Seamen can experience a range of shoulder injuries in the course of their work. While some of these conditions will heal without incident, many can develop complications that make it difficult or impossible to return to their jobs. If a shoulder injury forces an end to your career, you should speak to a maritime injury attorney as soon as possible to get the compensation you deserve.

Types of Maritime Shoulder Injury

Shoulder injuries on Jones Act vessels can happen in a matter of seconds, or they can develop slowly over time. The method of injury does not necessarily determine how New York City Maritime Injury Lawyer Hoffmann & Schweitzerminor or severe the consequences of the injury will be. Severe trauma can result from repetitive motion of the shoulder, a slip and fall, equipment malfunction, or from faulty conditions aboard ship.

Some of the most common maritime shoulder injuries include:


The tendons in the shoulder may become inflamed in highly-physical occupations, causing the tendons to wear down over time. Proper rest can help ease the pain and prevent the condition from worsening, but unfortunately, extended rest is rarely possible on a vessel. If the condition isn’t treated promptly, the tendon could rupture and require surgical repair.

Rotator cuff injury.

f your job includes repeated reaching, twisting, and overhead lifting, you could easily damage the shoulder joint over time. If the tendons in the joint are torn, seamen may need tendon transfer surgery or even a complete shoulder replacement.


Shoulder dislocation is an extremely painful injury that occurs when the bone at the upper arm is pulled out of the socket. Sudden trauma is the most common cause, but can also happen as the result of daily wear and tear on the shoulder joint.


A broken rib, collarbone, upper arm bone, or shoulder blade can result in the inability to move the arm as the shoulder heals, but also have a risk of bones infection or improper healing without treatment.

Complications of a Shoulder Injury for Jones Act Workers

Maritime law gives Jones Act seamen the right to recover compensation for medical treatment and lost income resulting from an on-the-job shoulder injury. However, this may not be enough to fully compensate you for your losses. If you experienced serious complications of a shoulder injury that prevent you from doing your job, you may be able to collect additional damages.

Shoulder injuries may cause permanent inability to work due to:

Restricted movement.

Damage to the muscles, ligaments, and tendons in the shoulder can cause lifelong instability in the shoulder joint. Even after healing, seamen may suffer lifting restrictions, inability to raise their arms over the head, inability to work in tight or awkward spaces, or an inability to perform quick movements (which are often necessary for lifesaving maneuvers).

Ongoing medical procedures.

Patients may need multiple revision surgeries, regular physical therapy appointments, lifestyle changes, and prescription medications to reduce inflammation and pain.

Chronic pain.

Severe dislocations or bone fractures can cause nerve damage in or around the shoulder joint, while overuse can cause recurring flare-ups of bursitis (inflammation of the fluid sac surrounding the joint).

Frozen shoulder.

Patients who must keep their arms immobilized during healing may suffer a tightening of the connective tissue surrounding the joint, known as frozen shoulder. Patients will need additional healing time to treat this painful secondary condition.


Once the shoulder has been damaged, a patient is at a much higher risk of developing arthritis or swelling in the joint. Treatment may include prescription medications and stretching exercises to relieve pain and inflammation.

Seamen may also be able to file claims against their employers or a shipowner if their shoulder injuries were caused by negligence or the vessel’s unseaworthy condition. Factors such as unsafe equipment or improper safety training on the vessel could form the basis of a lawsuit to recover pain and suffering, disability costs, and lost future wages.

Have You Been Injured In A Maritime Accident?

If you've been hurt in a maritime accident you need to speak with an experienced maritime attorney as soon as possible. Please contact us online or call our New York City office directly at 212.465.8840 to schedule your free consultation.

You can also download your complimentary copy of Are You a Seaman Injured in a Maritime Accident? Know Your Rights today.


Paul T. Hofmann
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Focused on personal injury, with an emphasis on maritime, railroad and construction worker tort claims.