10 Back Injuries Covered Under the Jones Act

Jones Act Jun 16, 2023

Back injuries are extremely common offshore. From lifting accidents to falls, many types of accidents can cause serious back injuries, and the risks can be especially high when you’re offshore on a vessel in rough seas.

If you work onboard an offshore vessel, you are covered under the Jones Act. The Jones Act is a federal law that protects offshore workers (referred to as “seamen” under the law) who suffer on-the-job injuries. As a seaman, you aren’t covered by workers’ compensation, but you will typically qualify for Jones Act benefits when you get injured on the job.

Common Offshore Back Injuries

The Jones Act covers all types of offshore injuries—including all types of back injuries. Here are 10 examples of common back injuries covered under the law:

1. Back Sprains

Back sprains are extremely common offshore injuries. Sprains are injuries that involve damage to ligaments, which are bands of soft tissue that connect the bones in your body. As you do your job, the ligaments in your back move, bend and stretch. If they move, bend or stretch too far, this can cause damage that requires rest and recovery. Sprains frequently result from lifting and other physical movements that put a strain on your back.

2. Back Strains

Back strains are another common form of offshore injury that results from overstretching or overuse. While sprains affect your ligaments, strains affect your muscles and tendons. Otherwise, sprains and strains are similar, and they can both cause pain, limited mobility and other physical limitations that make it difficult (or impossible) to do your job safely. If you felt a sharp pain in your back while doing a strenuous part of your job, there is a decent chance that you are dealing with a sprain or strain.

3. Degenerative Disc Disease

The discs in your back act as cushions between the bones, or vertebrae, in your spine. These discs are fragile, and, in addition to the risk of herniation (discussed below), accidents can also cause a condition known as degenerative disc disease.

While degenerative disc disease can result from aging, it can also result from injuries. This includes injuries from traumatic accidents such as slips, trips, falls and collisions. Along with back pain, common symptoms of degenerative disc disease include numbness and tingling in the arms and legs which may come or go for weeks at a time.

4. Herniated Discs

A herniated disc is a type of back injury that occurs when one of the discs in your spine ruptures. This rupture allows the fluid center of the disc to escape into the spinal column, often causing intense pain and a variety of other symptoms. Since the discs provide cushioning for the vertebrae, herniated discs (also referred to as bulging discs and slipped discs) can lead to bone damage as well.

5. Lower Back Pain

While lower back pain is technically a symptom rather than an injury, it is among the most common reasons why seamen file claims under the Jones Act. If you are suffering from lower back pain related to your offshore job, you should speak with a lawyer about your legal rights. This is true whether your lower back pain is constant, you only feel it with certain movements or you go to your berth with back pain at the end of the day.

6. Paralysis

Paralysis is among the most severe types of injuries you can suffer as an offshore worker. Many types of offshore accidents can cause paralysis, and accidents that cause paralysis can change your life in the blink of an eye. Whether your paralysis is full (quadriplegia) or partial (paraplegia), you have clear legal rights if you suffered your injury at sea—but you will need to work with an experienced lawyer to make sure you receive the full financial compensation you deserve.

7. Nerve Damage (Including Sciatica)

The spinal cord is a bundle of nerves located within the spinal column. While the discs and vertebrae protect the spinal cord, they can easily be damaged due to bending, twisting, stretching, collisions and other forms of trauma.

Sciatica is a type of nerve injury that affects the legs and lower back. The sciatic nerve runs from the base of the spine to the foot, and you have one on each side of your body. While it is possible to experience sciatica on its own, many offshore workers will suffer from sciatica after experiencing degenerative disc disease, a herniated disc, or another type of back injury.

8. Spinal Stenosis

Spinal stenosis is a back injury that happens due to compression of the spinal cord. This compression can result from trauma as well as repeated long days on the job. Whether your spinal stenosis is due to an accident or “wear and tear,” it is covered under the Jones Act if it is related to your work as a seaman.

9. Spondylolisthesis

Spondylolisthesis is a common cause of lower back pain. It occurs “when one of your vertebrae, the bones of your spine, slips out of place onto the vertebra below it.” While it is possible to treat spondylolisthesis with rest, medications and therapy in some cases, surgery will often be necessary. For seamen who need surgery, the recovery process can be long, difficult and expensive—and filing a successful Jones Act claim can be critical for protecting their health and financial stability.

10. Vertebrae Fractures

Vertebrae fractures are common offshore injuries as well. Vertebrae fractures, or spinal fractures, can occur at all levels of the spine, and they can have varying symptoms and long-term consequences. In all cases, however, prompt diagnosis and treatment are critical, and recovering just compensation under the Jones Act is essential for managing the financial and non-financial costs involved.

Discuss Your Back Injury Claim with an Experienced Jones Act Lawyer for Free

Have you suffered a back injury while working offshore? If so, you should speak with a lawyer about your legal rights under the Jones Act. For a free, no-obligation consultation at Willis Law Firm, call 800-468-4878 or tell us how we can contact you online now.

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