Maritime Workers: Understanding the Long-Term Impacts of Exposure to Diesel, Gasoline or Jet Fuel

Jones Act Apr 28, 2023

If you are a maritime worker, you may be exposed to fumes from diesel, gasoline or jet fuel on a regular basis. This exposure can have significant health impacts over time.

One of the most significant risks of exposure to these fumes is the risk of developing acute myeloid leukemia, or AML leukemia. Once this form of cancer develops, it spreads quickly, and the five-year survival rate for patients aged 20 and older is just 27 percent.

But, even when AML leukemia isn’t fatal, it can have significant and long-term costs. These include not only financial costs (such as medical bills and lost income due to inability to work) but non-financial costs as well. As a result, maritime workers who have been exposed to diesel, gasoline or jet fuel fumes need to ensure not only that they get appropriate treatment but also that they work with an experienced lawyer to assert their legal rights under the Jones Act.

Living with AML Leukemia from Diesel, Gasoline or Jet Fuel Exposure

If you have been diagnosed with AML leukemia as a maritime worker, or if you have concerns about your health because you’ve begun to experience symptoms, it will be important for you to understand what you can expect long-term. Obtaining treatment promptly will provide the best chance of remission, but even if your symptoms go away, you may still be forced to deal with your cancer for the rest of your life.

While remission is a possibility with prompt treatment, AML leukemia can (and often does) come back. As the American Cancer Society explains:

“If remission is achieved, patients typically get more chemo (consolidation) to try to get rid of any remaining leukemia cells. Up to half of patients who get consolidation go into long-term remission (and may be cured). But this number is also affected by prognostic factors, such as a person’s age and whether the leukemia cells have certain gene or chromosome changes.”

Maritime workers who suffer from AML leukemia can experience a variety of long-term symptoms. If you are not able to achieve remission, or if your cancer comes back, you may experience daily effects including:

  • Fatigue
  • Fever
  • Loss of appetite
  • Increased bleeding and bruising
  • Increased risk of infection
  • Shortness of breath
  • A pale appearance and/or red spots on your skin

Cost of Long-Term Treatment for AML Leukemia

Like all forms of cancer, AML leukemia is expensive to treat. According to a 2001 study, the total average cost of treatment was $104,385—nearly $200,000 in today’s dollars. Of course, since this is the average, many AML leukemia patients’ costs will be far greater. This is particularly true for maritime workers who are exposed to diesel, gasoline and jet fuel fumes early in life.

But, when you get diagnosed with AML leukemia, your treatment costs are not the only costs you will incur. You will need to miss significant time from work, and, depending on the severity of your condition, you might not ever be able to work again. You will also need to pay for transportation to and from the hospital, and you may need to pay for a variety of other support services as well.

Then, there are the non-financial costs of living with AML leukemia. Living with cancer can be extremely taxing, both physically and emotionally. If you are unable to work or enjoy spending time with your friends and family, this can have harmful psychological impacts as well. If your cancer shortens your life expectancy, this can have devastating effects not only for you but also for your family.

In short, AML leukemia caused by exposure to fumes from diesel, gasoline or jet fuel can be incredibly expensive, and it can impact all aspects of your life. This makes asserting your legal rights extremely important, and it is one of several reasons why you should speak with a lawyer as soon as possible.

Your Legal Rights as a Maritime Worker if You Receive an AML Leukemia Diagnosis

If you have been diagnosed with AML leukemia as a result of being exposed to diesel, gasoline or jet fuel fumes on the job you have clear legal rights. For most workers, these legal rights exist under the Jones Act.

The Jones Act is a federal law that protects maritime workers who qualify as “seamen.” You are considered a “seaman” under the Jones Act if you work onboard a vessel in navigable waters and your job duties contribute to the vessel’s function or mission. Many workers fall squarely within this definition.

Under the Jones Act, seamen can seek maintenance and cure benefits regardless of fault. This means that even if your employer isn’t responsible for your diagnosis, and even if the vessel is considered “seaworthy,” these benefits are still available to you. Maintenance and cure benefits cover your medical expenses and a portion of your lost wages.

But, while maintenance and cure benefits help, they don’t cover all of the costs of an AML leukemia diagnosis—not even close. As a result, in addition to working with a lawyer to seek these benefits, you will also want to talk to your lawyer about filing a fault-based claim under the Jones Act. If you can prove fault—either in the form of employer negligence or an unseaworthy vessel condition (i.e., inadequate ventilation)—then you can seek full compensation for all of the costs of your diagnosis. This includes not only your medical bills, loss of income and other out-of-pocket costs but your non-financial losses as well.

Speak with a Lawyer About Filing a Jones Act Claim

If you have questions about your legal rights under the Jones Act, we encourage you to contact us promptly for more information. We represent maritime workers who have been diagnosed with AML leukemia nationwide. To learn more in a free and confidential consultation with an experienced lawyer, call 800-468-4878 or request an appointment online today.

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