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Legal Blog

Causes of Container Ship Injuries

In today’s marketplace, shipping products and equipment over water is a critical industry. These items are normally packed and unloaded at shipyards in massive containers. The workers in these environments must use large, heavy, or awkward equipment, putting them at enormous risk for injury.

Maritime employees often suffer devastating accidents that leave them with extensive medical bills. If you’ve suffered harm from one of the many causes of container ship injuries, speak with a Houston maritime lawyer to understand your options for potential financial compensation.

Types of Container Ship Accidents

The Port of Houston is the largest along the Gulf Coast, taking in 73% of the container traffic in the area. With this many ships coming in and out of one Texas port alone, workers are kept constantly busy processing freight and vessels.

Due to the size of both the containers and the machinery used to work on them, container ship and cargo ship injuries are frequently severe. Some of the most common kinds of accidents are caused by issues with:

  • Cranes: Falls from cranes or mishandling of containers while loading or unloading can cause injury to maritime workers. Improper maintenance of cranes and other heavy equipment can lead to fires, electrocution, or explosions.
  • Collisions: Container ships are difficult to steer in crowded waterways and during inclement weather. Unpredictable circumstances can worsen when the person at the helm lacks proper training. Collisions with the dock, equipment, or other ships can lead to significant injury.
  • Electricity and fires: Fires, electrocution, and power failures can all cause severe trauma and death. Vital systems can be affected, leading to collisions or exposure to hazardous substances.
  • Enclosed spaces: Working in enclosed spaces is the second leading cause of death for maritime employees. Since 2019, as many as 39 individuals died this way, usually from exposure to toxic gases.
  • Explosions: Poor maintenance and safety management can lead to offshore explosions. Fires, shrapnel, and damage to spaces containing workers can cause life-threatening injuries in the blink of an eye.
  • Hazardous materials: Working with or near chemicals, gases, liquids, or other materials of a hazardous nature can lead to respiratory issues, burns, and / or slip-and-fall injuries.
  • Sliding cargo or containers: Rough seas, collisions, or improper fastening procedures can cause containers to break free. Crewmembers both on the vessel and working on the docks are at risk of maritime injury. The entire ship can become destabilized, putting even more individuals in harm’s way.
  • Slip-and-falls: The leading causes of injury and death for container ship workers can be due to liquids, equipment instability, or lack of proper safety gear. When you fall on a hard surface, you may suffer head injuries, but falls from a great height could result in blunt force trauma or drowning.

Additional Risks When Working on Container Ships

Many offshore injuries are the result of sudden accidents on a container ship. However, you face additional risks that can lead to illnesses or injuries that may take a long time to appear.

According to the Maritime Safety and Health Studies produced by The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), container ship workers are exposed to:

  • Physical hazards: Noise levels, heavy lifting, slippery surfaces, ultraviolet light exposure, line handling, and narrow passageways
  • Chemical hazards: Exposure to fuel, chemical cargo, cleansers, and diesel fumes
  • Biological hazards: Transmission of diseases and infections
  • Psychosocial risks: Social isolation, circadian rhythm disruption, language barriers, substance abuse, low job control, high demand, and fear of piracy, among others

Container Ship Injuries: Human Error Is Often the Cause

Even if machinery is regularly cleaned and serviced, it can still malfunction. Accidents can be caused by a worker operating the equipment, such as a crane operator who may have overloaded the machine, causing it to tip or break. Containers on the ship may have been incorrectly loaded, leading to unbalanced cargo that could cause the containers to tip or fall.

When someone fails to correctly fasten equipment and containers, many disastrous injuries can result due to slippage or containers dropping. Malfunctioning machinery on the ship itself can lead to severe damage and loss of life.

Ultimately, most container ship accidents can be traced to human error or negligence. Even when all coworkers follow safety protocols and use the correct gear, poorly manufactured or designed equipment can cause maritime accidents. Liability can be assigned to parties who were responsible but not directly involved, such as repair or security personnel, contractors, or site visitors.

Untangling liability in offshore injury cases can be challenging, especially while you are trying to recover from your container ship injuries. Putting the legal burden in the hands of a qualified maritime attorney can allow you to heal in peace while still seeking the compensation you require.

Seeking Compensation After Suffering Container Ship Injuries

After a container ship accident, you may wonder how to proceed. The best choice you can make is to work with a skilled maritime injury lawyer to determine who is at fault for your injuries. It may seem clear who is liable, but with a thorough investigation, your attorney will often discover many parties contributed to the incident.

By researching records of workers, equipment, manufacturers, and other entities, your lawyer can gather the critical evidence needed to prove negligence and support your compensation claim. You may be eligible for financial relief, which includes losses such as:

  • Economic losses:
    • Damage to personal property
    • Emergency transport fees, such as ambulance and helicopter
    • Loss of earning potential if you are permanently disabled
    • Lost income while you cannot work
    • Loss of insurance and retirement benefits
    • Medical bills, including ICU, ER, surgeries, and follow-up visits
    • Physical therapy bills
    • Travel expenses for medical treatment
    • Vocational rehabilitation expenses
  • Non-economic losses:
    • Anxiety and depression
    • Emotional distress
    • Isolation from society due to scarring or disfigurement
    • Loss of limb or amputation
    • Pain and suffering
    • Permanent disability
    • PTSD

Every penny of your losses must be repaid to compensate you for the damage done to your life as a result of the container ship accident.

Wrongful Death Claims Resulting from Container Ship Injuries

When the worst happens, and your loved one has passed away from a container ship accident, you have the option to pursue a wrongful death claim against those responsible. While there are applicable state law statutes and remedies available, if the seaman’s death occurred offshore, the Death on the High Seas Act will potentially apply instead of the Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code.

In pertinent part, “When the death of an individual is caused by wrongful act, neglect, or default occurring on the high seas beyond 3 nautical miles from the shore of the United States, the personal representative of the decedent may bring a civil action in admiralty against the person or vessel responsible. The action shall be for the exclusive benefit of the decedent’s spouse, parent, child, or dependent relative.”

Financial compensation cannot bring them back, but it can make the future more comfortable as you begin life without them. 

Statute of Limitations for Container Ship Injury Lawsuits

Depending on the circumstances of an accident, the statute of limitations may vary. Typically, Texas personal injury lawsuits and wrongful death claims must be filed within two years of the date of the injury. However, under the Jones Act, maritime incidents have a statute of three years, including not just injury claims but also deaths. Whether filed in state or federal court, the statute of limitations for claims under the Death on the High Seas Act is three years.

If you fail to submit a lawsuit before the statute of limitations runs out, you risk losing your chance to seek financial relief through the courts. Working with an experienced attorney can keep your case on track so you do not face these concerns.

Contact A Maritime Lawyer About Your Container Ship Injury

Maritime accident law is complex and significantly different from laws governing work accidents on land. Instead of trying to manage your case on your own, rely on our skilled maritime attorneys to put their experience to work for you. Our legal team has achieved award-winning results for those injured offshore and the surviving family members of those killed during maritime service.

If you’re injured on a container ship due to no fault of your own, The Krist Law Firm, P.C. can guide you through the legal process. Contact us to schedule a free case evaluation today.