In February of 2010, our client was a seaman working on board a vessel in the Gulf of Mexico. While on duty, he was assigned to repair broken chains on two bumper tires. The bumper tires measured about five and a half feet tall and weighed, at minimum, 300 to 600 pounds each. They were connected to the side of the vessel with chains that threaded through the tires and connected to pad eyes. Each tire was also additionally secured to the vessel with a separate chain. The chains on two tires had been broken when, previously, the Captain had backed into a platform before our client came on duty. The broken chains caused those tires to hang closer to the water than usual.
The Captain did not repair the broken chains while the vessel was still at the dock, and our client was asked to bring them up to deck while the vessel was in the Gulf. He and a coworker were using ropes to lift the tires. As our client struggled to raise the tires onto the deck, he injured his neck due to the strain. Our client was in pain from the lifting, pulling, and wrestling required to do the job, and the pain became increasingly worse in the two days that followed. Our client then reported his situation to the Captain, filed an incident report, and reported that the only thing that could have caused his injuries was working on the tires.
Work Accident at Sea Causes Disabling Injuries
After the incident, our client continued to struggle with his neck injuries. He underwent a discectomy surgery with the placement of plating and screws. Two and half years after his surgery, the company doctor stated that our client had reached maximum medical improvement (MMI), with a remaining 20 percent whole body impairment. Our client was restricted from heavy lifting, overhead activity, stooping or working from the floor, and activities that required repetitive head motion or holding the head in a fixed position. These restrictions would prevent him from returning to his offshore job.
Our client tried other lines of work after his neck surgery, but he was too limited by his injuries to perform the required job duties. He was in constant pain, taking prescription pain medication, and having trouble functioning at work and in his usual daily life. Because of these issues, our client was not able to return to work or find suitable employment in another line of work.
Seaman Contacts Neblett, Beard & Arsenault for Help With Injury Case
The man contacted us to help him with his case. We began gathering evidence and documentation and guiding our client through the legal process. Unfortunately, it wasn’t an easy case. Because the client was considered a “seaman,” his case fell under the Jones Act and complicated maritime laws. During the case, the defense disputed that there was an accident and that our client was injured aboard the vessel. The vessel owner went bankrupt while the case was in process, creating major delays. Our client’s case was further complicated when he sustained an unrelated injury to his lower back.
Before his case was resolved, the client’s “maintenance ” payments had been stopped. He was unable to work and had trouble paying his rent, utilities, and other household bills. He was very worried about financial issues and disheartened by the continued issues delaying his case. We worked closely with the client and spoke with him often, providing reassurance and answers through the many delays and challenges.
With our help, the client’s case went to mediation. Ultimately, his case settled in mediation for $190,000, plus his “maintenance” expenses were paid.
Being hurt at work can put seamen in a difficult situation, and the Jones Act and other maritime injury laws are very unlike workers’ compensation laws on land.
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