Tugboat Accidents and Injuries

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Tugboat accidents and injuries are a constant risk for crew members and captains alike. If you have been injured in a tugboat accident, our lawyers want to help. We handle tugboat accident and injury cases, representing victims and families. Contact our Houston maritime injury lawyers to learn more about your situation and receive a free consultation.

Tugboats – Critical in Maritime Transportation

Tugboats perform essential tasks on the high seas. Tugboats pull other boats that cannot move themselves. They help with emergencies and accidents involving other vessels. They are also used to break up ice.

Tugboats are equipped to perform these important tasks with powerful engines and propellers.

Types of tugboats

There are three types of tugboats:

  • Seagoing: There are different categories of seagoing tugs, including standard, notch tugs, integral units, and articulated tug and barge. These different types vary in their components and mechanics

  • Harbor: Provides help to vessels, especially during docking, turning, and in cases of mechanical failure

  • River: Also called towboats or pushboats, these tugs operate in rivers. Their design makes them unsafe to operate in ocean water

These boats are powerful, but they can also be dangerous. While most tugboats don’t have a large crew, thousands of people work on these important vessels. For these workers, the risk of injury is constant.

Tugboat Injuries

How do tugboat injuries occur?

Common accidents and causes of tugboat injuries include:

  • Entanglement in winch wires
  • Snapping wires and lines
  • Wet and slippery conditions on deck
  • Back strain from heavy lifting
  • Falling objects
  • Machinery and other objects
  • Falling overboard
  • Tripping over wires and equipment
  • Mechanical failure
  • Fire and electrical problems
  • Chemical mishandling and spills
  • Improper safety equipment or training
  • Inadequate maintenance
  • Working rushed, failing to follow protocols
  • Capsizing, collisions

Many tugboat injuries would be preventable with adequate training and attention. Investigating the causes of the accident may be critical to determining the legal right to compensation.

Tugboat accidents – Real examples

  • In 2018, the Natalie Jean capsized on the Mississippi River. There were two fatalities. An investigation blamed safety failures and lack of experience.

  • The Vincent J. Eymard capsized on the Mississippi River in March 2018. It was pulling an empty barge at the time. The incident closed a four-mile stretch of the river.

  • In 2017, the Ricky Robinson tug sank on the Mississippi River near Memphis. Despite a mayday call and rescue operations, two people died.

  • The sinking of the tug Sea Bear claimed the life of its captain in 2015. The tug sank near Fire Island by Long Island, New York. As the vessel took on water, the crew made a distress call. Three men were rescued and treated for hypothermia, but the Captain did not survive.

  • Storms caused the tug Delta Amber and another vessel to sink near Mobile Ship Channel in 2014. The boats capsized, and their crews were forced into the water. They were rescued by another vessel and the U.S. Coast Guard.

What are common injuries for tugboat workers?

The injuries suffered in a tugboat accident depend on the circumstances of the accident. Common injuries may include:

  • Traumatic brain injury, concussion, brain damage
  • Spinal cord injury, paralysis, quadriplegia, tetraplegia, paraplegia, loss of feeling
  • Burns, scars, and disfigurement
  • Broken bones, broken ribs, fractures
  • Damage to organs and body systems
  • Joint, ligament, and tendon damage
  • Pulled and strained muscles, sprains
  • Dislocation, herniated disks
  • Vision and hearing loss
  • Drowning, hypothermia
  • Death

What Laws Apply to Tugboat Accidents?

If you are injured while working on a tugboat, there are multiple bodies of law that may apply to you. There are laws that provide special protection to people working on the high seas. A Jones Act lawsuit may be appropriate.

Compensation for tugboat accident injuries

If you are injured in a tugboat accident, you may deserve financial compensation. If you are a family member of a tugboat crewmember who has lost their life, you may receive financial compensation.

Laws for tugboat accidents and injuries

The Jones Act applies to many tugboat accidents. This is a United States law that creates a legal remedy for workers who are hurt on ships. The Jones Act, 46 USC § 688 applies to seamen working on vessels, including tugboats, bulk carriers, cargo vessels, container ships, fishing boats, oil industry vessels, and other ships. The Jones Act provides important legal protection for maritime workers.

The Jones Act says:

  • The victim of an accident may bring a claim under the Jones Act to recover financial compensation

  • Unlike workers’ compensation systems, the victim is required to prove employer negligence

  • The legal standard shows that the employer’s negligence played a role in the accident. This is a lower burden for demonstrating causation than may be required in other injury claims

  • Pain and suffering is available to a victim, in addition to economic damages. This is unlike workers’ compensation programs, where non-economic damages are not available

  • Damages are based on the individual’s losses

  • The injured person may also claim maintenance and cure benefits. These benefits cover medical costs and day-to-day expenses. Proving negligence is not required

  • Captain and crew may both claim under the Jones Act. There are requirements for how much time the person spends on the vessel to qualify

Third-party legal claims

If a third party is responsible for negligence, they may be liable to pay damages for personal injury. There are several ways that a third party may have liability. With tugboats, other vessels are often involved in accidents and incidents. Those parties may be involved. In addition, equipment manufacturers and contractors may have legal fault.

OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration)

Although not a source of financial compensation for the injured worker, OSHA standards apply to tugboat operations. Often, injuries occur because employers don’t follow regulations and implement standards. Tragically, many accidents could have been prevented.

Legal Representation – Lawyers for Tugboat Accidents and Injuries

If you have been hurt in a tugboat accident, we invite you to contact our Houston-area lawyers. We can help you understand how to claim compensation, answer your questions and investigate your case. Contact us today for your consultation.

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