Working in the maritime industry is risky business. Hazardous conditions, equipment and machinery, unpredictable weather – these are just a few of the risks. Put all of these risks together and maritime workers are at risk for potentially catastrophic injury, including crush injuries, which can be life-altering.
A recent offshore incident in Norway highlights the risk of maritime crush injuries and just how dangerous working on oil rigs can be. Below, the petrochemical lawyers at Kherkher Garcia, LLP provide information for maritime workers who may at risk for similar injuries.
Offshore Worker Loses Arm to Crush Injuries
In November, 2022, a worker on an offshore oil rig in Norway became crushed by a heavy drag chain. The worker was repairing damage to one of the side plates on the drag chain when the upper section collapsed. A drag chain consists of two cable trays that transport hoses, power cables, and supplies.
The worker was reportedly on his knees between the upper and lower sections of the drag chain when the incident occurred. His arm and head were compressed by the heavy chain causing serious injuries. After being flown to a hospital, the worker’s arm was amputated. After the incident, the Petroleum Safety Authority (PSA) Norway estimated the weight of the collapsed equipment to be around two tons.
The life of the worker and his family, as well as those onboard the oil rig are changed. What makes this incident even more alarming, however, is the fact that it was preventable. According to the PSA, the repair was not planned, registered, or risk-assessed before the worker began making repairs.
Furthermore, the PSA attributes the following underlying causes as contributors to the incident and injuries:
- Lack of control and management of the technical conditions
- Lack of job control
- Deficiencies in governing documents and procedures
- Inadequate handover routines
- Inadequate clarification of roles and responsibilities
Due to these factors, the PSA now requires the company, Odfjell, to explain how they plan to rectify these issues and prevent similar occurrences in the future.
What are Examples of Crush Injuries?
Crush injuries occur when extreme pressure is applied to the body, or when parts of the body are squeezed together. The severity of crush injuries can vary widely, including the following potential injuries:
- Broken Bones
- Nerve Damage
- Smashed Extremities
- Compartment Syndrome
- Secondary Infections
The above incident highlights the severity of injuries that may occur when extremities are smashed or sustain multiple fractures.
Is a Crush Injury Worse Than a Break?
It is difficult to compare the severity of a crush injury versus a bone break because it depends on the specific circumstances of the injury. A crush injury can be more severe than a simple bone break because it can damage soft tissue and internal organs in addition to causing fractures. On the other hand, a bone break can also be very painful and can lead to complications such as infection or improper healing, especially if the bone is not properly immobilized and allowed to heal.
What are The 5 “P’s” of Crush Injuries?
When describing crush injuries and their effect on the body, many people refer to the 5 “P’s” of crush injuries. These are five signs that someone with a crush injury is in need of medical attention. The 5 “P’s” are:
- Pain: Crush injuries are extremely painful and can cause severe discomfort.
- Pallor: This refers to the skin turning pale due to a lack of blood flow. After a crush injury, the area may become pale and cool to the touch.
- Paresthesia: This refers to numbness or tingling in the affected area. Crush injuries often cause nerve damage and can cause paresthesia.
- Paralysis: Severe crush injuries can cause paralysis of the affected area due to nerve damage.
- Pulselessness: This refers to the absence of a pulse in the affected area. In severe cases of crush injuries, the blood vessels may be compressed or damaged, leading to a lack of blood flow a shallow or nonexistent pulse.
What is the Treatment for Crush Injuries?
Crush injuries always require medical attention. For maritime workers, it can take time before medical help arrives or hospital care is available. With this in mind, there are two stages of treating crush injuries – first aid and professional care.
It is important that maritime workers be aware of how to administer first aid after a crush injury. Basic first aid measures include:
- Applying pressure to the wound to slow down bleeding
- Covering the wound to prevent contamination
- Elevating the injured body part, if possible, above the heart
- Immobilizing the patient if the injury is to the head, neck, or spine
- Calling for emergency medical help immediately
Professional Medical Care
Medical professionals treat crush injuries individually, based on the nature and extent of the injuries. Generally speaking, medical professionals will work together to treat the injuries and reduce the risk of additional issues by doing the following:
- Preventing a dangerous drop in blood pressure
- Preventing shock by administering fluids
- Administering medications to prevent kidney failure
- Emergency surgery to stop bleeding or repair damage
- Emergency surgery to relieve compartment syndrome
- Preventing infections with antibiotics
- Additional surgeries as needed to repair damage, restore function, and/or improve appearance
The exact treatment a maritime worker may expect will vary considerably depending on the individual injuries. Often, maritime workers suffer damage extreme enough to require multiple surgeries, rehabilitation, and even amputations.
How Long Does a Crush Injury Take to Heal?
The time it takes for a crush injury to heal can vary depending on several factors, including the severity of the injury, the location of the injury, and the individual’s overall health. In some cases, crush injuries may take several months or even years to fully heal.
Mild to moderate crush injuries, such as a finger or toe getting caught in a door, may take several weeks to heal. More severe crush injuries, such as those that result in significant soft tissue damage or fractures, can take several months or longer to heal.
The healing process can be influenced by factors such as age, nutrition, and underlying medical conditions. It’s important for individuals with crush injuries to follow their healthcare provider’s recommendations for rest, immobilization, pain management, and physical therapy to optimize healing and prevent complications.
What are Possible Complications?
Crush injuries themselves are traumatic and life-altering. But there are also potential complications that can make an already tragic situation much worse. A crush injury can lead to a variety of complications, depending on the severity and location of the injury. Some possible complications include:
- Compartment Syndrome: This is a serious condition in which pressure builds up within the muscles and other tissues, leading to decreased blood flow and potential tissue damage.
- Nerve Damage: Crush injuries can cause nerve damage, which can result in numbness, tingling, weakness, or loss of sensation or movement in the affected area.
- Infection: Open wounds or breaks in the skin caused by a crush injury can increase the risk of infection, especially if the injury is not properly cleaned and treated.
- Blood Clots: Immobility or decreased blood flow caused by a crush injury can increase the risk of blood clots forming in the affected area or elsewhere in the body.
- Chronic Pain: Some individuals may experience ongoing pain and discomfort even after their crush injury has healed, which can impact their quality of life.
- Psychological Distress: The physical and emotional trauma of a crush injury can cause anxiety, depression, and other psychological problems.
It is important for individuals with crush injuries to receive prompt medical attention and follow-up care to minimize the risk of complications and optimize their recovery.
What to Do After a Maritime Crush Injury
If you have suffered a maritime crush injury, you may be entitled to compensation under maritime law. The amount of compensation available will depend on the circumstances surrounding the injury, such as the severity of the injury, the cause of the accident, and the extent of your damages. The best way to find out your best options are to speak with an attorney who has experience with maritime injury claims.
Under maritime law, injured seamen and other maritime workers have several potential avenues for compensation, including:
- Maintenance and Cure: This is a type of compensation that covers the injured worker’s basic living expenses and medical costs while they are recovering from their injury. This is available regardless of fault or negligence.
- Jones Act Claims: If the injury was caused by the negligence of the employer or a fellow crew member, the injured worker may be able to pursue a Jones Act claim for compensation for medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering, and other damages.
- Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act (LHWCA): This is a federal workers’ compensation program that provides benefits to maritime workers who are not covered under the Jones Act, such as longshoremen, harbor workers, and other maritime employees.
Which of these laws apply to your injury case may vary depending on your occupation and where your injury occurred. To determine the best course of action for seeking compensation for your maritime crush injury, consult with an experienced maritime injury lawyer at Kherkher Garcia.
Contact a Skilled Maritime Crush Injury Attorney
At Kherkher Garcia, our attorneys have more than three decades of experience winning cases on behalf of injury victims. We can help you understand your legal rights and options, and guide you through the claims process.
Maritime law can be complex, and the last thing you need after a crush injury is more stress. The attorneys at Kherkher Garcia can relieve that stress and give you peace of mind that your rights are being protected, and that you have every opportunity to pursue justice and compensation.
For a free case evaluation, call us today at 713-333-1030. You can also get started online by completing our online contact form.