Understanding why your body hurts and what’s physically wrong with you is often one of your main goals after your accident. Maritime accidents can cause very serious injuries, which are sometimes hard to diagnosis. You know that ‘your body doesn’t feel right’ and ‘something is wrong’, but the doctors don’t seem to be listening.
After years and years of helping only injured maritime workers, we have learned a lot about medicine and injuries, especially the unique injuries that can happen on a vessel or offshore.
Many of our clients tend to have very similar injuries. These are some of the most common injuries we’ve seen:
These injuries have their unique problems, tests, and surgeries and should be approached with care. No two injuries will be the same and similarly no two injury claims will be alike, however, with that said, there are certain patterns you can count on with these type of injuries.
Perhaps the most common maritime injury we see are back injuries. Roughly 40% of our clients have a back injury of some kind. Back injuries generally involve an injury to your neck or lower back. Doctors may refer to them as ‘spinal injuries’ because your spinal column connects your neck, thoracic and lower back areas. Between your bony spinal sections, you have soft discs which serve as cushions and help protect your spine from injury.
In general, back injuries happen when someone is improperly lifting heavy objects, primarily lifting with their back instead of their legs.
The most common spinal injury is a herniated vertebral disc, which is when one of these discs tear or bulge. This will then cause pain and often the disc begins to press against the nerves that run up and down your spinal column.
Ultimately, you may experience one of these symptoms:
Because back and neck injuries happen so frequently, there are many effective medical tests to help diagnose your injury. Once the exact type of spinal injury is determined, you can then decide if you will need back surgery or if some other treatment option may help you. One of our main goals for our clients is to (1) find out medically that happened to them, and (2) find out how we can best fix it.
Injuries to your knees, ankles, and shoulders are some of the most common ‘joint’ injuries that can occur to you as a maritime worker. You are regularly bending and stressing all of these joints.
The important thing to understand about your joints is that they have tendons and ligaments. A tendon is flexible connective tissue that connects your muscle to a bone, while a ligament is a tissue that connects a bone to another bone. Think of all the pressure and ‘torque’ that is generated when you lift, carry, and pull heavy items all day, and you can understand how you may easily tear or rip one of these tendons or ligaments. There are many types of ruptures or tears that can happen with a knee injury. Several different tests can be used to diagnosis a tendon or ligament injury, and treatments for injuries to your knees, ankles, and shoulders can include a variety of surgeries.
Severe fractures and breaks to bones happen a lot offshore. We have helped many clients who have suffered multiple broken or fractured bones, often referred to as a crushing type injury. Up to a degree, your bones can heal back together. The problem is fractures and breaks often don’t heal properly, and usually not pain-free. Fractures often require plates and screws to be used to hold the bones together, in hopes that this will allow them to heal back.
Sadly, one of the worst injuries that can be caused by severe breaks, fractures, and crushing type injuries is a nerve injury condition known as ‘complex regional pain syndrome’ (CRPS), previously called ‘reflex sympathetic dystrophy’ (RSD). The nerves of your body are permanently damaged due to the fracture or crush, and your nerves continue to send pain signals even though the accident is long over. Complex regional pain causes several very specific, horrible types of symptoms.
Brain injuries are extremely complex and are different from other injuries. They often require more attention, money, and doctors than other types of injuries. Your brain controls literally every function of your body and even minor blows to your head can injure your brain.
Typically after a head injury, you might experience
While some doctors, especially many ‘company’ doctors, will argue that a brain injury usually won’t occur unless the person loses consciousness, we have found that to be untrue. Your brain is sensitive and even what may seem like a minor blow to your head could have long-lasting, negative effects. A high power ‘3T’ MRI can show your brain in great detail, often revealing in black and white the damage you have suffered. This test has helped us recover fair compensation for many of our clients who suffered serious blows to their heads.
Brain injury patients often need very sophisticated, detailed life care plans which outline their medical needs for the rest of their lives. The law does not require your spouse or family member to care for you if you have memory problems or difficulty taking care of yourself. Instead, the cost for all these needs must be calculated through a life care plan, often adding up to many millions of dollars. If your spouse or family member wasn’t there to help you, how much would it cost to make sure you were safe and could live on your own?
The clients we have helped who suffered serious burns throughout their bodies have been some of the most tragic but emotionally rewarding cases we have worked on. Words cannot explain what burn victims have been through, and helping them move to a better future is one of the most important roles we ever play as maritime injury attorneys.
There are many types of burn injuries, each with their own degree of severity. When your skin suffers serious burns, your body is fighting itself. The ‘healing’ process, if it can even be called that, often requires that the burned skin be scraped off your body. Skin grafts may be used to cover your burned areas, but these never heal as well as your original skin. And as the skin does heal, it often has to be cut and ‘released’ when it pulls too tight, causing more pain.
Nightmares, PTSD, and depression can accompany any serious burn injury. The event itself is too difficult for your emotions to handle so your brain will use your dreams and nightmares to try to process it. Long-term burn victims experience a number of physical problems related to their burns.
Whatever your maritime industry job, chances are that you work with electricity. Any child can tell you that electricity and water don’t mix, and when electrical equipment and wiring aboard a vessel is corroded from sea water, there is a serious risk of injury to the crew of that vessel. Electric shock happens when the worker comes into direct contact with an electrical energy source. The electrical energy flows through the body causing damage to the heart and nerves. Electric shocks are very painful and often lethal.
Symptoms of electric shock depend on the voltage and strength of the current. At first, there may be no symptoms or there may be immediate skin burns where the current enters the body. Other electric shock symptoms include the following:
If the victim has been thrown by the electrical shock, there may be additional injuries from the fall including brain injury, spinal cord injury and broken bones.
Emergency medical care should be provided immediately following an electric shock. If the victim’s heart has stopped, a second shock from an AED can prevent death. Even if there are no visible injuries, the victim must see a doctor as the heart, nerves, muscle or brain can sustain serious and permanent damage from the electric current.
Visible injuries will be treated as well. If it was a minor shock, the seaman may make a full recovery. Large shocks can leave a maritime worker severely and permanently disabled.
Defective equipment on ships, tankers, barges, offshore oil rigs and other vessels can also cause serious electrocution injuries to seamen. When a seaman is injured by unsafe wiring or defective equipment onboard a vessel, he has the right to pursue a Jones Act lawsuit. If you have been injured by an electric shock while working aboard a vessel, you may be eligible to file a Jones Act claim for your injury. If you have lost a loved one to an electrocution at sea, you may be able to file for compensation under the Death on the High Seas Act.
We often tell injured workers who call us that their claim has two parts to it:
Understanding the extent of your physical injury after your maritime accident is a key part of understanding the full amount of compensation you deserve. Often your attorney will need to know as much medicine as law so he can help you recover what you truly deserve.
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