Dredge Accidents: Common Causes and Injured Maritime Workers’ Rights in Texas

Dredge Accidents Aug 24, 2023

Dredging is dangerous work. Not only are you on a floating vessel where everything is in constant motion, but you are also working with heavy machinery that is lifting enormous loads deep under the water’s surface. It is not uncommon for things to go wrong, and, unfortunately, this leaves many maritime workers in need of an experienced Texas dredge accident lawyer.

If you’ve been injured in a dredge accident, you should speak with a lawyer about your legal rights. These accidents can happen for a variety of reasons, and, more often than not, workers are not to blame for their injuries. But, regardless of what happened, you may be entitled to financial compensation under the Jones Act, and speaking with an experienced lawyer is the first step on the road to recovery.

Why Are Dredge Accidents So Common?

Whether you work on a bucket dredger, clamshell digger, pneumatic dredger or any other type of dredging vessel, you face safety risks on the job. While there are steps that companies can (and should) take to protect their workers, the unfortunate reality is that many companies put their profits before their workers’ safety. In doing so, they ignore clear safety risks and unnecessarily put their employees in harm’s way.

Ignoring safety risks is a common factor in dredge accidents involving all types of dredging vessels. This includes (but is by no means limited to) safety risks such as:

  • Hiring inexperienced or unqualified captains
  • Hiring inexperienced or unqualified deckhands
  • Providing inadequate training to deckhands
  • Failing to adequately maintain dredging vessels
  • Failing to adequately maintain dredging equipment
  • Failing to provide adequate safety equipment onboard a dredging vessel
  • Forcing employees to work in hazardous water or weather conditions
  • Slip-and-fall risks on deck (including risks for falls overboard)
  • Dredging long hours without providing adequate rest
  • Doing dredging work that exceeds the dredger’s capabilities

But, even when companies take appropriate steps to protect their employees, accidents still can—and do—happen. From equipment malfunctions to rough seas and from coworkers’ mistakes to mistakes by other vessel captains, numerous other issues can put dredge workers at risk for serious injuries as well. Regardless of what happened, if you have been injured in an accident during dredging operations, you should speak with a Texas dredge accident lawyer about your legal rights.

What Are Your Legal Rights After a Dredge Accident in Texas?

What are your legal rights if you have been injured in a dredge accident in Texas? For most deckhands, captains and other employees, seeking just compensation after a dredge accident involves filing a claim under the Jones Act. The Jones Act is a federal law that protects maritime workers who spend their days working on the water.

Many individuals who work on dredging vessels are surprised to learn that Texas’s workers’ compensation law doesn’t protect them. Since they go home after work each day, they assume that they have the same legal rights as their neighbors, friends and family members. But, generally speaking, this isn’t the case.

Texas’s workers’ compensation law only applies to land-based workers. If you spend the majority of your working hours on a dredging vessel, then the Jones Act most likely applies to you instead. Under the Jones Act, individuals who work on dredging vessels have three primary options for seeking just compensation after an injury on the job. These options are:

  • Maintenance and Cure Benefits Maintenance and cure benefits cover injured workers’ medical expenses and a portion of their lost wages. They are similar to workers’ compensation benefits in that they are available on a “no-fault” basis, though “maintenance” benefits will generally be less than the “disability” benefits available through workers’ compensation. Since these are “no-fault” benefits, you can file a claim regardless of how you got injured on the job.
  • Unseaworthiness – If you got injured because you were working on a dredging vessel that was unseaworthy, you can seek additional compensation for your on-the-job injury. This includes full compensation for your medical expenses and lost wages, as well as compensation for your pain, suffering and other losses. Unseaworthiness can take many forms, from inadequate maintenance and disrepair to a lack of adequate safety equipment onboard.
  • Jones Act Negligence – Dredge operators can also be held fully liable for Jones Act negligence. This covers numerous types of safety issues that aren’t necessarily related to the dredging vessel itself. For example, all of the issues listed above can potentially give rise to claims for Jones Act negligence—depending on the circumstances involved. Similar to claims for unseaworthiness, claims for Jones Act negligence allow injured workers to seek full compensation for their injury-related losses.

While some workers will be limited to seeking “no-fault” maintenance and cure benefits, workers injured in dredge accidents will be able to file multiple types of Jones Act claims in many cases. Additionally, in cases involving equipment malfunctions and accidents with other vessels, injured workers may have “third-party” claims as well. Since maintenance and cure do not cover all of the costs of job-related injuries, it is important to work with an experienced Texas dredge accident lawyer to make sure you are seeking the maximum financial compensation available to you.

Importantly, although the statute of limitations for Jones Act claims is three years from the date of the accident, you should speak with a lawyer about your situation as soon as possible. Delays can make it more difficult to assert your legal rights successfully, and they can delay your financial recovery as well.

Discuss Your Legal Rights with an Experienced Texas Dredge Accident Lawyer

Were you injured in a dredge accident in Texas? If so, we strongly encourage you to contact us to discuss your legal rights under the Jones Act. You can speak with an experienced Texas dredge accident lawyer for free, and with our contingency fee representation, you pay nothing unless you win. To find out how much you may be entitled to recover, call 800-468-4878 or tell us how we can reach you online today.

Willis Law Firm, Offshore & Maritime Lawyer
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Houston, Texas 77056

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Houston, Texas 77029

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