Catastrophic Offshore Injury Attorneys
Helping Seriously Injured Offshore Workers Across the U.S.
Offshore work is physically demanding and dangerous, and when rig owners and operators fail to uphold safety standards, catastrophic injuries occur. Catastrophic offshore injuries include everything from head injuries to fractures and electric shock. At times, these injuries may prove fatal.
If you or a family member has suffered a serious offshore injury through the negligence or fault of another, you may be legally entitled to financial compensation. Because offshore work involves hazards, the law offers many maritime workers special protection in the event of accidents. By talking to an experienced catastrophic offshore injury lawyer, you can learn more about your rights and options.
We at Arnold & Itkin are aggressive advocates for offshore workers and their families in Texas, Louisiana, Alabama, and Mississippi and across the Gulf of Mexico. We also represent clients in other coastal states throughout the U.S., including Florida, California, New York, New Jersey, Virginia, Oregon, and Washington. We handle cases involving catastrophic offshore injuries that occurred in inland waterways as well as national and international waters.
To find out more about the ways we can help you, contact us online or call (888) 346-5024.
Your consultation is completely free and confidential.
Table of Contents
Types of Catastrophic Offshore Injuries
There are many types of catastrophic offshore injuries, and they may affect any worker on a fixed platform, jack-up rig, or other vessel. From deckhands to captains, catastrophic offshore injuries can change or claim lives in seconds.
We represent maritime workers in all types of catastrophic offshore injury cases:
- Head Injuries: A sudden blow from a pipe swinging overhead, a boom, or falling equipment can cause a traumatic brain injury, ranging from a mild concussion to permanent disability. Falls from heights also can cause open head wounds and closed head injuries, resulting in loss of balance, an impaired attention span, double vision, and slurred speech. A brain injury can adversely affect your ability to earn a living and provide for your family.
- Back & Neck Injuries: The heavy lifting and hard labor aboard a ship or oil platform can lead to serious back and neck injuries. Falls from unguarded balconies or unsecured ladders can also cause back injuries, including spinal cord damage. A serious back or neck injury can make a maritime worker unable to work for an extended period, or it may lead to paraplegia or quadriplegia, affecting every aspect of their life.
- Burns: Malfunctioning safety equipment, accumulation of combustible fumes in unventilated spaces, welding accidents, and loss of well control can all cause explosions and fires resulting in serious burns. These catastrophic offshore injuries can cause disfigurement, require extensive plastic surgery, and result in permanent disability. Workers are often out of work for months after a serious burn injury.
- Amputation & Crush Injuries: The loss of a limb is a life-changing injury. Many maritime-related amputation and crush accidents involve cables under tension or mooring lines. A worker's hand can become ensnared in the line as it coils onto a winch drum. A deckhand can get a leg caught and crushed between two barges.
- Electric Shock & Electrocution: Offshore workers are at risk of electric shock and electrocution due to the presence of high-powered electrical equipment in a wet and often conductive environment. Accidents can occur from faulty wiring, improper use of equipment, or during maintenance and repair work, leading to severe injuries or fatalities.
- Hearing Loss: Constant exposure to loud machinery and equipment on offshore rigs and vessels can lead to hearing loss for workers. Without proper ear protection, prolonged noise exposure can cause permanent damage to the ears, resulting in partial or total hearing loss. Aside from hearing aids, there is no way to restore hearing once lost.
- Blindness & Eye Injuries: Workers in the offshore industry face risks of eye injuries and potential blindness from flying debris, chemical splashes, intense light from welding, and other hazardous operations. Protective eyewear is essential to prevent such injuries, as well as proper training and safety standards.
- Broken Bones: The physically demanding nature of offshore work, coupled with the hazardous working environment, makes broken bones a common injury. Falls, being struck by heavy equipment, or accidents during lifting operations are typical causes of broken or fractured bones in maritime workers.
- Pleural Diseases: Long-term exposure to certain chemicals and materials, including asbestos used in older vessels and rigs, can lead to pleural diseases such as lung cancer and mesothelioma, a form of cancer associated with asbestos exposure. Protective gear and adherence to safety standards are essential to preventing exposure.
- Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD): Offshore workers may experience traumatic events such as accidents, severe weather incidents, or catastrophic equipment failures. These experiences can lead to PTSD, impacting their mental health and well-being long after the event has occurred.
Every year, maritime workers die in falls, explosions, and other accidents caused by employer negligence. The offshore injury attorneys at our firm know what factors to look for to identify employer negligence and build a compelling case for full compensation of the victim's family. If you have lost a loved one working in the maritime or oil industry in the Gulf of Mexico through the negligence of others, you have a right to seek legal compensation for your loved one's death. We handle Death on the High Seas Act (DOHSA) claims as well as wrongful death and Jones Act claims.
Having an experienced and dedicated lawyer by your side as you seek fair compensation for your catastrophic offshore injury claim may make all the difference in its outcome—not to mention your peace of mind through these proceedings. Our catastrophic maritime injury attorneys have extensive experience holding companies accountable.
Fractured & Broken Bones
One of the most common types of injuries that can be sustained in offshore working environments is a fractured or broken bone. No matter whether it was sustained by falling from a deck, slipping on the stairs, or being involved in an accident with a piece of heavy machinery, it is important to realize that you have rights that deserve to be protected. Maritime laws have long since been put into place to help you seek just compensation. It is in your best interests to contact a knowledgeable offshore broken bone lawyer who will be able to help you defend your legal rights.
As the fundamental support structure of the human body, bones are strong, but they are far from invincible. They can be vulnerable to injury and, under excessive force or pressure, can dislocate, crack, or break. Broken bones, often a result of high-impact offshore accidents or falls, can vary in severity from simple fractures to complex breaks.
Some common types include, but are not limited to, the following:
- Transverse Fracture: This type is characterized by the fracture being at a right angle to the bone
- Comminuted Fracture: When a bone has been broken into a number of different pieces
- Oblique Fracture: This type of fracture is diagonal to a bone's axis
- Impacted Fracture: Receiving a fracture that causes different bone pieces to jam into each other
- Incomplete Fracture: With this type of fracture, the bone is not completely separated
All fractures are sustained at a different level of severity, which depends on the fracture's location, as well as damage to the bone and surrounding tissue. The time it takes to recover from a fracture not only depends on the severity, but it also depends on the age and the health of the person who sustained the injuries.
Recognizing the signs of a broken bone is crucial for timely and effective treatment. Indicators include:
- Visible deformities in limbs or joints
- Swelling or bruising around the injured area
- Sharp pain, which may be accompanied by numbness or a tingling sensation
- Difficulty or inability to move the affected limb
- In severe cases, the bone may penetrate the skin
If you suspect a broken bone, it's important to keep the injured person still and wait for medical help. Moving someone with a potential fracture, especially in critical areas like the spine, can exacerbate the injury and lead to serious complications, including paralysis.
Immediate medical care typically involves cleaning any open wounds to prevent infection, immobilizing the affected area, and applying cold to reduce swelling. In situations of shock, positioning the person appropriately is also essential. Long-term treatment varies depending on the fracture's nature and location and can range from casts and splints to surgical interventions involving pins, screws, or plates to stabilize the bone.
Broken bones should be treated with care and urgency, as proper management is key to a full recovery and avoiding long-term complications.
Occupational Diseases from Toxic Exposure Offshore
Most people tend to focus on the physically strenuous nature of offshore work. Maritime workers who are employed on rigs, tankers, and shipyards are at risk of accidents that break bones, burn skin, and cause permanent debilitation.
There is another, less visible risk that seamen face: toxic exposure.
Toxic chemicals are very highly present in the offshore industry and can lead to serious worker illness after prolonged exposure. Take those who work in the drilling industry. Natural oil and gas are considered hazardous materials. Every day, those who work on rigs are exposed to gas fumes. Prolonged exposure of this nature can lead to a number of diseases and illnesses that can permanently place a worker out of a job or even result in their death.
Those who work in shipyards are at an equally great risk. Harbor workers are responsible for the maintenance and upkeep of vessels that come into port. They may also be employed to load and offload the vessels. The chemicals that are used to repair these vessels can be anything from paint to industrial-strength cleaning supplies. These workers may also be at risk for various occupational diseases.
Pleural Diseases in Maritime Workers
Exposure to toxic chemicals can cause many different types of pleural diseases, which are named such because they refer to the infected lining of the lungs (called the pleura). The most serious is lung cancer. Pneumothorax is another type of pleural disease, typically caused by a traumatic lung injury rather than inhaling toxins. This results in an abnormal gas buildup in the chest that makes breathing difficult.
Another type of pleural disease that can affect offshore workers is pleural effusion, which is an excess buildup of fluid between the layers of the lungs. The more buildup there is in the lungs, the more difficult it is for the lungs to expand. These can typically be diagnosed after a chest x-ray. There is also the possibility of tumors in the pleural cavity, which is the most common diagnosis for those who have been exposed to toxic chemicals, especially asbestos.
One of the most common mix-ups is mistaking a pleural disease for bronchitis. You may be experiencing shortness of breath, heaviness in your chest, coughing, wheezing, and even blood in your cough. The prognosis will differ depending on when the disease was discovered as well as the extent to which the individual was exposed to the toxic chemical. For example, if the toxic chemical was asbestos, then the individual may not display symptoms for 20 to 60 years after exposure. This allows the disease to grow to a point that is difficult to treat once it is discovered.
To get the best possible treatment and support for a pleural disease related to exposure as an offshore worker, it is important to involve a firm with experience in maritime law and toxic exposure. Arnold & Itkin has vast resources and experience with these cases; our offshore pleural disease attorneys can evaluate your unique situation to see how to best help you.
Lung Cancer in Seamen & Offshore Workers
Lung cancer is one of the deadliest types of pleural diseases. While there are a variety of causes, workplace exposure to dangerous substances is a possibility for offshore and harbor workers. Oil and gas workers are especially prone to this type of illness if exposed to unsafe levels of chemicals over a long period of time.
Crude oil, hydrogen sulfide gas, acid, benzene, and various other types of chemicals and substances pose risks of causing serious illnesses in maritime workers. There may even be asbestos present on some of these vessels and rigs. Since these chemicals are primarily toxic if inhaled, workers’ lungs are at a particularly high risk.
This form of cancer primarily affects the lungs but has the potential to metastasize to other body parts. It develops from the rapid, uncontrolled growth of cells in lung tissue. While tobacco smoking is the leading cause of lung cancer, it's notable that 10-20% of cases arise from other factors beyond smoking.
Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer-related death across the planet, claiming about 127,000 lives in the United States alone each year.
Causes of Lung Cancer
There are various symptoms of lung cancer that could be mistaken for a lesser disease upon first inspection. Symptoms may be similar to pneumonia, bronchitis, and even asthma. Other symptoms include weight loss, fever, extreme fatigue, wheezing, and aching bones. Primarily, since this cancer affects the lungs, the most severe symptoms will be breathing-related. Different types of tumors will cause different variations of symptoms. Surprisingly, about 10% of lung cancer patients show no signs of the disease at the time of their diagnosis. These are typically cases of early detection where the cancer was accidentally discovered by a routine X-ray.
Again, smoking is the leading cause of lung cancer. There are, however, many more potential causes. One of those causes is inhaling radon gas. Radon is a type of gas that is both colorless and odorless. When this substance decays, it produces genetic material that may cause mutations that lead to cancer in those who have been exposed to the substance. According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), many homes throughout the U.S. have radon levels above the recommended safe amount. This is the second leading cause of lung cancer.
Asbestos, air pollution, and a variety of other factors are the subsequent most common causes of lung cancer aside from genetic factors. For example, harbor workers are often responsible for the repair of ships. This can include stripping paint, repainting, and sealing. Exposure to materials even as seemingly harmless as paint, over long periods of time and without the proper protective gear, may lead to lung cancer.
Compensation for Chemotherapy, Surgery & More
Treatment will vary depending on what stage the cancer has reached. If lung cancer is not detected until its later stages, extreme measures may be required. As an offshore worker and the primary breadwinner for your family, you may worry that you cannot afford medical treatment to this degree, but this may not be entirely true. If you believe you or a loved one was exposed to a chemical that led to lung cancer, you may be entitled to compensation.
Offshore workers must be provided with a safe working environment as far as it is possible. This means that employers must adhere to all federal and industry regulations regarding toxic exposure and workplace safety as a whole.
As offshore lung cancer lawyers, we are standing by to see how we can help you and your family. During a free consultation, you can learn more about your options and legal rights in the wake of a lung cancer diagnosis related to toxic exposure offshore.
Offshore Asbestos Exposure & Mesothelioma
Mesothelioma is a rare but aggressive cancer primarily affecting the lining of the lungs (pleural mesothelioma) and occasionally the abdomen (peritoneal mesothelioma) or heart (pericardial mesothelioma). Mesothelioma develops in the mesothelium, the thin layer of tissue covering the internal organs. Its primary cause is asbestos exposure.
Asbestos, comprising silicate minerals, has been widely used in various industries due to its durability and resistance to heat and chemicals. In maritime settings, particularly in shipyards, asbestos was commonly utilized in ship construction and repair, in boilers, engines, and insulation materials. Harbor workers, often without adequate protective gear, were at high risk of inhaling asbestos fibers while handling these materials. Prolonged asbestos exposure can lead to mesothelioma, which develops over a long latency period of 20 to 60 years after initial exposure.
Symptoms of mesothelioma can mimic other respiratory conditions, making early detection challenging. Common symptoms include chest pain, fluid in the lungs, difficulty breathing, coughing, and, in severe cases, coughing up blood. The delayed onset of symptoms often leads to diagnoses at advanced stages, complicating treatment.
Although asbestos use significantly decreased in the United States after the 1980s, its long latency period means cases of mesothelioma continue to emerge even today.
Possible Treatments for Malignant Mesothelioma
Treatment options for mesothelioma vary based on the cancer's stage and aggressiveness. These may include surgery, often combined with radiation or chemotherapy. While mesothelioma can be resistant to radiation, it may be effective alongside other treatments. Chemotherapy remains the most proven method for improving patient outcomes. Emerging treatments like immunotherapy and stem cell therapy are also being explored and show promise in the medical field.
Offshore workers who develop mesothelioma due to asbestos exposure in the workplace may be entitled to compensation and should consult with a legal professional experienced in occupational health cases.
If you believe that you were exposed to asbestos or a similar material at the workplace, you may be able to file a claim or lawsuit for compensation. This compensation can go toward covering your medical costs, ongoing care, lost earnings, and more. Speak with an offshore mesothelioma attorney who knows the maritime industry. Arnold & Itkin fights for the rights of offshore and harbor workers nationwide.
PTSD After Severe Offshore Injuries
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a condition that develops after a person experiences a particularly traumatizing event. For offshore workers, this can include a debilitating accident or witnessing a co-worker injured or killed at the workplace. It can also include disasters such as explosions, blowouts, or surviving a severe storm. PTSD may cause multiple symptoms, some of which are extreme enough to dramatically alter the course of someone's life. Some of those who are injured in the offshore workplace may be so debilitated by fear that they can no longer perform their job duties.
PTSD is typically diagnosed through several key behaviors. The first criterion for PTSD is exposure to a traumatic event. Following this, those suffering from PTSD may repeatedly relive the trauma through flashbacks, nightmares, or persistent thoughts about the incident, causing considerable psychological distress.
A common response in PTSD is avoidance syndrome, where individuals emotionally distance themselves to cope with the trauma. For offshore workers, this could manifest as an aversion to settings or objects reminiscent of the trauma, such as the ocean or equipment similar to that involved in the accident. They may also avoid emotional triggers that could lead to recalling the traumatic experience.
Other major symptoms of PTSD that offshore workers might exhibit include hypervigilance, where they are in a constant state of high alert, facing difficulties with sleep, increased irritability, and concentration challenges. Social impairment is also a key sign, where the trauma significantly disrupts their personal relationships and daily activities. If these symptoms continue for more than 30 days, a PTSD diagnosis is likely.
For offshore workers, the intense and often hazardous working environment can heighten the risk of developing PTSD. Recognizing these symptoms is crucial for timely and effective intervention, ensuring their mental well-being is addressed alongside their physical safety.
Recovering Non-Economic Damages for PTSD
Post-traumatic stress disorder is a very real condition resulting from trauma. Because of this, PTSD may be considered for non-economic damages. These deal with intangible harms such as emotional trauma, loss of enjoyment of life, and even pain. Economic damages may also be related to a PTSD diagnosis, including mental health treatment or lost earnings if it affects an offshore worker’s ability to earn a living.
In addition to the physical trauma you may have suffered in an offshore accident, you may still be suffering from emotional damage. If you believe that you have PTSD, speak with a doctor and reach out to an attorney experienced with offshore PTSD cases. Arnold & Itkin is here to listen to offshore workers who were injured and are suffering from psychological ailments as well as physical ones. To learn more, contact our firm for a free consultation.
Involve a Catastrophic Offshore Injury Lawyer
Catastrophic offshore injuries affect workers and their families for the rest of their lives. Rebuilding after that level of trauma can seem impossible, but finding answers and recovering fair compensation can go a long way in helping to put the pieces back together. At Arnold & Itkin, we are committed to helping seriously injured offshore workers, seamen, and harbor workers get the treatment and support they need to face brighter futures.
For a free review of your case, contact our catastrophic offshore injury attorneys.