Eye injuries can occur in any profession, but an eye injury at sea is especially likely to cause long-term complications. Maritime workers might be far from shore when an accident occurs, and could be stranded on their vessels for days before they can be seen by a specialist. When they finally get the care they need, some or Doctor Looking at Eye Imagingall of their vision may be lost, preventing them from earning a living and enjoying the life they used to lead.

As a Jones Act seaman, you are entitled to certain rights and benefits to cover your medical expenses and lost wages. However, your employer and its insurance company may offer you an advance or fast settlement before you know the full extent of your injury. Even a minor eye injury has the potential to cause partial or total blindness, so it's vital for you to speak with an experienced Jones Act injury attorney before agreeing to any compensation from an employer.

Common Causes of Jones Act Eye Injuries

The eyes are highly sensitive organs. Even after the eye has healed after an injury, workers can suffer many lifelong complications such as eye dryness, scarring in the cornea, eye pain, light sensitivity, or degenerative conditions like cataracts or glaucoma.

The most common ways Jones Act workers suffer eye injuries include:

  • Debris. Tiny particles in the work environment may become lodged in the eyes, scratching the cornea and causing irritation and damage. Exposure to airborne sawdust and metal particles can lead to infections in the eye, which could eventually result in the removal of the eyeball without proper treatment.
  • Chemical exposure. Chemical spills from broken tanks or cargo containers may cause blindness upon contact with the eyes, while unexpected steam release from pipes and boilers can result in eye burn injuries.
  • Welding and cutting. Workers repairing ships or cutting heavy chains can suffer eye injuries or permanent vision changes from the ultraviolet radiation given off by welding and cutting tools.
  • Head or facial trauma. A blow to the head may fracture the orbital bone, causing the eyeball to swell inside the eye socket. Physical trauma to a worker's face may result in eye hemorrhaging, trapped blood in the eye, detached retinas, a torn iris, or blindness from damage to the optic nerve.
  • Puncture wounds. Workers may accidentally strike their faces on sharp edges in rough seas or become caught on fishing lines or hooks, causing deep punctures to the eyes. These injuries can result in lacerations on the eyelid, loss of the tear duct, corneal damage, or sudden eyeball rupture.

Could Someone Else Be at Fault for an Eye Injury at Sea?

Jones Act seamen have a right to a safe working environment, and maritime employers are held to certain standards when it comes to preventing injuries. For example, an employer or shipowner may be guilty of negligence or operation of an unseaworthy vessel if they did not provide:

  • PPE. Any worker who could suffer eye damage or vision loss should be furnished with appropriate goggles, face shields, or other eye protection to prevent injuries—and employers should also make sure workers know when and how to use safety gear.
  • Adequate onboard medical facilities. Fast treatment is key to preserving vision and preventing infections after an eye injury. If a worker is denied access to treatment on land or is misdiagnosed by a ship's doctor, a minor injury can result in the loss of vision or the loss of the eye itself.
  • Proper safety training. The majority of eye injuries are preventable with thorough and regular safety training. Employers must ensure that all workers undergo training and require strict compliance when it comes to wearing proper eye protection and safety gear.

If someone you love has been injured at sea, you should contact Hofmann & Schweitzer to review your case as soon as possible. Call 1-800-3-MAY-DAY or fill out our online contact form today to set up your no-obligation consultation. To learn more about these types of claims, download your complimentary copy of our guide, Are You a Seaman Injured in a Maritime Accident? Know Your Rights.


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