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Louisiana Maritime Law Blog

How many kinds of maritime accidents can you name?

As someone who works on a dock, at sea or in a shipyard, you're familiar with some of the common accidents and injuries that take place. You know that you may be walking in slick areas, that you could be exposed to live sea life and that there is heavy machinery around you. You know that the weather can have an impact on your day, and you're aware that you have to be cautious about what you wear to prevent hypothermia or other conditions.

There are dozens of ways to get hurt in the maritime industry, but how many can you name? Here are five of the most common maritime accidents.

Danger and other challenges continue to confront oyster fishermen

With the arrival of oyster season in the Gulf of Mexico, commercial fishermen remain on the look-out for oyster beds, dredging for these tasty morsels on the bottom of the ocean. The Louisiana oyster season, which typically takes place from September through April, has seen better times, and let us not forget the everyday workplace dangers confronted by fishermen.

In the past decade, oyster fishermen have faced one of its biggest challenges: the dwindling oyster numbers due to the BP oil spill from 2010. The spill caused irreparable harm to the Gulf region, and the oyster industry was especially hit hard. The largest marine oil spill in history occurred 40 miles from the Louisiana coast. For decades, our state was home to some of the world’s most abundant oyster beds, accounting for one-third of the country’s annual oyster harvest. However, the severe losses likely guarantee that Louisiana will drop from the top spot.

Employers need to take steps to prevent falls on vessels

If you work on a vessel, one of the greatest dangers is slipping and falling. You know that your ship may rock back and forth or move suddenly, and you are also aware that the deck may be wet or slick.

It's still your employer's responsibility to reduce the risk of slip-and-fall accidents, especially when they could lead to someone going overboard or suffering other injuries.

What are some on-the-job dangers shipyard workers face?

Many maritime professions involve strenuous labor. Shipyard work isn't very different in that aspect of things. There are specific hazards that these workers have to contend with that are unique to this profession.

Shipyard workers regularly work around heavy machinery that requires skill to operate. It's not uncommon for employees in this industry to get hurt because of a lack of training in using this equipment.

Stay safe at sea during hurricane season

It's hurricane season, and that means that there are going to be hurricanes coming and going through the region. Not every year has severe storms, but 2020 has been one that has set records.

Hurricane Laura has impacted Louisiana and the coast, and that has the potential to put workers in danger. Fortunately, most people do evacuate when hurricanes are on their way, but offshore oil and gas production takes place in some cases.

How often and why do boats take on water?

Some jobs, like that of a fisherman, are one of the more dangerous ones that you can have. They often work far off the shore in some of the most treacherous waters. Bad weather, a collision with another vessel and other factors can quickly turn an already dangerous situation into an even more precarious one. One danger that fishers, cruise ships and other maritime workers have to remain vigilant for is their vessels taking on water. A boat or ship can sink quite fast if this happens.

Statistics compiled by Boat U.S. captures what the most common causes of boat sinkings are. Their data shows that the leading cause of boat sinkings is wear, tear and corrosion. This factor accounts for at least 34% of these incidents.

Are divers covered under the Jones Act? Possibly

Did you know that the Jones Act is among the most widely recognized laws that helps to protect maritime workers and injured seamen? This helpful act is designed to protect your right to compensation and other benefits in case you are hurt while working at sea or in other limited circumstances.

In your job, you dive for your employer. You head out to sea with the entire crew on your vessel, and you are there to do a job. Did you know that you may be covered by the Jones Act as well?

Maintenance and cure are important for injured seamen

You work on a vessel that often goes between international and domestic ports. You've been doing this job for several years, and you love it. Unfortunately, on your last voyage, you ended up slipping and falling. You have a head injury, and you cannot continue.

The doctrine of maintenance and cure is one doctrine that will help you now in this time of need. This legal concept allows you the right to free medical care from the shipowner until maximum medical cure. It also provides compensation for room and board that would have been provided on the vessel.

Sea captain’s widow files lawsuit in COVID-19 death

A lawsuit stemming from the coronavirus-related death of an Alabama sea captain may be the first of its kind in the U.S. to allege negligence under the Jones Act, leading to the death or injury of a maritime worker during the pandemic.

The widow of Michael Norwood, who had been a sea captain for more than 30 years, filed a federal lawsuit against Rodi Marine LLC, the Lafayette, Louisiana-based company that owned the boat he had been working on at the time of his death. Norwood, who was based in Mobile, Alabama, died in mid-April.

What is decompression illness, and how does it affect you?

One of the biggest risks in commercial diving is a medical condition called decompression illness. Divers with good training and experience should be able to avoid this illness by monitoring how deep they dive and how quickly they surface. However, in emergencies, someone may have to rise more quickly than is advised. Mistakes could also be made that lead to decompression illness.

Decompression sickness is a disorder commonly known as "the bends." It happens when the nitrogen that is normally dissolved in the blood forms bubbles because of the sudden decrease in pressure. It typically develops when divers surface too quickly and results in a sudden drop in pressure around their bodies.

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