Back Injuries and the Jones Act

Working on an offshore rig, platform, tugboat, towboat, barge or ship can put immense strain on your back. By nature, a seaman’s job is very physical and can ultimately lead to severe back injuries. If you have hurt your back on a drilling rig or other vessel, you need to know what symptoms to look out for that could indicate a more serious problem, and it is important to know your legal rights under the Jones Act.

There are many causes of back injuries. According to Mayo Clinic, there are four work-related factors that are associated with the risk of back pain and injury, which include force, repetition, posture and stress. Maritime workers can seriously injure their backs by:

  • Lifting heavy objects
  • Repetitious tasks
  • Moving machinery or equipment
  • Falling on a slippery surface
  • An auto accident while on duty
  • An unsafe transfer in rough seas
  • Assault by a crewmember
  • A direct blow to the spine
  • Stab wounds or gunshot wounds

Back Injury Symptoms that Require Emergency Attention

Some back injuries require emergency medical treatment. It is important to know what signs to watch for following an injury to the back. Below are some symptoms that require immediate medical care:

  • Pain in the upper back with chest pain that is squeezing, crushing or feels like a weight is on the chest
  • Back pain that follows a major accident
  • Weakness in the legs
  • Numbness in the buttocks, genital area or legs
  • Loss of bladder or bowel control

These symptoms indicate that a more serious medical condition exists. Prompt medical attention is vital in treating these types of injuries.

Types of Back Injuries

Back injuries are classified into two different categories – acute and overuse. The pain resulting from an acute back injury is usually sudden and severe. Overuse back injuries have symptoms that gradually surface over time. A >back injury may include:

  • Back sprain or strain caused by injured ligaments or muscles
  • Spine fracture or dislocation
  • Torn or ruptured disk
  • Nerve compression in the lower back, known as cauda equine syndrome

Jones Act Lawsuits

A seaman is protected under the Jones Act and is legally entitled to compensation for injuries that occurred on the job. This compensation is known as maintenance and cure. If the injury was caused by negligence of others or if it was the result of an unseaworthy vessel, additional compensation may be pursued. A significant settlement can be awarded for a successful Jones Act case. Contact a maritime lawyer to discuss your legal options if you have injured your back while working on a vessel.