Even though they often operate in freshwater environments, seamen can be involved in barge accidents that involve a multitude of factors and can lead to life-threatening injuries. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), which monitors workplace risks, over 300 people were killed while working on barges between the years 1997 and 2006.
Technology and safety protocols have improved in recent years, but barges still remain a relatively hazardous workplace. That’s why preventing accidents and injuries is one of the top priorities of most barge workers, operators, and captains. When barge accidents do occur, appropriate government agencies may investigate the circumstances of those accidents in order to establish a cause.
The cause of any barge accident resulting in injury may impact the rights of injured barge workers. The highly skilled attorneys at Montagna Maritime Law have, collectively, over 50 years of experience standing up for barge workers who have been injured in barge accidents.
Common Types of Barge Accidents
A barge is a flat-bottomed vessel primarily tasked with the transportation of freight. Barges operate all across the United States, primarily in shallow or freshwater environments, including ports, harbors, rivers, and so on. With over 4,000 barges operating in the United States alone, the attorneys at Montagna Maritime Law have worked with many seamen who’ve been involved in a wide variety of barge accidents. Some of the most common accidents, however, include the following:
- Hazardous environment accidents – Barges can be loaded with a wide variety of materials. In some cases, hazardous materials can be the cause of accidents. In other cases, maritime workers may suffer from hypoxia due to working in low-oxygen environments, such as enclosed containers or spaces. Barge accidents involving hazardous materials or environments can create significant injuries.
- Falls – On a barge, the deck is located unusually near to the waterline. As a result, the deck is often quite wet and slick. Slips and falls, therefore, are a common barge accident type on these vessels. Proper maintenance, attire, and safety practices can cut down on the amount and severity of slips and falls, but injuries can and do happen nonetheless.
- Fire – Some types of barges, known as jack-up barges, are deployed specifically for oil drilling and exploration purposes. On these vessels, fire is a heightened danger. But even freight barges are often tasked with transporting flammable materials. In these cases, it’s often the flammable vapors — that are improperly vented — that cause fire-related accidents.
- Heavy machinery-related accidents – The operation, loading, and unloading of barges requires a significant amount of heavy machinery. Barge accidents can occur when this machinery suddenly breaks down or works improperly. Additionally, accidents can occur when barge workers are performing maintenance or repairs on heavy machinery. Many barges operate with cranes or other heavy lifting mechanics, which can present their own hazards in the event of an accident.
It should also be noted that barges tend to operate, by their nature, in heavily trafficked areas, such as harbors and rivers. Therefore, navigation is a constant challenge and collisions and groundings are not unheard of.
Common Injuries Sustained in Barge Accidents
Seamen who have been involved in barge accidents can sustain a wide variety of injuries. The attorneys at Montagna Maritime Law have seen these injuries first hand, as we have helped clients seek recompense and protect their legal rights to medical care and compensation for pain and suffering. Some of the most common injuries that seamen sustain in barge accidents may include the following:
- Traumatic brain injury – Barge workers who have suffered from hypoxia (oxygen deprivation) sometimes show clear signs of long-term brain injuries. Likewise, slips and falls can result in concussions and other TBIs.
- Hypothermia – Barges often operate in freezing temperatures with chilly water. This is a perfect recipe for hypothermia. When a seaman falls overboard, hypothermia and frostbite are among the most pressing and life-threatening injuries.
- Crushing and pinching – Collisions and mechanical failures can both cause significant crushing and pinching injuries. In some cases, barge workers have lost limbs due to these types of incidents.
- Burns and smoke inhalation – Barge accidents involving fire can cause burns and smoke-related injuries.
This list is by no means exhaustive, as there is any number of dangers and barge accidents that could manifest themselves on barges. Safety on a barge means ensuring that proper maintenance is performed and all barge workers have adequate training for the tasks they are given.
Understanding Your Rights After a Barge Accident
If you’ve been injured in a barge accident, it’s essential that you understand your legal rights. The conditions on the ship — including equipment, training, and so on — at the time of an accident can have a profound impact in terms of what you as a barge worker are entitled to under maritime law.
Under the Jones Act, all barge workers who are injured on the job, including in barge accidents, are entitled to maintenance (daily living expenses) and cure (treatment) in the event of an accident, even if no one is at fault.
However, when negligence, bad decision-making, or improper training or equipment are involved in an accident, you may be entitled to more under the law. The experienced team of attorneys at Montagna Maritime Law have helped protect the rights of injured barge workers to get the compensation they deserved. Maritime law can be especially confusing — let us fight for your legal rights.
Talk to an Experienced Barge Accident Attorney
Suffering an injury while at work can be a stressful, confusing, and traumatic experience for anyone. Your employer might not be making the effort you expect to ensure your well-being. Often times, employers and insurers use underhanded techniques to get barge workers to settle their cases quickly. That’s why it’s important you speak to a knowledgeable barge accident attorney who can advise you of your rights under maritime law.
If you’ve been injured on the East Coast, call the skilled attorneys at Montagna Maritime Law to talk about your case. Our attorneys offer a high level of personal attention to each and every client, combined with extensive experience in the litigation of general maritime law. As an injured barge worker who depends on your physical ability for your livelihood, it’s critical that you get the maximum compensation and benefits you’re entitled to under maritime laws for you, your family, and your health.