation.