Working near water carries a daily risk of slipping on wet terrain. Whether you are a harbor worker, part of a vessel’s crew, or perform maritime construction, you are most likely entitled to compensation if you suffered a slip and fall accident on the job.
Causes of Maritime Slip and Fall Accidents
Maritime employers and shipowners have a duty to ensure the safety of their workers by taking appropriate measures to prevent accidents. If your employer or the owner of the vessel did not take all possible precautions, you could be eligible to file a negligence claim in addition to seeking benefits for your slip and fall injury.
The most common causes of slip, trip, or fall injuries at sea include:
- Slick surfaces. Decks are often slippery due to sea spray, rain, ice, fish slime, oil leaks, hydraulic spills, and other spillages. All regularly traveled areas should be kept clean and properly reinforced with non-slip materials and handrails.
- Clutter or debris. Falls often occur when objects are left across paths of travel, especially since space is at a premium on many vessels. Crew members must be trained to properly stow all unused equipment, keep work areas and walkways clear, and tape down cables so they do not pose a tripping hazard.
- Inadequate steps or ladders. Broken or poorly-maintained ladders, stairways, and gangplanks are a common cause of injury. In addition to making sure these items are regularly inspected, employers should ensure that all ladders and stairs have slip-resistant surfacing and handrails, and paint high visibility markings on the front edges of steps.
- Unsafe practices. All crew members must be trained in proper fall avoidance techniques, such as wearing adequate footwear and secure footing when lifting lines or equipment. Inadequate manpower can increase the burden on crew members, increasing the odds that they will be placed in unsafe positions or lose their footing.
- Unseaworthiness. Shipowners are required to do whatever is necessary to ensure a safe work environment for the vessel’s crew. Under the Jones Act, injured seamen have the right to sue shipowners if the vessel was unseaworthy. A vessel that has uneven surfaces, improper lighting in work areas, inadequate storage for equipment, or defective components may be considered unseaworthy when these conditions cause an accident.
Common Injuries After a Slip and Fall Accident at Sea
The types of injuries that can occur in a slip and fall ship accident often require time away from work, costly medical expenses, and other long-term consequences. These accidents have the potential to cause permanent disabilities, or even end a maritime employee’s career.
Some of the most common injuries sustained in a slip and fall accident include:
- Back injuries. A herniated disc could cause permanent lifting restrictions, while a spinal cord injury could result in partial or total paralysis (including quadriplegia and paraplegia).
- Head and neck injuries. Falls can cause traumatic brain injuries (TBI) even if the head does not make contact with another object. Injury to the brain may cause vision disturbances, emotional and behavioral changes, or mental disability.
- Bone fractures. Bone fractures are common in the hands, arms, and face as the victim attempts to break his fall. If the fall causes fractures to the ribs, the victim could suffer internal injuries such as uncontrolled bleeding or organ perforation.
- Soft tissue injuries. Although strains and sprains may heal over time, they may require surgery and ongoing physical therapy—and some injuries may still result in a lost range of motion, nerve damage, or chronic pain.
- Death. Maritime work areas are dangerous environments, and a fall could prove fatal if a victim goes overboard or collides with a taut line or heavy machinery.
Our maritime injury attorneys can work with you to determine your long-term prognosis, and investigate whether the shipowner was aware of the dangerous condition aboard the vessel that led to your accident. We gather all the evidence necessary for your Jones Act claim and fight on your behalf while you continue your recovery.
If you or a loved one has been injured while performing maritime work, our attorneys can help you secure all that you are owed under the law. Call 1-800-3-MAY-DAY today to set up your initial consultation, or download your complimentary copy of Are You a Seaman Injured in a Maritime Accident? Know Your Rights.