There’s almost no end to the ways maritime workers can suffer crush injuries. Becoming trapped under crab pots, catching fingers in flood doors, walking under falling cargo, or becoming pinned between two vessels are just a few of the daily risks of caught-between accidents. When these injuries occur, Jones Act seamen and their families have the right to seek compensation for their losses.
Complications of a Crush Injury for Maritime Workers
Crush injuries occur when pressure is exerted on part of the body (or the whole body) that is severe enough to cause physical damage. Depending on the extent of the injury, a seaman may suffer bruises, lacerations, bone fractures, puncture wounds, injured nerves, or the complete severing of a body part.
Crush injuries can cause serious complications such as:
Compression to the bones may cause ribs to break or shatter, puncturing lungs and spearing nearby organs. With enough force, a crush injury can cause a spleen, bladder, or stomach to rupture, requiring immediate surgery.
Muscle trauma is generally considered less serious than organ damage, but crushed muscle carries life-threatening risks. If a large amount of tissue is damaged, it begins to break down and passes through the blood to the kidneys. The overload of muscle tissue can overwhelm or block the kidneys, a condition called rhabdomyolysis. If the kidneys stop working, the body loses the ability to filter out waste, increasing blood toxicity to deadly levels.
Compartment syndrome typically occurs when a crush leads to a buildup of pressure, such as compression of the forearm or thigh. As pressure rises in a confined space within the body, the cells may be deprived of oxygen and begin to die. As cell death spreads, compartment syndrome may lead to loss of the limb, lost muscle tissue, or even death.
Crush injuries can cause large, irregular wounds throughout the body, increasing the risk of infection. Sepsis, gangrene, or other systemic infection may take hold in the bones, deep muscle, or other tissues, which can be fatal systemic if not treated quickly with aggressive antibiotics.
Surgery is often needed after a crushing incident to stop bleeding, stabilize the patient, and repair damage. Patients may require multiple follow-up surgeries to implant pins or screws, remove dead tissue, or perform cosmetic reconstruction. If a part of the body refuses to heal, patients may be forced to undergo surgical amputation.
Both physical therapy and psychological treatment are key to helping an injured seaman overcome a devastating injury. A victim may be partially paralyzed, unable to have children, or suffer post-traumatic stress disorder that significantly impacts quality of life.
Crush injuries occur most commonly to the legs, feet, and upper extremities. Even when victims survive the incident, they may permanently lose limbs, feeling, or function in one or more parts of the body, making it difficult for them to earn the same living they did before the accident.
Compensation Available for a Severe Injury at Sea
If you suffered a crush injury from an accident at sea, you could be entitled to significant payment for your lost wages, medical bills, and pain and suffering. Unfortunately, many of these claims are underpaid if victims attempt to collect without the help of an experienced maritime injury attorney.
The first thing you should do is file a claim for maintenance and cure benefits. Under general maritime law, you are owed a daily stipend for your meals and housing while you are unable to work, plus the amount it takes to pay for your necessary medical costs.
Next, you should determine whether you could be able to sue your employer for negligence. Under the Jones Act, your employer may be held liable for any lack of training, equipment maintenance, or safety violations that led to your injury. Finally, our legal team can investigate whether you could hold the shipowner accountable for allowing you to sail on an unseaworthy vessel.
The dedicated legal team at Hofmann & Schweitzer can listen to your story, explain your options, and explain your next steps at no cost to you. Call us at 1-800-3-MAY-DAY or fill out our online contact form today to set up your no-obligation consultation, or learn more about these types of claims in our guide, Are You a Seaman Injured in a Maritime Accident? Know Your Rights.