Barge injuries from accidents happen up and down the Mississippi River and even out in the Gulf of Mexico on a daily basis. Your barge injury could be caused by one of these common issues that we regularly deal with.
As you know, ince barge workers work with lots of rigging and wiring, your company should provide you with safe wire that is free of kinks or burrs, and all of the ratchets and other rigging also should be in good shape.
Many of our clients were injured while jerking on a wire that should have been taken out of service by their company. You also want to ask if your company has a tag-out program whereby any wires in poor shape were tagged and taken out of use. This is standard practice at good companies and it is a practice supported by the American Waterways Operators. The AWO has a Responsible Carrier Program which sets out lots of rules that safe companies should follow. If you suffer an injury while working on a barge, ask yourself if your company is following all of these rules.
Your captain or pilot plays an important role in your day-to-day — their job is designed to safely operate the tug while you focus on the task at hand. In many situations, your injury may have been caused by something the captain or pilot could have done differently in running the tug. This includes when you are facing up to barges, doing rigging on barges, or when you are simply securing the lines of the tug.
Though you may not want to blame your captain for your injury, it’s important to acknowledge the role they played in what happened. Many barge injuries occur due to improper tug operations—from choosing where to transfer on and off of the barges, to working with you when you face up and secure mooring lines. Each job starts with the actions of your captain or pilot at the wheel.
Let’s flip it around. What if you’re the captain or pilot of a vessel and you suffered an injury? Well, one thing to consider is that you may not have had the support you needed to be successful — being short staffed could be a factor, and you could have been injured while doing deck work too. We have helped many captains whose injuries occurred when they were outside the wheelhouse performing regular tow work such as working a winch or helping to hook up a tow line.
As an injured captain or pilot, one of the main issues in your claim is whether or not you can return to work. Your company could push you back to work as fast as they can since they need your skills as a captain.
It’s worth considering, but be very careful about this. While sitting in the wheelhouse is a light duty, you have to ask yourself if you can return to being a working captain that is fully ready and willing to help the crew out at times, and whether you can work in a vessel environment. They involve unsteady surfaces, a rocking boat, transferring on and off the vessel and other physical activities that are simpler to maneuver when at full health, but keep in mind, you could be recovering. All vessel workers including captains have to be able to perform heavy manual labor if necessary. Before you start, think to yourself — could I apply for a job at a different company and get hired, even with my injury?
A lot of injuries on barges are caused when you have to transfer from one barge to another or from the tug to a barge. Empty barges next to full barges create a height difference that you have to take into account as you move from one barge to the next.
Your company certainly knows this, as that’s why they staffed the way they did. It’s important to ask a few key questions:
If your injury was caused by the winches on the tug or the barges, you will want to make sure they were working properly. Most deck winches on tugs are older and have teeth and tugs that don’t properly secure the wire as you use the winch. Some older tugs have improperly mounted winches which don’t give you enough space to safely operate the winch. It’s important to keep these hazards in mind.
Tank barge injuries involve special issues that may not come up in dry barge claims. As a tankerman, you have to deal with a lot more barge equipment than a dry barge worker. You regularly handle large crossover hoses, and you have to transfer heavy hoses from barge to dock and back again, working together with the dock workers.
Often, the loading arms are not working correctly or are not well maintained, which makes it harder to handle the hoses. Because you are transferring product, there is a risk of spills on the barge which can create a dangerous deck. There are specific federal regulations which apply to your barge. There are also many special reports you will want to get in your claim including the Certificates of Inspection (COIs). It is important to get a copy of all of these documents and also to hold your company to the regulations.
One final important point. As with oil rig injuries and vessel injuries, your injury on a barge may have occurred when you were doing a job “just like you always did it.”
Many of our clients assume that this means they can’t recover what they deserve. The law says that just because you were doing a job the same way you had always done it, that does not mean it was being done safely. In other words, don’t assume that “business as usual” means that you can’t win your claim.
The standard in court is whether or not the safest available way was being used—not whether you always did the job the way you were doing it when you got hurt. It’s less about training, and more about adequate safety precautions. Getting you fair compensation is still possible even if everything may have seemed “normal” to you at the time of your barge accident. Do your homework — what you don’t know can cost you some of your due compensation.
Our team of experienced maritime lawyers can help you with the process of filing a personal injury claim after a barge accident. Contact us online or call 504-680-4100 to talk more about your injury. Let’s see if we can help you move forward and get you compensation.