Maritime Workers Turn to Us After Tugboat Accidents
Every year thousands of maritime employees are injured while working on tugs, towboats and barges. These injuries are often very severe, preventing maritime workers from returning to their original jobs. The tankerman and deckhands that work on tugboats can be injured by many different hazards and conditions, including:
- Falls on old or worn out stairs and ladders
- Exposure to toxic chemicals, benzene and asbestos products
- Absence of a gangway
- Overworked and/or unsupervised crews
- Cable accidents
- Winch accidents
- Lifting accidents
- Oily and slippery conditions on ladders, decks and stairs
- Inadequate or poor lighting
- Inexperienced or improperly trained crews
- Negligence and reckless behavior of crew members
- Collisions with other vessels and barges
- Operating in bad weather conditions
Injuries Caused by Tugboat Accidents
Some accidents commonly seen by an tugboat accident attorney include:
- Breathing in fumes from toxic cargo (such as benzene)
- Collisions with other vessels
- Equipment breakdowns
- Mechanical failures
- Slips and falls due to oily surfaces
- Falling offboard
- Improperly lifting heavy cables and lines
These accidents cause various injuries to maritime workers such as fractures and broken bones, drowning, back injuries, amputated limbs, burns, and more.
Who is Liable for Tugboat Accidents?
After any type of accident, identifying the party (or parties) responsible is one of the first steps toward pursuing a claim for financial compensation. With medical bills piling up and the potential for significant lost income, job-related injuries can often put maritime workers’ financial futures on the line. As a result, fighting for just compensation needs to be a top priority, and it is critical to promptly conduct a thorough investigation focused on determining who deserves to be held accountable.
1. Your Employer
The first option is your employer. Under the Jones Act, if you were injured onboard a tugboat or barge, in most cases your employer will be obligated to pay you no-fault benefits known as “maintenance and cure.” Since these are no-fault benefits, your employer must pay regardless of the cause of your injury.
In addition to maintenance and cure benefits (which in some cases can be less than $25 per day), the Jones Act also entitles you to seek full compensation for your injuries if the accident resulted from your employer’s negligence. The Jones Act applies a standard of “slight” negligence, which means that your employer can be held accountable if it made any mistake that played any role in causing your injuries.
2. The Tugboat’s Owner
If your employer does not own the tugboat or barge on which you were injured, you may be able to seek compensation from the tugboat’s owner as well. Claims against vessel owners are not made under the Jones Act, but rather under the law of unseaworthiness. If your injury resulted from an unseaworthy condition, the tugboat’s owner may be liable for your:
- Past and future medical bills
- Past and future lost income
- Travel, mileage and other related expenses
- Pain and suffering
- Scarring and disfigurement
- Loss of enjoyment of life
- Other financial and non-financial harm
3. Third Parties
The third option for seeking compensation after a tugboat accident is to identify any third parties that may have caused or contributed to your injuries. These third parties could be liable for maritime negligence (such as causing a collision with your tugboat or barge or failing to adequately maintain a vessel being towed), or for supplying defective products. Under a body of law known as “products liability,” companies that design, manufacture and sell defective tools, parts, supplies, machinery, equipment and other products can be held fully liable for defect-related injuries without the need to prove negligence.
In any event, in order to secure just compensation, you will need to act quickly and avoid common mistakes that could jeopardize your legal rights. To protect yourself, you should speak with a qualified maritime attorney.
Legal Recovery for Tugboat Workers
Maritime workers who are injured in tugboat accidents are typically considered to be “seamen” under the Jones Act. Injured seamen are able to collect maintenance and cure benefits from their employer until they reach maximum medical improvement. Similar to traditional workers’ compensation programs, maintenance and cure benefits are available to the worker regardless of who is to blame for the accident or injuries. Maintenance payments are intended to cover the worker’s cost of living on land and cure payments are meant to cover the costs of reasonable medical care needed to treat the worker’s injury or illness. Unfortunately, many companies try to limit the amount of money they are required to pay to injured employees, so it is important to seek representation from an experienced tugboat accident lawyer who can help you recover full benefits and compensation for your tugboat injury.
Under the Jones Act, injured seamen also have the right to pursue a claim for damages when an employer’s negligence caused the seaman’s injury. It is important to know that the burden of proof in a Jones Act negligence case is very low – the employee only needs to show that the employer’s negligence played a part, no matter how small, in his or her injury in order to recover negligence damages.
In addition to Jones Act claims, an injured tankerman or deckhand may be able to file legal claims against other parties who are responsible for their injuries. For instance, under General Maritime Law, if the company that owns the tug or towboat is a different company than the employer, the injured worker may also be able to sue the owner of the tugboat for damages. These types of suits are known as “unseaworthiness claims” and are filed by injured maritime workers when the owner of the tugboat or other vessel failed to keep the boat and its equipment in safe and proper working order.
Suffering from an Injury? Our Lawyers Have Decades of Experience Fighting for Victims of Tugboat Accidents
If you have been injured on a tugboat, barge or any other type of boat or vessel, discuss your case with a tugboat injury lawyer at the Willis Law Firm today. You may be entitled to recover maintenance and cure benefits from your employer and file a negligence suit against your employer, the tugboat owner and other third party companies responsible for your injuries. Call us today at 1-800-468-4878 for a free and completely confidential consultation. Our nationwide practices help victims tugboat accidents in states such as Texas, Tennessee, Florida, Mississippi, Georgia, Louisiana and more.