Brain injuries can result from accidents in the maritime industry, ranging from mild to severe and debilitating. If you suffered a brain injury or brain damage while working in a maritime job, you might now face permanent disability and an inability to work. An experienced maritime lawyer can help you determine your rights and how you can access compensation.
What Is a Brain Injury?
A brain injury is anything that causes brain damage. A person may suffer from several types of brain injuries, but all are categorized as either traumatic or acquired.
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Sometimes traumatic injuries may be considered acquired because this term also refers to any brain injury that occurs after birth and not as a result of genetics or birth trauma. However, in adults generally:
- A traumatic brain injury refers to damage caused by an external force, such as something striking the head
- An acquired brain injury refers to damage caused by a lack of oxygen to the brain.
Types of Brain Injury
All brain injuries in adults are categorized as traumatic or acquired. A traumatic brain injury is any damage to the brain or disruption in the brain’s function caused by any external force or object striking the head.
Traumatic brain injuries can further be broken down into several subtypes:
- Contusion. A contusion is essentially a bruise when a strike to the head bruises the brain and causes bleeding. Surgery may be required.
- Concussion. A concussion results from the shaking of the brain inside the skull and can be caused by direct strikes, whiplash, or shaking. This is the most common type of traumatic brain injury, and it may be mild or more severe, causing loss of consciousness, a dazed feeling, confusion, or other symptoms.
- Diffuse axonal. This is caused by shaking or a strong rotation of the neck and head. Violent accidents can cause this, resulting in the tearing of nerves and brain tissue.
- Coup-contrecoup. This is a pair of contusions, one at the site of impact on the head and one on the opposite side of the brain, caused by the brain striking the other side of the skull.
- Penetration. A penetration injury occurs when some object, such as a bullet or knife, penetrates the skull and brain. This can cause brain injuries ranging from mild to severe or death.
Acquired brain injuries can be classified as two types:
- An anoxic brain injury results from a complete lack of oxygen to the brain.
- A hypoxic brain injury results from reduced oxygen supply to the brain.
The extent of damage caused by these injuries depends on the duration of oxygen loss or reduction.
Symptoms of Brain Injuries and Brain Damage
The symptoms of a brain injury depend on the type of injury, the severity of the injury, and the part of the brain that has been damaged. There may be no immediate or apparent symptoms for mild injuries, but there may still be damage.
This is why it is essential to seek treatment immediately after a loss of oxygen or any strike to the head or violent accident that causes whiplash or twisting of the neck.
Some of the symptoms that may result from a mild brain injury include:
- Loss of consciousness
- Confusion, disorientation, or a dazed feeling
- A headache
- Drowsiness and fatigue
- Loss of balance, dizziness
- Nausea or vomiting
- Difficulty sleeping or sleeping more than usual
- Loss of memory
- Mood swings
- Depression or anxiety
- Blurred vision
- Ringing in the ears
- Changes in smell
- A bad taste in the mouth
- Light and sound sensitivity
A moderate to severe brain injury may include any of the above symptoms, but also:
- A bad headache or one that gets worse
- Dilated pupils
- Clear fluid running from the ears or nose
- Numbness or weakness in toes and fingers
- Loss of coordination
- Severe confusion
- Agitation, aggression, and other unusual behaviors
- Slurred speech
Treating Brain Damage and Injury
How a brain injury is treated depends on many factors, including the severity, the symptoms, and the patient’s overall health.
There is usually no treatment other than rest and time for a mild brain injury, such as a mild concussion.
For something more severe, emergency treatment is generally needed. This may include supplemental oxygen, diuretics to reduce fluid in the brain, anti-seizure medications, and even drugs to induce a coma.
Surgery may be required to relieve pressure on the brain or to repair fractures or wounds from penetration injuries.
The repercussions of a moderate to severe brain injury can be serious and long-lasting. A person may need ongoing rehabilitation if the injury leads to nerve damage, paralysis, other physical complications, cognitive and intellectual problems, communication problems, or emotional and behavioral issues.
Depending on the severity of the injury, brain damage can cause issues like these that never completely go away.
What Causes Brain Injury in Maritime Settings?
Brain injuries can occur in maritime jobs in a variety of ways. Acquired brain injuries, for instance, may occur when a worker falls overboard, and oxygen is cut off to the brain while they are in the water.
The person may be rescued and resuscitated, but depending on how long the brain was deprived of oxygen, the damage may be non-existent, mild, or severe.
Also common in maritime jobs are strikes to the head. A moving ship can cause objects to fall or workers to fall and hit their heads. Gear, cargo, or equipment parts may all fall or shift on a ship and hit a worker in the head. In a port, there are similar risks.
Rough weather on a ship can increase the risk of items shifting and striking workers. A deck or other surface that is not slip-proof or that is cluttered with gear can also pose trip hazards that can lead to falls and head strikes.
Brain Damage and Maritime Rights
If you suffer a brain injury while on the job on a ship, offshore, or in a port, there are laws to ensure you will be compensated. The Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act and the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act provide workers compensation for injuries sustained while on the job.
The Jones Act allows seamen to seek compensation from employers and their insurance companies if liability for the accident can be shown.
There are many ways in which an employer may be found to be negligent when a seaman is the victim of an accident that causes a brain injury.
For instance, if workers were not appropriately trained in securing cargo and it shifts and strikes someone in the head, that liability lies with the employer, who is responsible for training and safety. Other areas of liability may include:
- Faulty equipment
- Machinery that has not been maintained
- Lack of safety gear
- Lack of adequate training
- Long work shifts leading to fatigue and mistakes that cause accidents
If you suffer a brain injury on the job, get medical help immediately and file an incident report with as much detail and witness observation as possible.
Then contact a maritime lawyer to help you determine if you have a case against your employer or are eligible for workers’ compensation under one of the maritime laws.