Injuries on Tugboats and Barges

Every year thousands of maritime workers are injured while on tugs, towboats and barges. The workers are injured as result of falls on old and worn out stairs and ladders, asbestos exposures, chemical exposures, dangerous transfers,absence of a gangway, over worked crews, defective winches, winch handle accidents, oily / greasy conditions on ladders & decks, inadequate lighting, inexperienced crews, defective or worn-out equipment, negligent and reckless behavior of a crew member, collisions with other vessels, icy conditions, and other conditions making the vessel unseaworthy.

Injuries to the injured worker are often pursued under the Jones Act, so long as the one who is injured and is more or less permanently attached to a vessel or fleet of vessels. Immediately after an accident it is important to get names of the witnesses and fill out an accident report. Failure to report an injury and follow it up with a report can often be devastating to one’s future ability to prove the injury occurred while on the vessel. Often the employer will force the employee to finish out their hitch and seek medical attention at a later time with the company doctor.

While in some situations with minor injuries, cuts or abrasions, this may be acceptable, it is not however advisable in accident involving serious injuries. This waiting to seek professional medical attention can accelerate or worsen one’s injuries. Continued working on the vessel, even light duty, may also make the original injury harder to prove especially where the injured worker returns to light duty and either re-injuries themselves or has another new injury. If the first injury was clearly the worst of the injuries and if there was fault / negligence on the part the tug boat operator, then the employer will try and blame all of the injuries on the second accident, or any other situation in which the employer or fellow member of the crew was not at fault.

Don’t fall victim to this trap. The best advise for an injured worker is seek medical attention with a doctor of the worker’s choice and not be bullied into going to a “Company Doctor” or even worst agreeing not to report the injury so that the boat will not have any loss time accidents on the vessel. Then call an attorney and find out your legal rights.

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