Fishing Vessel Sinks off Southern Coast of New Jersey

The Lady Mary, a 71-foot scallop boat based at Cape May in southern New Jersey, sank at approximately 5:00 AM on Tuesday, March 24, 2009. There were seven people aboard the fishing boat about 75 miles off the coast. The accident is expected to rank among the worst commercial fishing disasters in the history of the United States.

By Tuesday night, only one survivor had been found. Two of the three crew members were pulled from the icy water by a Coast Guard helicopter, but both later died.

More than 100 commercial fishermen have died at sea off the New Jersey coast, since reliable records started being kept in1931.

One of the worst accidents happened in 2001 when the Artic Rose sunk in the Bering Sea, which killed 15 people. The Aleutian Enterprise also sank in the same location in 1990, killing nine people.

All seven crew members in the recent accident off the New Jersey coast were wearing cold-water survival suits, according to the Coast Guard. However, a national search and rescue expert said that chances are not good for survival in 40-degree water.

The survivor, Jose Luis Ariese, told authorities that the members had lifesaving suits and abandoned ship, although he didn’t give a specific reason as to why they left the boat. Ariese had spent at least two hours in the icy water and was treated and released from the hospital.

Benzene Exposure Facts

What is benzene?

  • Benzene is a chemical that is a colorless or light yellow liquid at room temperature. It has a sweet odor and is highly flammable.
  • Benzene evaporates into the air very quickly. Its vapor is heavier than air and may sink into low-lying areas.
  • Benzene dissolves only slightly in water and will float on top of water.

Where is benzene found and how is it used?

  • Benzene is formed from both natural processes and human activities.
  • Natural sources of benzene include volcanoes and forest fires. Benzene is also a natural part of crude oil, gasoline, and cigarette smoke.
  • Benzene is widely used in the United States. It ranks in the top 20 chemicals for production volume.
  • Some industries use benzene to make other chemicals that are used to make plastics, resins, nylon and synthetic fibers. Benzene is also used to make some types of lubricants, rubbers, dyes, detergents, drugs, and pesticides.
  • Benzene is also used to make some types of lubricants, rubbers, dyes, detergents, drugs, and pesticides.

How is exposure to benzene possible?

  • Outdoor air contains low levels of benzene from tobacco smoke, gas stations, motor vehicle exhaust, and industrial emissions.
  • Indoor air generally contains levels of benzene higher than those in outdoor air.
  • The benzene in indoor air comes from products that contain benzene such as glues, paints, furniture wax, and detergents.
  • The air around hazardous waste sites or gas stations can contain higher levels of benzene than in other areas.
  • Benzene leaks from underground storage tanks or from hazardous waste sites containing benzene can contaminate well water.
  • People working in chemical plants, refineries and industries that make or use benzene may be exposed to the highest levels.
  • Benzene is often transported in tanks on barges and chemical ships.

How is benzene harmful?

  • Benzene can cause cells not to function correctly. For example, it can cause bone marrow not to produce enough red blood cells, which can lead to anemia. Benzene can also damage the immune system by changing blood levels of antibodies and causing the loss of white blood cells.
  • The seriousness of poisoning caused by benzene depends on the amount, route, and length of time of exposure, as well as the age and preexisting medical condition of the exposed person.

What are the immediate signs and symptoms of benzene exposure?

People who breathe in high levels of benzene may develop the following signs and symptoms within minutes to several hours:

  • Drowsiness
  • Dizziness
  • Rapid or irregular heartbeat
  • Headaches
  • Tremors
  • Confusion
  • Unconsciousness
  • Death (at very high levels)

What are the long-term health effects of benzene exposure?

  • Long-term benzene exposure, such as a year or more, will effect the blood. Benzene causes harmful effects on the bone marrow and can cause a decrease in red blood cells, leading to anemia. It can also cause excessive bleeding and can affect the immune system, increasing the chance for infection.
  • Exposure to low and high levels of benzene containing products can cause cancers including AML leukemia, Multiple Myeloma, myelodysplastic syndromes MDS, Aplastic Anemia (AA), , acute myelogenous leukemia, and Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma (NHL).
  • Some women who breathed high levels of benzene for many months had irregular menstrual periods and a decrease in the size of their ovaries. It is not known whether benzene exposure affects the developing fetus in pregnant women or fertility in men.
  • Animal studies have shown low birth weights, delayed bone formation, and bone marrow damage when pregnant animals breathed benzene.
  • The Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) has determined that benzene causes cancer in humans. Long-term exposure to high levels of benzene in the air can cause leukemia, cancer of the blood-forming organs.

How is benzene poisoning treated?

  • Benzene poisoning is treated with supportive medical care in a hospital setting.
  • No specific antidote exists for benzene poisoning.
  • The most important thing is for victims to seek medical treatment as soon as possible.

Fishermen Have One of the Most Dangerous Occupations

Fishing for a living is the single most dangerous occupations, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries (CFOI). History has shown that fishermen have a 20 to 30 times greater risk of suffering a fatal job injury than all of the other occupations. Every year, there are 50 to 100 fishing fatalities on average.

Why is commercial fishing so dangerous?

Fishermen face certain perils that are unique to the occupation. Fishing vessels usually travel great distances, far out on the sea. These vessels sometimes encounter “rogue waves,” which are over 100 feet high. Rogue waves are often leftover waves from previous storms or a collection of ordinary waves and can hit even in relatively calm seas. A rogue wave is powerful and can easily destroy a commercial fishing vessel.

There are other hazards associated with commercial fishing. Electrocutions, homicides, being caught in winches or other machinery and aircraft crashes are all among the numerous causes of fishing fatalities. A maritime accident can occur when a fishing vessel hits a submerged rock or collides with another vessel in the fog. In fact, vessel casualties are one of the leading causes of fishing deaths.

Falling overboard is also a danger faced by commercial fishermen. A small wave can be strong enough to wash a worker overboard. Fishermen have also been known to go overboard after tripping on a tightened line or falling from a slippery deck.

Commercial divers account for a significant number of fishing fatalities each year, as they encounter challenges while working offshore. Crewmembers who have little training or experience are sometimes required o dive below water to untangle nets or lines, which places them in danger. Other hazards, such as adverse sea and weather conditions, murky water, unexpected shifts in underwater currents, air lines that have become entangled, malfunctioning scuba equipment and decompression problems can all lead to fatal diving injuries.

If you have been injured in a maritime accident, contact an experienced maritime lawyer today to learn more about your legal options.

Causes of Offshore Helicopter Crashes

Helicopters are used to transport offshore oil rig workers to and from the job site and to carry equipment and parts. When a helicopter crashes, the outcome is usually catastrophic. Last year, a helicopter crashed in the Gulf of Mexico as it carried oil platform workers. Five men died in the offshore helicopter accident. The crash prompted a lawsuit against Rotorcraft Leasing Co., LLC and Bell Helicopter Textron, Inc.

There are many known causes of helicopter accidents, including helicopter owner negligence, poor weather conditions, inadequate ground mechanics, excessive loads, poor maintenance and manufacturing defects. Helicopters are complex machines and many things can go wrong.

If negligence was involved in the helicopter accident, the company or person who was negligent may be held accountable. In the case of a defective part or design flaw, the manufacturer of the helicopter may be liable.

Helicopter accident cases are complex. If you or a loved one has been injured in a maritime helicopter accident, you may be able to pursue compensation. You need to contact an experienced maritime attorney who will explain your legal rights. Contact our law firm today to discuss your legal options.

Injured on an Offshore Platform?

The work environment on an offshore platform, also referred to as an oil platform or oil rig, can be dangerous. Surfaces tend to be oily and slippery, machinery can malfunction and fires can erupt, which increases the risk of a serious accident offshore. Cases involving platform injuries can be complex as there are different laws that protect workers.

The law that will apply to an offshore platform injury depends on whether the platform is fixed to the ocean floor or if it can be moved. In many cases, the platform is permanently fixed to the ocean floor, which could fall under the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act. If you have been injured on an offshore oil platform, you need to speak with an experienced maritime attorney who can determine the best course of action for your case.

Under the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act, longshoremen who work upon navigable waters in the United States may be entitled to compensation for their injuries. To qualify under this federal law, you must have a traditional relationship to maritime employment. The Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act provides benefits for injured longshoremen, including medical care, lost wages and rehabilitation services. Temporary disability benefits are available when you are not able to immediately return to work. Temporary benefits equal 66 2/3 percent of your average weekly wages.

Injuries that occur on offshore oil platforms tend to become complicated. For example, there were various opinions regarding the benefits available to a man who was injured while living and working on an oil production platform. He applied for benefits under the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act, only to have his claim contested by the insurance company. The issue was whether or not he qualified under the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act, because the platform where he was injured was not used for maritime purposes. After his case went all the way to a U.S. federal appeals court, he was eventually able to qualify for benefits for maritime employees.

If you have been injured on an oil platform, you should seek legal advice immediately. An experienced maritime lawyer will be able to review your case to help you determine what law applies. In some situations, you may be able to file a claim against a third party under General Maritime Law.

There is Compensation Available for an Oil Rig Injury

If you have sustained an oil rig injury, there is some good news for you. There are laws that exist, which protect injured workers and allow them to obtain compensation for their injuries. Depending on the type of job you have, you may be entitled to a significant amount of money, especially if negligence was involved.

The Jones Act is a federal law that protects the rights of injured seamen. To qualify for compensation under this law, you must be classified as a seaman, which is basically someone who works on a vessel or is assigned to a fleet of vessels for his employer. Movable or jack-up drilling rigs are considered vessels, so if you work on one of these types of rigs, you should be considered a seaman. If you work on a fixed platform, you are not classified as a seaman, but there are other laws that protect you.

Under the Jones Act, you can pursue compensation for lost wages, pain and suffering, medical expenses, mental anguish and disfigurement. This compensation is generally available when the vessel owner, employer, co-workers, operators or officers were negligent in some way, which led to your maritime injuries.

Drowning at Sea Cases

Nothing in life is more devastating than losing a loved one. If you have lost a family member who worked as a seaman, you need to be aware of your legal rights to compensation. When death occurs due to a drowning at sea, you may be able to recover monetary damages. Even though compensation won’t bring back your loved one, it can ease the financial burden that you may be experiencing because of your loss.

Working on the high seas is dangerous and can lead to serious and fatal injuries. Throughout the years, many seamen have been victims of drowning accidents, even though some of the accidents could have been prevented. Drowning is often the result of an unseaworthy vessel. If the vessel did not have a survival suit, life raft or other survival craft, or if any of these life saving devices failed, it could constitute an unseaworthiness claim. Under the Jones Act, ship owners can be held liable for unseaworthy vessels. If the drowning death was caused by an unseaworthy vessel, you may be able to file a claim under the Jones Act, which could entitle you to substantial compensation.

Drowning deaths can also occur when there is no safe access to the vessel. According to maritime law, a vessel operator and ship owner are required to provide the crew members and Captain with a safe access to and from the vessel. Many injuries and deaths happen when seamen are attempting to go from the vessel to the dock or crossing over vessel to vessel. If death occurs from trying to access the vessel, you may be able to obtain monetary damages.

Maritime law can be complex and because each case is unique, there may be different laws that apply. If your loved one was the victim of drowning while working offshore, you need to seek legal advice immediately. There are deadlines as to when you can file a claim against the ship owner or other responsible party and it is important to start your case as soon as possible.

Hearing Loss from a Maritime Accident

There are too many dangers faced by maritime workers to even count. Every day on the job for a seaman is a day at risk. One of the less publicized injuries suffered by seamen is hearing loss. Loud noises, especially in the engine room, can result in serious, or even permanent loss of hearing. If your hearing has been affected from working on a vessel, you may be entitled to compensation.

Various laws exist that protect maritime workers, including the Jones Act. Under the Jones Act, an injured seaman can pursue compensation for injuries and may be able to file an action against the vessel owner if negligence was involved in the injury. Also, a vessel that is considered unseaworthy could entitle the injured maritime worker to compensation.

Hearing loss that results from maritime work can often be avoided. The use of hearing protection or personal protective equipment can help prevent hearing loss or other damage to the hearing, such as buzzing in the ear. Employers are responsible for keeping their employees safe, under the law.

If you have suffered hearing problems or hearing loss from a maritime accident or from your work aboard a vessel, you should contact a maritime attorney at our law firm. There are deadlines as to when you can file your claim, so you shouldn’t wait long to contact a maritime injury lawyer.

Deepwater Oil Fields Pose Unique Dangers to Offshore Workers

As the demand for oil increases, so does the need for offshore oil drilling. In the United States, the western Gulf of Mexico is the only area where oil companies are allowed to drill. Deepwater oil fields in the Gulf of Mexico, which are more than 1,000 feet below water, have plenty of oil. However, the dangers for offshore workers on these drilling rigs are substantial.

Offshore oil drilling presents unique challenges, as oil is extricated from sandstone formations located five miles down in the ocean, which has to be shipped 150 miles to land. Some veteran offshore oil drillers remember the days when drilling two miles down into the ocean was considered a huge feat.

The industry’s first offshore well was drilled in 1947 near the Louisiana coast in water that was not much deeper than a swimming pool. Last year alone, 130 deepwater projects produced oil, according to Minerals Management Service. Chevron believes that by 2015, deepwater wells will account for one-quarter of offshore oil production versus 9 percent today.

Nearly one-third of the world’s deepwater rigs are active in the Gulf of Mexico and many of these rigs focus on the Lower Tertiary, which is an ancient formation that spans from Texas to Louisiana. This area is located far offshore and is believed to hold up to 2.8 billion barrels of hydrocarbons.

Even though the potential for oil is great in deepwater, offshore workers are faced with dangers that could cause serious injuries and death. Drilling rig workers have to battle hurricanes, toxic chemicals and strong currents that tug at the drill pipe. To drill in offshore oil fields, heavy equipment is needed, which also poses safety hazards to offshore workers.

Offshore oil drilling comes at a cost and frequently that cost is severe injuries suffered by workers. For example, offshore workers on oil rigs are often the victims of serious accidents, such as falls, chemical exposure, explosions and fires.

Your Legal Rights

If you have been injured while working on an offshore rig, you may be entitled to compensation for your injuries. Accidents on offshore oil rigs are sometimes caused by negligence and you can hold the vessel owner responsible. Contact the experienced offshore injury attorneys at our law firm for a free and confidential consultation. We will review your case to determine who was at fault for your injuries and the amount of compensation you deserve.

You May Need a Maritime Injury Lawyer After a Maritime Accident

Picture this scenario – a seaman falls on a broken ladder aboard a vessel. His employer’s insurance company offers a settlement for his injuries that appears fair, only to find out later that the amount offered was way below what the seaman’s injuries were worth. Unfortunately, this scenario is not uncommon and happens to many injured maritime workers.

If you have been injured in a maritime accident while working aboard a vessel, such as a tug, tow, barge or rig, you should contact a maritime injury lawyer. An attorney will ensure that your rights are being protected and that you are treated fairly. If you try to go it alone, you face an uphill battle with the insurance company. It is important to remember that the insurer does not have your best interests in mind.

After a maritime accident, you may be contacted by an investigator or insurer who will want to get your recorded statement. Do not give one. They will try to catch you saying something that they can use to lower your settlement offer. Also, don’t sign any papers without consulting with a maritime attorney.

If you have been injured offshore, you need to talk with a maritime injury attorney immediately. There are deadlines as to when you can file your claim and you do not want to miss out on collecting your deserved compensation. Contact our law firm today for a free legal consultation.