Common Maritime Accidents and What To Do If You're Injured

Being a maritime worker or seaman is challenging work. It can also be dangerous, and thousands of workers suffer injury each year. The attorneys at Pepper & Odom, P.C. understand the serious impact maritime accidents and injuries can have on workers and their families. If you are a maritime worker it is vital to be aware of common types of accidents and steps to take if you are hurt on the job.


Poor equipment maintenance or failure is often a cause of maritime accidents. Container cranes, winches, forklifts and other equipment can cause serious injury if they malfunction or are not properly maintained or repaired. Equipment like large cranes, trawling winches, and conveyor belts can cause life-changing injuries such as traumatic brain injury or amputation. If you have been injured in a maritime accident involving equipment failure, more than one party may be liable for damages.


Employers have an obligation to ensure their workers receive proper job training. When maritime workers are not properly trained to do their jobs, accidents are much more likely to occur. Poor training can lead to incorrect use of equipment, not knowing how to use safety gear, or failing to communicate with other workers in dangerous situations.


Some maritime workers work with cargo and materials that are toxic. Accidents related to chemical exposure can cause burns, respiratory illness, and other problems. Chemicals can also start fires that injure or kill workers. 

Poorly maintained or outdated electrical systems may cause electrocution or devastating explosions that can rip through a ship or boat in a matter of minutes. Negligence, human error, and malfunctioning equipment can cause serious accidents, spills, and explosions on offshore oil rigs. Even when workers are able to escape they may suffer severe burns, disfigurement, and other catastrophic injuries.


Commercial fishing crews often put their lives on the line when doing their jobs. Inclement weather, mistakes caused by working long hours, and vessels that are less than seaworthy can all contribute to someone being injured or killed on a fishing boat.


Falling overboard is one of the most common accidents for maritime workers. Falling overboard at sea can lead to neck, back, and spine injuries, hypothermia, drowning, and death. Although most people associate falling overboard with being on a vessel out on the water, workers can also fall off docks and into the dangerous waters of a port. In these cases, maritime workers face not only the risk of drowning, but being crushed by a ship or boat.

There are many different reasons why a maritime worker may slip, trip, or fall. Slipping on oil or other chemicals, tripping over cargo and equipment, or even falling into a cargo hold can all cause serious injuries.


Many jobs on ships and in ports involve repeating the same movement over and over again. Tasks such as loading and unloading cargo can lead to repetitive use injuries in the joints, nerves, ligaments, tendons, and muscles in the back, neck, knees, ankles, shoulders, and hips. Shoulder Injuries.


If you are injured on the job, it is important to take certain steps to protect your rights and get the medical care you need. After a maritime accident or injury you should:

Seek medical attention – Going to the emergency room or seeing a doctor as soon as possible following a workplace injury is critical. Symptoms of certain injuries or conditions may not appear right away, and if left untreated, can have a significant impact on your health and quality of life. Medical records are also valuable evidence that is essential in workers’ comp, Jones Act, and personal injury claims.

Inform your employer – Make sure to tell your supervisor, employer or HR department about the accident and your injuries as soon as possible. Reporting your injuries to your employer in writing provides vital documentation of what occurred and when.

Gather evidence – If you can, take photos of the scene, any equipment that was involved in the accident, and your injuries. If there were any witnesses, make sure to get their statements and contact information. Keep receipts of all accident-related expenses, including medical bills, transportation costs, and prescriptions.

Contact an attorney – Do not sign anything or accept a settlement before speaking with a lawyer. The laws governing seamen and maritime workers are complex and provide many protections and benefits you may not be aware of. Your employer or their insurance company may try to deny your claim or pay very minimal amounts, which can leave you in a physical and financial bind down the road. An experienced maritime accident attorney who understands the intricacies of the law can help you make sense of it all, provide the legal support you need, and help to ensure you get the benefits and compensation you deserve.


If you or a loved one has been injured in a maritime accident, our experienced team at Pepper & Odom, P. C. can help. To learn more about our areas of expertise, contact us online. We assist clients throughout the state of Alabama, Mississippi, and nationwide, utilizing local counsel.