Head injuries are some of the most common causes of accidental death at sea. Severe complications such as intracranial hematoma can cause permanent effects for survivors and can be fatal if not treated quickly. If you are a fisherman, seaman, or crew member assigned to a vessel, you should know the signs of intracranial hematoma and your rights under the Jones Act after a traumatic brain injury.

What Is an Intracranial Hematoma?

Intracranial Hematoma Sign and Medical ImagingA hematoma is a pooling of blood inside the body from ruptured blood vessels. An intracranial hematoma is blood collection within the brain tissue, or between your skull and brain. As the blood clots, the hematoma swells, placing pressure on the tissues around it.

Brain swelling from a hematoma can lead to the following symptoms:

  • Increasing headache
  • Vomiting
  • Drowsiness or fatigue
  • Dizziness or being unsteady on the feet
  • Confusion or inability to focus
  • Unequal pupils
  • Blurred vision or light sensitivity
  • Slurred speech
  • Increased blood pressure
  • Weakness in the limbs
  • Inability to move arms or legs
  • Sudden mental or emotional changes
  • Seizures
  • Progressive loss of consciousness

Brain injuries are unpredictable, and the outcomes may vary from patient to patient. However, the recovery time for intracranial hematoma can be several weeks or months, especially if physical therapy or speech therapy is required. Maritime workers may lose a substantial amount of time away from their vessels, and are entitled to compensation under the Jones Act for their medical care and lost income.

Why Jones Act Workers Suffer Intracranial Hematoma

There are many ways maritime employees can suffer traumatic brain injuries in the course of their work. A fall on a slippery deck or from an elevated platform can cause the brain to bruise as it hits the inside wall of the skull. A falling object, swinging equipment, or other blow to the head can all result in a hematoma if the fluid around the brain is unable to absorb the impact.

Unfortunately, an intracranial hematoma on the open water is more likely to be fatal due to:

  • Late diagnosis. A hematoma can be difficult to detect since the victim may appear fine after the accident but get progressively worse over the next few days. All injuries onboard should be taken seriously, including removing injured seamen from duty and having them evaluated by the ship’s medical personnel.
  • Lack of onboard medical equipment. Doctors normally perform rigorous diagnostic testing to confirm the presence of a hematoma, such as a CT scan or MRI. Vessels don’t have this kind of equipment, making it more difficult to make an accurate diagnosis.
  • No access to medical records. Even mild head trauma can cause a hematoma in someone who has previous injuries or is taking blood-thinning medications. If the ship does not have up-to-date medical information on the crew, a minor head injury can have a fatal outcome.
  • Failure to monitor the condition. Many traumatic brain injuries have latent symptoms, and injured seamen should be monitored closely for signs of worsening or changes in their condition. The victim should have close medical observation and may need a “buddy” for a few days to spot the warning signs.
  • Delayed surgery. When life-threatening head injuries happen at sea, Jones Act workers should get medical treatment on land as soon as possible. A hematoma may need surgical removal or drainage, both of which should be done in a stable and sterile environment.

We Help Injured Jones Act Workers Get Proper Compensation

If you need help after a head injury at sea, the maritime injury attorneys at Hofmann & Schweitzer can help you get all of the Jones Act benefits you are owed. 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, start reading 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.