Shipyards are dangerous environments. Everyday tasks include welding, electrical work, steel cutting, chemical cleanups, and other hazardous jobs. Even so, when workers file claims for injuries on the job, employers often make it difficult for them to get the compensation they deserve.
Our shipyard accident lawyers have heard all the excuses. The Houston maritime injury lawyers at Haun Mena are ready to fight for you and your loved ones.
Common Shipyard Hazards and Accidents
Building, repairing, and dismantling ships requires a large workforce. Teams must work together to complete complex tasks and often use heavy machinery. Here are some typical risks faced by shipyard workers:
High-level suspension and falls: Workers often complete tasks while suspended from several stories above ground level. These workers use ladders, scaffolding, and harnesses, but fall risks are high. Workers also use tools that may fall while working, creating hazards for workers below.
Cutting, lacerations, and dismemberment: Workers use heavy machinery to cut steel and other materials. Hands, arms, legs, and other body parts may become caught in these machines, leading to grievous injuries.
Explosions or fires: Electric welding on oil tanks or the presence of hazardous chemicals can create explosions or fires. Even workers wearing fire-retardant clothing can suffer severe burns. Items catapulted by the blast, such as nails, add more hazards.
Exposure to hazardous materials: Shipyard workers often come into contact with solvents, paints, flammable liquids, welding fumes, fuels, and other chemicals. Without proper precautions and safety equipment, they may suffer long-term health consequences.
Noise exposure: Shipyard workers often use noisy tools and machines. Without adequate hearing protection, they may suffer permanent hearing loss or tinnitus. This can have long-term effects on quality of life and the ability to work in the same position.
Excessive vibrations: Prolonged power tools or machinery use can result in hand-arm vibration syndrome. This condition can cause long-term injury, including musculoskeletal, neurological, and vascular damage.
Compensation for Injuries at a Shipyard
If you were injured while working in a shipyard, you might be entitled to compensation under the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act, the Jones Act, or another applicable law. Our experienced shipyard accident lawyer can help you review your options. Review the two main regulations affecting these cases.
Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act
The LHWCA provides benefits to employees who work in maritime industries, including those who work in shipyards. It covers injuries and illnesses on navigable waters, harbor areas, or adjoining areas used to load, unload, repair, or build ships. The law provides medical benefits, disability compensation, rehabilitation services, and other benefits to eligible workers and their survivors.
To be eligible for benefits under the LHWCA, the employee must also be injured while performing work-related activities, and the injury must cause injury, disability, or death. However, certain cases of maritime workers are exempt from LHWCA benefits, such as:
- Employees whose injuries resulted entirely from intoxication
- Employees of the U.S. government or a foreign nation
- Crews of maritime vessels and their masters (seamen)
A critical aspect of the LHWCA is that it is a no-fault system, meaning the injured employee does not typically have to prove fault or negligence. In return for this no-fault system, employees are generally prohibited from suing their employers for additional damages related to the injury.
The Jones Act
The Jones Act is a federal law that provides seamen the right to sue their employers for damages if injured while working on navigable waters. It applies to any worker who spends at least 30% of their work time in service of a vessel. These include tugboat operators, deckhands, captains, and other workers whose job duties center around operating a vessel.
Under the Jones Act, an injured seaman may recover damages for pain and suffering, lost wages, medical bills, and other expenses. They may receive maintenance and cure benefits. Unlike the LHWCA, the seaman must prove that the employer was negligent and that this negligence caused the injury.
How To Report an Injury as a Shipyard Worker
After an injury in a shipyard, how you handle your case can affect your ability to seek compensation for those injuries. No one solution applies to all cases, but some best practices might help you protect yourself.
Declining medical attention may come back to haunt you after an accident. Seek medical care as soon as possible; resist the temptation to just shake off an injury and return to work. Only a medical professional can determine whether you can continue to work safely and in what capacity.
Reporting your injuries to your supervisor is also crucial. Keep a copy of any written reports or other documents related to the incident. When possible, communicate via electronic means so that you can record follow-up conversations. Email and text messages are good examples of this.
An experienced personal injury attorney can help you determine an appropriate course of action. The sooner you hire one, the better.
Choose Haun Mena for Your Shipyard Accident Case
Maritime law has become a niche area of tort law; some accident lawyers do not accept these cases. Our experienced attorneys at Haun Mena have spent years managing accidents in this area, such as ship collisions, tugboat accidents, and oil and gas injuries. Contact us 24/7 for a free case review.