The maritime industry is a crucial sector of the global economy, facilitating the transport of goods across international waters. Unfortunately, the nature of the work carries inherent risks, making it one of the top industries with a high incidence of accidents. Maritime accidents are serious events that can lead to serious injuries, financial distress, and even loss of life. Given the vast expanse of waterways, such as oceans and seas, the risk factors multiply, contributing to the increased occurrence of accidents. These accidents involve a variety of vessels, including cargo ships, tankers, ferries, and fishing vessels.

Understanding the causes of maritime accidents is the first step toward preventing and safeguarding maritime workers’ rights. Several factors contribute to maritime accidents, ranging from human error to equipment failure, adverse weather conditions, and employer negligence. This article aims to delve into these common causes and provide a comprehensive overview to aid in the awareness and prevention of such incidents.

If you or a loved one has been involved in a maritime accident, the personal injury attorneys at Abraham Watkins are prepared to assist you in understanding your rights under maritime law and seeking the compensation you deserve. In our 70-plus years of service, we’ve gained nationwide recognition for successfully resolving personal injury lawsuits, including those involving maritime accidents.

Call us to discuss your case today; we offer free consultations to all new clients and previous clients alike who need us. Call today at 713-535-9319.

Ask a Houston Maritime Attorney: What Are Common Causes of Offshore Accidents?

When it comes to maritime accidents, the most common causes are:

Slips, Trips, and Falls

Working on a vessel, whether it’s an oil rig, cargo ship, or another type of maritime vessel, comes with inherent dangers. The movement of the vessel, slippery surfaces, and cluttered decks can increase the risk of falling accidents. Seamen can suffer injuries such as fractures, head injuries, or even spinal cord injuries as a result of these falls.

Human Error

Human error is a leading cause of many maritime accidents. This category includes mistakes made by vessel operators, such as misjudging distances or speeds, improper use of navigation systems, or inadequate response to emergency situations. Poor decision-making under high-stress situations, lack of communication among crew members, and failure to follow established maritime traffic schemes can also result in serious accidents.

Weather Conditions and Equipment Failure

Unfortunately, maritime accidents are a common occurrence due to the inherent dangers of the maritime industry. Two significant factors often contributing to these accidents are severe weather conditions and equipment failure.

Severe Weather Conditions and Maritime Collisions

Vessels navigating through high seas are no strangers to inclement weather conditions. From high winds and rough waters to ice flows and fog, weather conditions can greatly impact a vessel’s maneuvering capabilities. For instance, during a storm, a cargo ship may lose its navigational control, increasing the risk of maritime collisions. Similarly, poor visibility due to heavy fog can make it challenging for the crew to identify and steer clear of other vessels, leading to accidents.

Moreover, adverse weather conditions can cause cargo ships to list or even capsize if the cargo isn’t secured properly. Such scenarios pose a risk not only to the vessel and its crew but also to other nearby vessels that could get caught up in the chaos, leading to collisions or other accidents.

Equipment Failure and Its Impact on Vessel Maneuvering Capabilities

Vessels, especially those like cargo ships, are complex machines that rely on a wide range of equipment for safe operation. Failure of any one of these components can lead to severe consequences. For instance, a failure in the engine or steering equipment can render a vessel incapable of maneuvering, making it vulnerable to collisions, especially in high-traffic maritime areas.

Furthermore, equipment failure isn’t limited to a vessel’s operational components. Safety equipment like lifeboats, fire suppression systems, and personal protective equipment can fail due to poor maintenance or defects, increasing the risk to maritime workers in the event of an accident.

The Importance of Proper Maintenance to Prevent Equipment Failure

The role of proper maintenance in preventing equipment failure cannot be overstated. It is the responsibility of the vessel owner and operator to ensure regular inspections and upkeep of all equipment onboard. In the absence of proper maintenance, equipment is likely to deteriorate over time, leading to malfunctions and subsequent accidents.

Neglecting equipment maintenance not only puts the vessel and its crew at risk but can also result in the vessel owner being held liable under maritime law, such as the Jones Act, for any accidents caused by to equipment failure.

Given the high stakes, the importance of proper training cannot be emphasized enough. Workers must be trained to identify signs of wear and tear, and be able to perform routine maintenance checks. In addition, they must also be taught to use all equipment correctly to avoid accidents caused by user error.

Negligence and Improper Training

Negligence by the employer or vessel owner can often contribute to maritime accidents. This can involve negligent hiring practices, failure to provide adequate safety equipment, or improper training of crew members. The lack of proper training can also lead to repetitive motion and overexertion injuries among maritime workers.

Maritime workers often perform strenuous physical tasks, which can lead to repetitive motion and overexertion injuries. These injuries can result from continuous movements, heavy lifting, or staying in awkward positions for extended periods. The most common injuries include sprains, strains, and injuries to the back, neck, and joints.

A lack of proper training can exacerbate these issues. Workers may not be aware of proper lifting techniques or how to use equipment correctly, which can lead to unnecessary strain and injury. Additionally, maritime employers may push their workers to meet demanding schedules, resulting in overexertion and inadequate rest periods.

Maritime law places a duty on employers to provide sufficient training to their workers, ensuring that they are aware of the potential risks associated with their job and how to minimize them. Employers are also required to implement appropriate work-rest schedules to prevent overexertion injuries.

Improper Medical Release of Vessel Employees and Third-Parties

An important aspect of the maritime industry is ensuring the safety and health of all maritime workers. This includes the proper management of medical care and subsequent release of employees or third parties who have been injured or ill. An improper medical release can lead to further injury, exacerbate existing conditions, or even result in fatal consequences.

If an injured or sick employee is improperly released to resume work, it could cause severe problems. Their health could worsen, and they could become a liability on the vessel, possibly leading to additional accidents. Similarly, an improperly released third party, such as a contractor or a visitor on the vessel, can also pose safety risks.

Maritime laws such as the Jones Act provide protections to maritime workers who have been improperly released and suffered further injury or illness as a result. If your employer or their medical representative cleared you to return to work despite your health condition, you might have a claim under these laws.

Other Factors

Several other factors can contribute to maritime accidents. These include collisions between two vessels or even stern collisions where one vessel strikes the rear end of another.

Understanding these common causes can help in the prevention of maritime accidents. However, when accidents occur, it’s crucial to seek legal assistance from an experienced Houston maritime lawyer, like those at Abraham Watkins, who can help protect your legal rights and help you recover compensation for injuries suffered.

The Jones Act

Navigating the aftermath of a maritime accident can be a daunting task, particularly when you are grappling with injuries and associated medical expenses, lost wages, and emotional distress. However, it’s important to remember that as a maritime worker, you have certain legal rights that can help you recover compensation for your injuries and losses. One such avenue for recovery is through the Jones Act.

The Jones Act, formally known as the Merchant Marine Act of 1920, is a federal law designed to protect American maritime workers. If you have been injured in a maritime accident due to employer negligence, improper training, poor maintenance, or any other cause, you may be able to file a claim under the Jones Act to recover compensation. The damages recovered can cover medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering, amongst other things.

However, pursuing a claim under the Jones Act can be complex. It involves demonstrating that your employer was negligent and that the negligence contributed to your injuries. Therefore, it’s crucial to have experienced legal counsel to guide you through this process. 

Employer Responsibilities to Reduce Risk

Employers in the maritime industry have a responsibility to mitigate these risks. The steps taken to mitigate risks include ensuring that all walkways are free of obstructions, providing adequate non-slip footwear, and ensuring that railings and safety barriers are in place and well-maintained.

Despite these precautions, falls and subsequent injuries can still occur. When this happens, an injured maritime worker has the right to seek legal recourse. Under the Jones Act, maritime workers who suffer injuries due to employer negligence may be eligible to recover compensation for medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering.

At Abraham Watkins, our experienced maritime injury lawyers are dedicated to fighting for the rights of maritime workers who have been injured in falls or other accidents on vessels. We can provide a thorough analysis of your case and guide you through the legal process of claiming the compensation you deserve.

What Causes Maritime Accidents – A Houston Personal Injury Attorney Answers Your FAQs

What are the most common causes of maritime accidents?

Maritime accidents most commonly occur due to bad weather, poor vessel maintenance, lack of proper safety equipment, human error, and navigational mistakes. Maritime collisions, in particular, often result from miscommunication or misunderstanding between two vessels.

How can maritime collisions lead to maritime injuries?

Maritime collisions, particularly between two ships, can cause significant damage, including structural damage to the ship and potential harm to the crew. Maritime injuries may include, but are not limited to, concussions, broken bones, burns, and even fatalities.

Are certain maritime jobs more dangerous than others?

Yes, some jobs are inherently more dangerous due to the physical risks and responsibilities involved. For instance, workers involved in loading and unloading cargo, operating heavy machinery, and those responsible for navigating the ship are at a higher risk of accidents compared to other workers.

How can maritime accidents be prevented?

Preventing maritime accidents often involves adhering to safety regulations, maintaining vessels properly, using quality safety equipment, and providing comprehensive training to the crew. Regular safety drills and communication practices can also reduce the likelihood of accidents.

If a maritime injury occurs, what should be the immediate response?

In the event of a maritime injury, immediate medical attention is crucial. If possible, the injured should be brought to a safe location on the ship and provided with first aid. The incident should also be reported to the appropriate authority for investigation and follow-up. We also recommend that accident victims contact a skilled Houston personal injury attorney immediately, ideally one who has experience in maritime accident cases.

Are there laws to protect workers involved in maritime accidents?

Yes, there are several laws in place to protect maritime workers. These laws are called maritime laws, and ensure that workers receive compensation for their injuries, and that employers are held accountable for unsafe working conditions that may have contributed to the accident.

Contact a Maritime Lawyer Houston Workers Trust!

At Abraham Watkins, we have decades of experience helping injured maritime workers navigate the legal intricacies of the Jones Act and other maritime laws. Our Houston personal injury attorneys are well-versed in the causes of maritime accidents, from human errors and improper training to weather conditions and equipment failure. We leverage this expertise to build a strong case that demonstrates employer negligence and fight for the compensation you deserve.

We understand that each maritime accident is unique, with its own set of circumstances and impacts. That’s why we offer personalized legal services tailored to meet your specific needs. Our team takes the time to understand your situation, answer your questions, and explain your legal rights and options.

Moreover, we work on a contingency fee basis, which means you don’t pay us unless we win your case. Our goal is to alleviate your stress, allowing you to focus on your recovery while we handle your legal matters.

If you or a loved one has been injured in a maritime accident, don’t hesitate to seek legal assistance. Reach out to the top-rated maritime lawyers at Abraham Watkins for a free consultation today. We are here to help you understand your rights, navigate the legal process, and fight for the compensation you deserve.

Contact us at 713-535-9319 – we are here to help. Your recovery and justice are our priorities.

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