What to Do if You’re Involved in a Marine Accident

Dennis Sullivan

Although preparation is the key to prevent accidents and injuries, marine accidents are very common.

Knowing what to do if you are in a marine accident is the key to ensuring you are compensated for your injuries and lost work. In the worst-case scenario, it can help your family move on without you.  

Read on to learn more about the Jones Act and what to do if you are in a maritime accident.

Understand the Jones Act

The Jones Act signed as part of the Merchant Marine Act of 1920, governs accidents and injuries in ports, docks, offshore platforms, and commercial shipping and fishing. This is the law that governs all marine accidents and injuries. If you are injured, you need an attorney that understands this law.

Types of Maritime Accidents

  • Jones Act injuries. These include injuries that are the result of employer negligence. Maritime accidents are not covered by any states workers compensation plan.
  • Unseaworthiness;
  • Personal injury and wrongful death cases;
  • Sinking, explosion, and fire cases;
  • Toxic exposure claims;
  • Collision and pollution cases;
  • Contractual issues and related disputes.

Other Maritime Accidents 

  • Onshore accidents in ports, on docks, groundings, including falling “overboard” or into the water from a dock;
  • Offshore accidents that take place on oil or other offshore platforms; 
  • Accidents on scuba diving support vessels;
  • Accidents on cruise ships.

Types of Maritime Jobs Covered by the Jones Act

Any maritime worker working on a boat or offshore platform that is:

  • owned by U.S. companies that are controlled by U.S. citizens with at least 75 percent U.S. percent ownership;
  • at least 75 percent crewed by U.S. citizens;
  • built (or rebuilt) in the United States; and
  • registered in the United States.

Typical Maritime Injuries or Jones Act Injuries

  • Equipment Accidents. This includes accidents from poorly maintained equipment, miscommunication between co-workers, or inadequate training on equipment operations.  Failure to use safety gear to aid others or inadequate training on safety gear use and slip and fall injuries. 
  • Crashes. This can crashes between boats, between boats and land, or between boats and docks
  • Commercial Fishing Accidents. Commercial fishermen work long hours, in bad weather and accidents are common.  This includes the injuries above and overboard accidents.
  • Head, Neck, Shoulder, and Back Injuries. These are the most common injuries seen in maritime jobs and can resort from many causes.  For example, repetitive use injuries cause damage, inflammation, and pain in joints, nerves, ligaments, tendons, and muscles. Slip and fall injuries are another common cause of head, neck, shoulder and back injuries.  Unfortunately, these injuries often result in lifelong health problems.  
  • Lost Limbs. Equipment malfunction can result in accidental amputation. If the maritime worker survives, they may not be able to return to their original job or may experience post-traumatic stress disorder.
  • Chemical Exposure. Many times the cargo being transported is carrying toxic chemicals. Damage to containers can result in exposure to toxic chemicals.  Fires started by flammable chemicals can cause severe injury on top of chemical exposure.
  • Electrical Accidents. At sea, electrical accidents are especially dangerous. If the electrical accident results in a fire there is no place to go but overboard.
  • Minor Injuries. Minor injuries are common in the maritime industry and are commonly overlooked and under-reported. The challenge is even though they are perceived to be small, they result in long term issues. Under the Jones Act, you can file a claim up to 3 years after the accident.

What to Do If You Have Been Injured in Maritime Accident

If you have suffered an injury on the job you could be facing big medical bills, lost wages, lost future earnings if your injuries are lasting, and even emotional and psychological trauma. If you die on the job, your loved ones could be facing all of these things without you. If you are injured, make sure you do the following

  • Get medical treatment and keep the records.
  • File an accident report as soon as possible.  Include all details, and keep any and all documentation. Weather is a common contributing factor to many maritime shipping accidents, be sure to document. The more detailed the information the stronger support it will be provided to the marine accident investigation. This investigation takes place the accident report is filed. This investigation is designed to understand the cause of the accident and to help prevent similar, future accidents.
  • Talk to a maritime lawyer.  Our team of attorneys has over 70 years of experience working with maritime law cases.

Prevention of Maritime Injuries

Ideally, we want to prevent injuries and the list below shows a list of 10 ways to accomplish this. If your employer is not addressing any of these, there are actions you can take to ensure your employer is compelled to address any deficiencies.

  1. Fatigue. Overworked maritime workers pose a safety issue to themselves and others. Employers failing to allow for adequate rest are major contributors to this issue.
  2. Standard Maintenance and Repair.
  3. Use of Medication While Operating Vessels.
  4. Ensure Operational Testing Procedures are Followed.
  5. Familiarization with Local Recommendations.
  6. Underestimating Strong Currents.
  7. Bridge Resource Management.
  8. Ensure Proper Safety Equipment is maintained and that individuals are trained in its use.
  9. Minimize Distractions.
  10. Limiting access to high-risk spaces.

Next Step

If you have been in a maritime accident, contact us.  We want to fight and advocate for you. 

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