Deckhands are employed on nearly every vessel afloat, from fishing and ferry boats to cargo vessels, cruise ships and tugboats. If you’re a deckhand who is injured and unable to work, we urge you to reach out to the deckhand injury attorneys at The Lambert Firm. We are headquartered in New Orleans and represent the rights of injured maritime workers from across the United States.
What Is a Deckhand and What are Deckhand Duties?
Deckhands assist in the operation and maintenance of a vessel, performing a wide variety of on-board duties. Their exact duties and titles vary depending on the type and function of the vessel they work on. They are sometimes called barge hands, dredge deckhands, pilot-boat deckhands, ferryboat deckhands, tugboat deckhands, and others.
Deckhands generally perform the following duties:
- General cleaning and maintenance of deck areas and super-structures, including all of the gear and equipment.
- Loading, unloading and stowing of supplies and equipment.
- Operation of deck equipment.
- Standing watch.
- Helping to dock the ship.
- Securing vehicles for transport aboard ferryboats.
- Handling the lines that moor the vessel to a wharf or another vessel.
- Using lines, wires, ratchets and stationary winches to build or break tow.
- Housekeeping duties like cooking and laundry.
- Assisting in midstream fuel or passenger transfers.
- Customer service.
Over $1 Billion Recovered For Our Injured Clients
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Common Injuries in Deckhand Accident Cases
Most deckhands work long hours. Shifts may be 12 to 14 hours per day, and they may work up to 14 days straight or more before they have a day off. They perform these duties in all types of weather, at any time of the day or night.
Many of these duties place the deckhand in potentially risky situations that could result in serious injury or even death.
Back pain is the most common on-the-job injury as well as the most common cause of disability in the world.
Injuries to the back can make it very difficult for a deckhand to perform his work duties This can affect his ability to earn an income now and in the future.
Deckhand may lose a limb or digit in an accident. The injuries sustained in an accident may require an amputation as part of treatment.
This can be quite dangerous for workers if proper precautions are not taken. Deckhands can suffer sandblasting injuries when equipment isn’t properly maintained. It can also happen when workers aren’t trained correctly.
A recent study showed that more than a 25 percent of maritime workers show signs of depression.
Deckhands can spend months having no contact with friends or family and facing harsh working conditions and long hours. These stresses can take a serious toll on maritime workers’ mental health.
These can be some of the most serious injuries a deckhand can suffer. They can leave the worker with long-term physical and emotional scars.
One of the worst hazards deckhands face is exposure to harmful chemicals. Whether by inhalation or direct contact, chemical exposure can cause serious, long-term health problems. In the worst cases, it can even lead to death.
Water blasting injuries may not appear severe right after a deckhand accident. They might not even be terribly painful. However, these injuries are incredibly serious.
Water blasting injuries are similar to suffering a gunshot except worse because of the addition of contaminated water. If the water jet punctures the skin, it may only look like a small bruise. In truth, contaminated water has been injected into the body and will cause infections.
When a person performs physical labor in hot weather, their body will try to keep a stable internal temperature by circulating blood to the skin and sweating. However, as temperatures get higher, it gets harder for the body to maintain a safe internal temperature.
When you work on in areas with high humidity, such as we experience in the Gulf Coast region, it is also difficult for sweat to evaporate and cool the skin. Many heat-related health issues can happen when a deckhand spends a long time working in high heat and humidity.
Deckhand accidents can results in spinal cord injuries. The worker may suffer paralysis and loss of limb function.
Head injuries can happen when working on a vessel, on a dry dock or anywhere that has confined spaces and moving, heavy objects, . Head injuries are common in the maritime industry because of the nature of the work.
Deckhands are surrounded by cranes, confined spaces and doors with low hanging beams.
Tug boat, barges and other vessels have doorways and manholes that look more suited for kids than adults. Bumps on the head are common.
It can be very hazardous if a deckhand is exposed to welding fumes Especially in confined spaces such as tanks, cabs of mobile equipment and large shovels,.
Exposure to cold weather and immersion in cold water are the biggest causes of hypothermia for deckhands and other maritime workers. The body loses heat 25 times faster in cold water than in cold air. Due to this, immersion in cold water is particularly dangerous. Unconsciousness or even death can occur in as little as 15 minutes.
Traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) can leave deckhands with long-term cognitive and neurological functions.
Most gangway injuries happen when deckhands are going from a ship’s deck to shore. Maintaining security of the stair, ladder or bridge structure that allows access to and from the deck of a vessel is an important part of shipyard safety.
PTSD and other emotional trauma are common for deckhands after a serious work accident. PTSD can be just as hard as a physical injury. Maritime laws allow deckhands to seek damages for the negligent infliction of emotional stress if they were within the “zone of danger” during the accident.
PTSD is mostly known as something war veterans experience. However, anyone who has gone through a traumatic event can develop PTSD. Deckhands who suffer PTSD related to a traumatic work accident may be able to get compensation under the Jones Act. This would be if their condition was the result of someone else’s negligence.
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Legal Rights of an Injured Deckhand Under Maritime Law
General Maritime Law and the Jones Act require maritime employers and vessel owner/operators to provide a safe work environment for deckhands. This includes a seaworthy vessel with appropriate, adequate, and functioning gear, appurtenances and crew.
When vessel owners fail to provide the necessary and/or adequate equipment to perform a job safely, and such failure results in injury, an injured deckhand may pursue a claim for negligence and/or unseaworthiness against the vessel owner. A deckhand may also be able to file a claim against their maritime employer for negligence, if the vessel owner and employer are separate entities.
Compensation for Deckhands Injured at Work
Under maritime law, injured deckhands may seek compensation for maintenance (living expenses) and cure (medical expenses) regardless of who is at fault for the accident. If our deckhand injury attorneys can prove the injury was caused by negligent acts or an unseaworthy vessel, the deckhand may be entitled to additional damages, including but not limited to:
- Lost wages
- Pain and suffering
- Mental anguish
- Medical expenses
- Loss of earning capacity
The deckhand injury attorneys at The Lambert Firm have an impressive track record when it comes to securing maximum compensation for our clients who have been injured while on the job, including a recent settlement of $850,000.00 for a deckhand on a push boat who injured his back after being instructed to move a transfer hose by hand from one fuel barge to another.
Maritime Laws that Protect Deckhands
The difference between maritime laws and remedies is important and can be complex. The Lambert Firm has been protecting the rights of injured deckhands and other maritime workers since the 1970s and can help you determine which laws apply to your case.
Since the 1920s, the Jones Act has been one of the most important laws protecting maritime workers’ rights, including deckhands. It expands the rights of injured seamen under General Maritime Law and adds new rights and causes of action for injured workers to seek compensation for damages related to on-the-job injuries.
While most deckhands are are covered by the Jones Act, there are other federal maritime laws that offer protection to workers who don’t qualify as seamen. The Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act, or LHWCA, is one of these. It covers those injured while working in support of the maritime industry on any navigable waterway.
Under general maritime law, deckhands and other crewmembers of a vessel have a legal right to seek compensation when they have been injured because of the unseaworthiness of a vessel. They also have the right to maintenance and cure payments.
A deckhand who has been injured while working on a vessel has the right to maintenance and cure benefits. This is until reaching maximum medical improvement or returning to work.
Frequently Asked Questions
The Jones Act only covers injured workers who qualify for the legal definition of a seaman. To determine whether a deckhand qualifies as a seaman, our attorneys consider:
- Whether the deckhand works on a vessel that is in navigation.
- Whether the workers’ duties contribute to the function or mission of the vessel.
- Whether the deckhand has a substantial connection to a single vessel (spending at least 30 percent of employment on it).
There are many different types of deckhand accidents. Some of the most common causes of injuries are:
- Falling Overboard
- Inadequate Railings
- Defective or poorly maintained tools
- Fires and explosions
- Chemical exposure
- Bad weather
- Falling objects
- Failure to follow maritime rules and regulations
- Undertrained, understaffed and/or overworked crews
Each case is different, so it’s difficult to give an estimate for how long a case might take. In most cases, it will take at least a few months but can take a year or longer depending on the complexity of the case.
We know this is an important question, but every deckhand injury case is different. The unique facts of your case and the legal issues involved will be the determining factors in the potential value of your accident case.
While we can’t give an accurate general answer, it may be helpful to read some of our case results. You can also schedule a free consultation with one of our experienced maritime lawyers to discuss the facts of your case.
Maritime workers sometimes choose not to pursue legal action against the responsible party because of a fear of reprisal by their employers. They are concerned about finding themselves on a “blacklist” and unable to get employment in the maritime industry.
We can’t say for certain whether any “list” is floating around among maritime employers, but even if there is, we feel strongly that this should NOT be a deciding factor in pursuing a claim. There are laws that protect deckhands and other maritime workers from being blacklisted or otherwise retaliated against.
Most workers who are injured on the job are protected by state workers compensation laws. However, deckhands and other maritime workers who suffer a work injury are typically protected by federal laws, including the Jones Act, general maritime law and the LHWCA.
The courts have little sympathy for an employer who is “arbitrary and capricious” or “willful or callous” in delaying, denying or terminating maintenance and cure benefits and allows the seaman to take legal action, including punitive damages and attorney’s fees.