10 Common Causes of Offshore Back Injuries Covered Under the Jones Act

Jones Act Jun 23, 2023

Suffering a back injury can turn your life upside down. All of a sudden, you are in pain, unable to work and wondering how you are going to pay your bills.

The consequences of suffering a back injury can be even greater when you work offshore. It can be difficult to get the treatment you need, and finding a place where you can rest your back can be next to impossible until you get back to land.

For those who work offshore, recovering financial compensation for a work-related back injury usually involves filing a claim under the Jones Act. The Jones Act entitles eligible seamen to no-fault maintenance and cure benefits, and seamen can seek additional compensation for Jones Act negligence in many cases.

But asserting your legal rights under the Jones Act isn’t easy. Employers and their insurance companies regularly deny claims, and, as a seaman, it is up to you to make sure you know how much you are entitled to recover.

Offshore Accidents that Can Cause Back Injuries

Understanding your legal rights under the Jones Act starts with understanding the cause of your back injury. The cause of your injury will determine whether you are limited to claiming maintenance and cure or you are entitled to additional financial compensation. Some of the most common causes of offshore back injuries include:

1. Bending and Twisting While Doing Your Job

Bending and twisting while doing your job can put more strain on your back than it can handle. Sudden movements and “wear and tear” from long days on the job can cause sprains, strains and other types of serious and painful back injuries.

2. Collisions with Objects Onboard

Collisions with objects onboard can cause back injuries as well. This includes collisions with fixed objects while struggling to maintain your balance in rough seas, as well as collisions with objects that move when the ship pitches fore and aft or rolls side to side.

3. Equipment and Machinery Accidents

If you work with heavy equipment or machinery onboard, this can put you at increased risk for back injuries. Along with the risk of overstraining your back while using heavy equipment or machinery, equipment and machinery failures can cause serious injuries as well.

4. Falls from Height  

Falls from height can be extremely dangerous. In many cases, they will result in life-altering back injuries. This includes falls from ladders, down slippery steps, and/or down steps with poor lighting, broken or missing treads or missing handrails. Falling from a height can cause a severe impact—with more than enough force to damage the vertebrae, discs, nerves and soft tissue in your spine.

5. Heavy Weather and Rough Seas

Heavy weather and rough seas make all jobs onboard an offshore vessel more dangerous. Inability to maintain your balance, losing your grip, colliding with moving objects, colliding with other crew members, getting hit by swinging booms, getting caught in lines, and other risks can all lead to serious back injuries that require immediate medical attention.

6. Lifting Heavy Objects

Lifting is among the most common causes of back injuries for deckhands and other offshore crew members. Even if you lift heavy objects every day on the job, it only takes one lift to cause a serious back injury. From tools and equipment to fenders and storage boxes, lifting just about anything has the potential to cause a strain, sprain or tear.

7. Moving Equipment Onboard

Booms, cranes, davits and other pieces of moving equipment can cause collisions with deckhands and other crew members. Whether the collision itself causes a back injury or a crew member suffers a back injury in a fall, offshore equipment-related accidents are nearly always covered under the Jones Act.

8. Sliding Containers

On large cargo ships, sliding containers can be extremely dangerous. While containers should be securely fastened to the deck, this isn’t always the case. Crewmembers can make mistakes, straps can fail, and vessel operators can ignore mandatory safety requirements. Whatever the reason, if you suffered a back injury in an accident caused by a sliding container, you should speak with a lawyer about your legal rights.

9. Slip-and-Fall Accidents

Slip-and-fall accidents are also common causes of back injuries offshore. Whether you slipped and fell on or below deck, if you are dealing with back pain and other symptoms as a result, you should see a doctor and talk to a Jones Act lawyer as soon as possible.

10. Trip-and-Fall Accidents

Trip hazards both on and below deck can also cause falls resulting in back injuries. Regardless of why you tripped and fell, if you are now dealing with the physical and financial consequences of a back injury, you will want to hire an experienced lawyer to help you file a successful Jones Act claim.

Common Factors in Accidents Resulting in Offshore Back Injuries

Several factors can lead to these (and other) accidents offshore. While offshore accidents occasionally “just happen,” many accidents result from issues that could—and should—have been avoided. For example, some common factors involved in accidents resulting in offshore back injuries include:

  • Failure to follow safety rules and requirements
  • Failure to secure cargo and other items on deck
  • Inadequate safety equipment onboard
  • Captains’ errors
  • Crew member negligence
  • Slippery walking surfaces
  • Too few experienced crew members onboard
  • Inadequate maintenance of equipment and machinery
  • Sailing in rough seas and storm conditions
  • Other hazardous and unsafe working conditions

All of these are factors for which injured seamen can potentially seek additional compensation beyond maintenance and cure. Whether due to Jones Act negligence or a vessel’s unseaworthy condition, all of these issues can potentially justify claims for lost wages, pain and suffering, and other damages.

Discuss Your Jones Act Claim with an Experienced Lawyer for Free

If you need to know more about your legal rights under the Jones Act after suffering a back injury offshore, we encourage you to contact us promptly. To discuss your legal rights with an experienced Jones Act lawyer in confidence, call 800-468-4878 or request a free consultation online today.

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