Towing or tugging large vessels is strenuous, difficult, and sometimes dangerous work. Watermen working on tugboats engage in repetitive physical labor, for long hours around potentially dangerous machinery and equipment. Maritime workers are at greater risk of fatal accidents, catastrophic injuries, and work-related illnesses than most workers. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) Center for Maritime Safety and Health Studies (CMSHS) coordinates research “in six maritime industries: shipyards, marine terminals, marine transportation, seafood processing, commercial fishing, and aquaculture.”
Tug Boat Accident Fatalities
Fatal falls overboard are the second leading cause of death in the fishing industry second only to sinking vessels. Work-related fatalities selected from the NIOSH’s Commercial Fishing Incident Database were used as case studies in the analysis of falls overboard, rescue attempts, and areas for interventions. The case studies from 2000 to 2016 revealed that 755 fishermen died on the job and 204, or 27%, fell overboard. None of the workers who died were wearing personal flotation devices. They lost their balance (48%), tripped or slipped (47.23%), or became tangled in fishing nets and lines (15.2%). Half of the fatal falls (48.5%) occurred while the deceased fishermen were alone. Fourteen percent were found shortly after their fall, but rescue attempts were unsuccessful.
Maritime workers tend to work alone. Ships collide, catch fire, capsize, and sink. The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) investigated incidents from 2005 to 2014. All major maritime accidents are investigated.
Tug boat crew members are exposed to harmful chemicals in marine settings. Tug boat workers develop cancer from prolonged exposure to chemicals. Maritime workers are at constant risk of benzene exposure because they use petroleum products and solvents daily. Benzene exposure can be fatal. Benzene vapors are as dangerous as liquid benzene.
Exposure to Benzene
Benzene exposure is directly associated with acute and chronic cancer and aplastic anemia. Exposure to benzene causes headaches, dizziness, drowsiness, confusion, tremors and loss of consciousness. Benzene irritates the skin and eyes. Benzene causes cancer from .is acute myeloid leukemia and chronic lymphocytic leukemia to non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and multiple myeloma. Chronic exposure to benzene reduces the production of both red and white blood cells in bone marrow. B-cell and T-cell proliferation are reduced by benzene along with a decrease in resistance to infection.
Reporting Your Tug Boat Injury
Your must report your accident within seven days or a work-related illness within seven days of your diagnosis by your health care provider. When you report your injury or illness to your employer, you’ll probably be asked to complete an accident report. If you are medicated for your injuries, you should not attempt to fill out the incident report. The ship owner’s report almost always states who is at fault, or caused the accident. You’ll have difficulty collecting insurance benefits if you don’t name the company at-fault before you get off the vessel. If you name the company at-fault for a minor injury and don’t file a Jones Act claim, the company may not rehire you. Your insurance company also requires a written or recorded statement.
Do You Need A Maritime Injury Attorney?
If you or someone you love was injured in a tug boat injury or you fear that you will be denied worker’s compensation and insurance benefits by your employer or your insurance company, our maritime personal injury attorney knows how to help you. Our mission is to serve the residents of Humble, Kingwood, and Atascocita, Texas, with “unparalleled personalized” maritime accident, illness, and personal injury legal representation. You need peace of mind to recuperate from your catastrophic injuries. You may need time to adjust to permanent long term disability. Our tug boat accident attorney can help you get compensation for your:
- Surgical expenses
- Hospital costs
- Doctor bills
- Diagnostic tests
- Physical therapy
Wrongful or Accidental Death
If someone you loved died in a tug boat accident, our multilingual maritime lawyer firm can help you through your difficult time of grief. You and your loved ones are entitled to relief under more than one statute as well as the greatest possible insurance settlement. Insurance companies reluctant to pay the full value of your maritime injury claim are no match for our experienced maritime injury attorneys. Our tug boat accident lawyer can file a wrongful or accidental death claim for the executor of the deceased’s estate to benefit his next of kin and his dependents. You need an experienced tug boat lawyer thoroughly skilled in maritime law to prevail.
Navigating Maritime Law
Maritime law provides remedies not available to most Texas workers. The Longshore and Harbor workers compensations act, the Jones Act, the Death on the High Seas Act, and the Merchant Seaman Protection and Relief Act all benefit tug boat accident victims. The Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act, 33 U.S.C. 901–950, covers workers on enrolled vessels in the navigable waters of the United States. The Jones Act entitles your deceased tug boat worker and his loved ones to compensation for:
- Medical expenses
- Loss of ability to work
- Loss of wages
- Physical pain
- Emotional Distress
What is The Jones Act?
As a tugboat captain or crew member you qualify for insurance and compensation for injuries and work-related illnesses under the Jones Act because you spent at least 30% of your time on a vessel in navigable waters. Navigable waters are waters capable of interstate or international commerce. Under the Jones Act, an injured seaman may recover damages for medical expenses, future medical expenses, lost wages, loss of earning potential or capacity, economic losses, pain and suffering, disfigurement, and disability from the employer. The Jones Act requires the employer to maintain a work place free of:
- grease or oil slicks
- broken equipment
- improperly maintained equipment
- inappropriate equipment
- lack of training
- unsafe practices
- negligence of co-workers
- angry co-workers
Jones Act Accidents
If someone mops the floor, they have an obligation to tell you the floor is wet and slippery. A ship owner who fails to replace rusty parts is liable for an employee’s injuries for failing to inspect and repair the equipment. Under the Jones Act your employer has an obligation to remove angry employees from the workplace because ships have tight confined spaces. A ship captain or owner has a legal duty to get a potentially violent employee off his vessel.
Jones Act – Lower Burden of Proof
The Jones Act requires a lower burden of proof than most personal injury cases. A seaman can recover compensation under the Jones Act if the employer’s negligence was a contributing factor in the accident. Under the Jones Act, your attorney has to prove liability for the accidental death arising from deliberate or negligent acts. Maritime law does not require the plaintiff to prove that his employer, coworkers, or ship captain caused the accident. Chapter 46 of the United States Code section 316 requires tug boats, or tow boats, to be compliant with the entire statute regarding vessels registered in the United States. The injured or deceased’s estate has the burden of proof to simply prove that the ship was not fit for the mission.
Maintenance and Cure
Tug boat workers are, furthermore, entitled to payment for room and board while convalescing at home. Maintenance includes the seamen’s actual rent, mortgage payments, utilities, property taxes, homeowner’s insurance and food. Maintenance does not include car payments, telephone bills, Internet, and cable television. Cure includes medical expenses and transportation to doctor’s appointments and physical therapy. Maintenance and cure are paid until the seaman recovers or gets as well as he possibly can. This point is referred to as the maximum medical improvement. If your employer is balking at maintenance and cure, you need to consult a tug boat accident attorney.
What is a Seaworthy Vessel?
The ship owner has the duty to provide a seaworthy vessel for a seaworthy crew. The ship owner cannot delegate this responsibility. If a seaman is injured or becomes sick on an unseaworthy vessel, the ship owner must compensate the seaman for his losses. The seaman’s employer and the ship owner both have the duty to provide the seaman with seaworthy vessel if they are two different people.
What is an Unseaworthy Vessel?
Unseaworthy is a slightly different term in maritime law than in the marine industry. Under maritime law, a seaworthy vessel’s hull, equipment, and crew are adequate in design, maintenance, and character. Unseaworthy doesn’t mean the ship can’t be moved or it is in danger of sinking. It means that the vessel is unseaworthy with respect to an employee.
The injured or ill seaman on the tug boat must prove that an unsafe condition or a piece of equipment or a crew member was not fit for duty and that the unsafe or unfit condition caused his injury or illness. For example, the vessel owner refuses to repair an old failing winch because it needs to be replaced. If a crew member uses it and gets injured or an object drops on a crew member, the owner is directly liable for the injuries because the dangerous winch makes the ship unseaworthy.
What is The Death on the High Seas Act?
The Death on the High Seas Act, or 46 U.S.C. app. §§ 761–768 was enacted by the United States Congress to facilitate the “recovery of damages against a ship owner by a spouse, child, or dependent family member of a seaman killed in international waters” in wrongful death cases “caused by negligence or unseaworthiness.”
What is The Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act?
The 33 USC Chapter 18 Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act is the standard seaman’s compensation for temporary or permanent partial or total disability. Total disability payments under the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act are 66 2/3% of the seaman’s weekly wage.
Why choose the PM Law Firm?
Contact our tug boat accident lawyer in our Humble, Texas office to discuss your tug boat personal injury case. Our maritime attorneys speak fluent English, Spanish, Greek, and Persian. Our tug boat personal injury attorney will give your case his undivided attention and work hard to get you the full compensation that you are entitled to under maritime law. Our maritime attorney can help you with accidental and wrongful death matters.