Offshore Amputation Injury Lawyers
Crush Injuries & Loss of Limb
Commercial fishermen, offshore workers, and all seamen are at risk of experiencing one of the most devastating injuries: amputation. A hand, finger, foot, or another part of the body may be completely severed in a maritime accident or may be damaged to such an extent that it must be surgically amputated, causing significant physical and emotional trauma—not to mention impacting the worker’s ability to perform the same job or even routine activities like tying their shoes.
Some amputation injuries are fatal, due to blood loss or infection.
The risk of amputation is high in the maritime industry because of the nature of the work performed and the equipment that must be used to complete it. Winches, cranes, mooring lines, and any machines with moving parts present risks if they are improperly operated or maintained. Negligence and unseaworthiness can lead to an amputation accident.
At Arnold & Itkin, we represent injured maritime workers in all types of cases related to offshore amputation and crush injuries. We have successfully represented seamen and families after the worst maritime disasters, getting the answers and life-changing compensation they deserve. In all, we have won more than $20 billion for our clients.
Maritime Crush Injuries: Causes, Costs & More
The offshore drilling industry, responsible for about a quarter of the U.S. oil and gas supply, is one of the most perilous sectors for workers. Crews on the approximately 3,200 active oil rigs in the Gulf of Mexico face daily hazards from heavy machinery like forklifts, hoists, winches, flywheels, pulleys, and spindles. The risk of being caught in or crushed by this equipment or struck by cables and mooring lines is high, often leading to severe trauma, including crush injuries.
Crush injuries occur when a part of the body is squeezed between two objects or struck by a heavy item. This pressure or force can cause more than just cuts; it can crush the body completely. Bruises and lacerations may be immediately apparent, but the damage may also be internal, causing nerve damage and bleeding inside the body. When the force is strong enough, bones may be broken or shattered, making a full recovery difficult or even impossible.
The following are symptoms of a crush injury:
- Direct injury to the skin
- Swelling around the impacted area
- Spinal injuries resulting in paralysis
- Numbness of the limbs
- Pulsating or tingling sensation
- Dark red or brown urine
In extreme cases, crush injuries may result in traumatic amputation at the scene or require surgical amputation.
Muscle Cell Death Caused by Crushing
One of the worst dangers associated with crush injuries is known as muscle cell death. Muscle cell death can be linked to a series of events caused by crush injuries, including the immediate cell disruption, the pressure on the cells, and the vascular compromise. These effects coordinate and cause the muscles to release toxins into the body system, resulting in damage not only to the direct area of the injury, but also to organs located far away in the body.
The Cost of a Crush Injury
Maritime crush injuries can lead to significant financial burdens for offshore workers, on top of the physical and emotional toll. Emergency medical treatments and potential hospital stays are just the start, with medical bills piling up rapidly. In many cases, the injuries are severe enough to cause permanent disabilities, requiring victims to adapt their homes and vehicles to accommodate their new limitations.
For workers in labor-intensive maritime roles, a crush injury isn't just painful—it can be career-altering. The physical demands of their jobs can exacerbate the impact of their injuries. Many find themselves unable to return to work for extended periods, while others face ongoing challenges even after they come back. In some unfortunate instances, the severity of the injury might force them to leave their chosen profession entirely, necessitating a complete career change or, in worst-case scenarios, leading to permanent unemployment.
In light of these challenges, seeking appropriate compensation becomes crucial.
Cases of negligence, whether due to an employer's failure to maintain safe working conditions or other oversights, leave many workers grappling with the consequences of someone else’s mistakes. Under the Jones Act, affected offshore workers have the right to claim damages for their medical expenses, lost income, and other costs incurred due to the injury. This compensation is essential in helping them manage the financial impact of their injuries, from immediate medical costs to long-term expenses related to adapting to a disability or retraining for a new career.
Safety Measures to Prevent Offshore Amputation
Proper guarding is one of the most important aspects of equipment maintenance on an offshore rig or any maritime vessel. Guards and other physical devices can be placed on equipment to prevent a worker from coming into contact with it in the first place. However, this type of guarding is not always possible on a vessel.
When physical guards cannot be placed on equipment or machinery, employers are responsible for implementing training and safety measures that will prevent contact. An example may be implementing lockout-tagout procedures when equipment needs to be cleaned or maintained. Another example may be a kill switch that automatically engages if anything becomes entangled in a machine or line.
Maritime employers have key obligations when it comes to preventing amputation:
- They must properly maintain any equipment and machinery that presents amputation risks.
- They must ensure all applicable crew members are trained on how to operate or work near this equipment.
- They must provide all crew with appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) based on their job duties.
How Negligence Leads to Offshore Amputation
Safety regulations are set in place to prevent amputation and crush injuries from occurring. OSHA and the American Petroleum Institute have released specific guidelines, which when followed, minimize the risks of amputation that offshore workers might otherwise face.
Any of the following can cause an offshore worker to sustain amputation or crush injuries:
- Requiring crews to work excessive hours
- Failing to provide repairs or maintenance
- Failing to properly train or supervise crew
- Defective lines, cables, or equipment
- Unguarded equipment
- Negligent mooring
- Collisions or allisions
- Lack of safety equipment and procedures
- Unsafe gangways, rigging, steps, or ladders
- Failure to comply with federal safety regulations
If any of these factors contributed to an oil rig accident and the injuries you sustained, you may have grounds for a lawsuit. Few things are more painful or traumatic then losing a hand, foot, or finger. Such an accident not only affects you in the short term, but for the rest of your life. When you experience such a life-changing injury, you might never be able to return to work in the offshore industry.
Heavy machinery, winches, and other equipment will present amputation risks, but that does not excuse any accidents that occur. Like other offshore injuries, amputation is preventable. At Arnold & Itkin, we are committed to defending the interests of maritime workers who have been injured because the companies they work for decided profits were more important than safety. Cut corners, improperly maintained equipment, and lax safety training can cause life-changing injuries—we are here to hold at-fault parties accountable.
Recovering After Maritime Amputation
The true impact of an amputation or crush injury should not be underestimated. Depending on the part of the body that was affected, the cost of medical treatment could range from tens of thousands to hundreds of thousands of dollars. When you consider the impact that amputation may have on one’s ability to work, along with the medical care required, the lifetime cost of amputation could easily add up to millions of dollars.
Amputation-related medical costs may include:
- Hospitalization and rehospitalization
- Inpatient rehabilitation
- Physical and occupational therapy
- Prosthetic devices
- Assistive devices, medication, and medical supplies
- Travel costs to and from medical appointments
The psychological impact of amputation must also be considered. This type of trauma can lead to depression, anxiety, insomnia, PTSD, and other conditions. Mental healthcare and psychological impacts must be given due consideration.
Seamen and offshore workers who have experienced amputation may be entitled to compensation under the Jones Act (if negligence was involved), the doctrine of unseaworthiness (if an unseaworthy vessel was to blame), or the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act (for longshoremen and harbor workers). The ideal approach and type of claim will depend on the nature of the accident, where it occurred, the type of worker, and what caused the incident.
Ask an Offshore Amputation Injury Lawyer
At Arnold & Itkin, we recognize that—while immediate medical attention is, of course, necessary for the victims of crush injuries—it is also important to take a look at the possible future ramifications. Our offshore amputation injury lawyers understand the need for compensation to cover such future rehabilitation. Our goal is to maximize your recovery so that you obtain the full amount you are entitled to.
Our team is prepared to do everything that we can to address your needs, including pain management, care of scar tissue, and even treatment for emotional damages such as anxiety and depression. You can rest assured knowing that we are on your side, and we’re fully prepared to handle your care effectively.
If you have suffered from amputation or another life-changing injury while working offshore, it is in your best interests to get the involvement of an experienced attorney you can trust to help you during this trying time. At Arnold & Itkin, we are here to help you maximize your recovery and fight for the deserved compensation. We have won more than $20 billion in verdicts and settlements and are prepared to put this level of experience to work for you.