The port of Wilmington, DE, is among the busiest on the East Coast of the US today. Dredging vessels are an essential part of keeping this port and all of Delaware’s waterways open for business, both in terms of important shipping channels and passenger transportation along seaports and water lanes like the Delaware River. Unfortunately, dredging can be a dangerous profession, and accidents during dredging operations occur far too often in coastal states from New Jersey and New York to Delaware and beyond.

If you are a crew member on a dredger who suffers serious injuries from an accident on the job, it is paramount to have representation from a qualified dredge accident lawyer who is well-versed in general maritime law and the specifics of maritime accidents. They will have specific knowledge of laws pertaining to accidents that may take place in international waters. Montagna Maritime Law is an incredible asset during this process. We have over 50 years of experience fighting for the rights of injured seamen, and we are ready to listen to you.

Current Dredging Projects in Delaware

Delaware is benchmarking $101 million for Army Corps projects to maintain state infrastructure, restore our coastlines, and strengthen our waterways. This is in addition to the $70 million in federal dollars that Delaware gets from the new infrastructure law passed earlier this year. This new investment includes money for several major dredging projects.

Some of the most visible of these are along the beaches frequented by tourists including Rehoboth Beach, Dewey Beach, and South Bethany Beach. A generous $4 million is intended to go to Fenwick Island, while $1.2 million is earmarked for the beach just north of the Indian River Bridge. This protects a vulnerable section of Route 1. Delaware will undertake $78.4 million in dredging projects along the C&D Canal.

Delaware is currently seeing severe problems due to a particularly harsh storm season along its coasts. The state will use Dredging projects to secure waterways, repair motorways at risk from erosion, and restore the coastal areas. Unfortunately, however, by their very nature, more dredging projects mean more accidents on dredgers.

What Causes Dredging Accidents in Delaware?

Dredgers are ships that are designed specifically for the removal of sediment or excavating sites underwater. These are classified, generally, as suction or mechanical dredgers. They are outfitted with heavy machinery to accomplish their tasks and usually require crane operators, crew members to operate digging systems or suction equipment, backhoes, clamshells, and other equipment.


The causes of dredging accidents are numerous and can involve almost any circumstance you can think of from any sort of construction or other job using heavy equipment. These include heavy machinery accidents, miscommunication problems, undersea collisions, injuries from falling overboard, and many other types of accidents.

Heavy Machinery Accidents

Anytime someone works with heavy machinery, they face inherent risks. Operating this kind of equipment at sea carries even more dangers. Cranes, backhoes, and clamshell diggers on a dredger can malfunction, dropping on maritime workers or the vessel and causing significant damage and injuries. Suction equipment can also malfunction catastrophically, causing grievous injuries and even death.


Communication is vital to the function of any vessel, and even more on dredgers. Operators of equipment who misunderstand their instructions can experience a collision or can try to move payloads that are not secured properly. Strict safety checks and communication protocols must always be in place.

Undersea Collisions

Dredgers operate in severe and difficult conditions, and it is not unusual for them to have an undersea collision that can result in serious damage to the vessel and catastrophic injuries to the crew members. This can be the case with any type of operation, but when dredging operations are part of a construction project, the dangers become even greater.

Falling Overboard

Slip and fall accidents are among the most common types of accidents resulting in maritime personal injury cases. Some of the worst accidents occur when a worker falls overboard, especially while dredging systems are running.


While exceptionally rare, in some cases, a vessel may be on the job that simply should not be on the water at all. Dredgers that are not seaworthy can be a risk to everyone on board, and it is essential that the vessel owner pays close attention to the maintenance and upkeep of their vessels.

boat off shore in water

What Types of Injuries Occur From Dredge Accidents?

Specific dredging injuries can vary as widely as their causes. Just as with any personal injury case, these injuries can be life-threatening or even deadly. Many people have lost loved ones to maritime accidents, while those who survive dredging injuries may need lifelong medical care as a result.

Crushing Injuries

When heavy equipment falls, or malfunctions result in dropping objects, crushing injuries can occur. These can result in everything from paralysis to internal injuries that can be devastating and result in lifelong disability.

Loss of Limbs

Loss of limbs often results in long-term medical care and a lifelong inability to work. It can happen from crushing, from heavy equipment severing a limb, or from vehicle collisions.  


Hypothermia usually happens when crew members fall overboard. The water at sea is exceedingly cold, and the damage from hypothermia can be long-term or even permanent, resulting in nerve damage or even lost limbs. In severe cases, death can result.

Head Injuries

Head injuries can range from concussions to traumatic brain injuries. These are some of the most difficult cases that maritime personal injury lawyers see because the injuries are often of the invisible sort, such as personality changes, cognitive difficulties, mood swings, depression, and the inability to focus on tasks. They can result in many different types of conditions, some debilitating and some deadly.

Broken Bones

Broken bones are some of the more common injuries suffered from maritime accidents. They can occur from equipment failures, collisions, or even slip and fall accidents. Sometimes they heal within weeks; other times, they create lifelong complications.

Chemical Exposure

Toxic chemicals can sometimes be encountered during dredging operations. These risks are especially dangerous in terms of collisions with undersea chemical pipelines, but they can also involve cleaning agents, acids, and many other types of chemicals.

What Do You Do If You Are in a Dredging Accident in Delaware?

If you have been hurt on a dredger or at a dredging site, it is imperative that you immediately report your work-related injury to your employer. You have seven days to report this, but the sooner you do it, the better.

Next, get appropriate medical treatment and follow-up care. Unlike in workers’ compensation cases, you have the right to choose your own doctor and do not have to see one recommended by your employer or insurer. Finally, speak with a maritime lawyer right away. The importance of this cannot be understated. It could be the most important call you make.

Never sign any waivers or agree to anything offered to you by an insurance company. If you do, you might waive your rights to a trial for increased payments. A knowledgeable law firm with experience handling these types of maritime cases knows how to challenge the insurance company, knows the specifics of things like the Jones Act that cover your case, and can stand up to the insurance company.

Insurers are not your friend in this case. They are not out to take care of what is best for the victim. They are out to avoid paying you. They will try to shift blame onto you, claim that you are not as injured as you say, and engage in many other tactics. They will try to trick you into saying things that will make you look bad. They might even scour your social media looking for incriminating statements.

You do not have to talk to them at all. Contact Montagna Maritime Law at 877-622-8100 or use our online contact form to speak with an experienced maritime lawyer about your case today.

What Is the Jones Act?

The Jones Act is one of the primary laws that guide how the United States adheres to maritime law. Under this act, injured seamen are entitled to rights and recompense even if they are in a dredge accident where no fault is found. The Jones Act is also known as the Merchant Marine Act of 1920. It provides seamen and their surviving family members the right to file lawsuits upon injury or death.

In 2005, the U.S. Supreme Court handed down a ruling in a case called Stewart v. Dutra Construction Company that specifically declared dredge workers as protected under the Jones Act. The case proceeded through the United States District Court and was appealed all the way up the chain to the highest court in the land.

Are Delaware Dredge Workers Protected Under the Jones Act?

The Jones Act is a vital form of protection for Delaware dredge workers. Maritime workers generally do not qualify for standard federal or state workers’ compensation following an injury. The Jones Act was created to protect them in these cases. Anyone who works on navigable waters and spends at least 30% of their work time in those waters may be protected under the Jones Act.

Are Foreign Dredge Workers in Delaware Protected Under the Jones Act?

Even foreign dredge workers in Delaware may be protected under the Jones Act. The act protects all workers, enabling you to file a lawsuit against a negligent crew for injuries you suffered on a dredger. If you are unsure whether you qualify, a Delaware maritime law attorney at Montagna Maritime Law can advise you on your case. Call 877-622-8100 or use our online contact form for a free consultation with no disclaimers and no obligation today.

What Is the Cost of a Dredge Accident Lawyer Serving Delaware?

Many people think they cannot afford to hire an accident lawyer after suffering a major injury. Nothing could be further from the truth. Your initial consultation with a Montagna Maritime lawyer is absolutely free at no charge whatsoever. We also work on contingency. This means that if we do not win your case, you will not pay a dime in legal fees. We will front the cost of any experts needed to assist in building your case. We will also fight for you no matter how long it takes.

If we win, we cannot offer an exact figure for the cost, because the fee is based on the size of your award. You can, however, be assured that we handle every case personally. We will work with you one-on-one and take all the time needed to understand your circumstances and build a rock-solid legal strategy on your behalf.

Will a Dredge Accident Lawyer Get Me More Compensation?

Having an injury attorney in your corner very often leads to higher compensation. Surveys have demonstrated that, on average, the settlement for those who secure an attorney to protect their rights is around three times as high as the awards obtained by those who handle their own cases. This is true even after deducting the average fees for legal services.

In addition, when you try to represent yourself, you are fighting against companies with powerful attorneys on their side and insurance companies who know exactly how to use the law against you. You are at a disadvantage going it alone. Having an attorney in your corner can balance the field and give you a much better chance to fight back and get the full compensation to which you are entitled under the law, and which you deserve.

Over 50 Years of Fighting for Maritime Workers

Maritime accidents are not like car accidents. If you have been hurt in a Delaware dredging accident, choose an experienced maritime law attorney who knows the Jones Act, who knows how to build the right evidence, and who can best fight for your rights. Call Montagna Maritime Law at 877-622-8100 or fill out our online contact form for your free consultation today and take advantage of our more than 50 years of experience fighting for Delaware maritime workers.