Brain Injury from Working on a Vessel

Work as a seaman, longshoreman or harbor worker can be dangerous. Frequently, duties must be performed even though the floors are slippery, the vessel is worn down or the equipment is not functioning properly. All of these factors can cause serious injuries for the maritime worker. When an employee falls or is struck in the head, it can result in a traumatic brain injury. Maritime workers may also suffer from heat strokes, heart attacks, frost bit and hypothermia when forced to work in extreme cold, hot or humid conditions on boat without the proper ventilation, equipment, gear and relief.

A traumatic brain injury, also called a head injury or TBI, is caused by a sudden trauma which ultimately results in damage to the brain. These injuries can occur when the head is hit violently by an object or when something pierces the skull and enters the brain tissue. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one of the main causes of traumatic brain injury is falls, which accounts for 28 percent of all cases. It is estimated that 1.4 million people are victims of traumatic brain injuries each year in the United States and among those individuals, 50,000 will die and 235,000 will be hospitalized. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also estimates that at least 5.3 million Americans currently have a long-term or lifelong need for help to perform activities of daily living as a result of a traumatic brain injury.

A head injury can cause a wide range of problems affecting thinking, language, learning, emotions, behavior and sensation. It can also result in epilepsy and increase the risk of Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease and other brain disorders. Symptoms of a brain injury can be mild, moderate or severe depending on the damage to the brain. Someone who has a mild injury may have a headache, blurred vision, ringing in the ears and may or may not lose consciousness. A person with a moderate to severe brain injury may show the same signs, but may also experience the following:

  • Headache that gets worse or won’t go away
  • Vomiting or nausea
  • Seizures
  • An inability to awaken from sleep
  • Slurred speech
  • Loss of coordination
  • Increased confusion

Little can be done to reverse the initial brain damage caused by trauma, but medical treatment should still be sought immediately after the injury occurrs. Doctors will work on stabilizing the patient to prevent further injuries. The medical personnel will focus on ensuring that proper oxygen is being supplied to the brain and the rest of the body, adequate blood flow is being maintained and blood pressure is controlled. Imaging tests will most likely be conducted to determine the extent of brain damage. Surgery is sometimes required for workers with traumatic brain injuries. Depending on the injury, the patient may have long-term disabilities.

If you or a loved one has been the victim of a traumatic brain injury caused by working on a barge, tug, ship or other vessel, you may be entitled to compensation. Contact a maritime attorney for advice regarding your case.