Broken or fractured bones are common injuries that result from traumatic accidents. Falling, being struck by an object, assault from another person, vehicle accidents, and other incidents can easily cause bones to break or fracture in any part of the body. Most breaks and fractures will heal over time, but some can be serious and cause lasting pain and disability that may interfere with the ability to work.
Jobs in the maritime industry are inherently dangerous. Accidents are all too common and many are preventable and result in serious damage and even death in workers. All kinds of accidents that occur in shipyards, in ports, on offshore rigs, and on ships are possible and many of these have the potential to result in broken bones, fractures, and lasting damage. If you suffered a broken bone while working in the maritime industry, you can depend on federal maritime laws to ensure you get any compensation you are owed.
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Fractures and Breaks
A fracture and a break is the same thing. The terms broken bone and fractured bone can be used interchangeably. It occurs when a bone splits or breaks due to a force applied to it. Bones are somewhat flexible and are fairly strong, but when enough or prolonged force is applied to a bone, it will break. A break may be clean or just a crack, or it may even result in a shattered bone, producing multiple fragments. The types of fractures include:
- Stable fracture. This occurs when the break is clean and the two parts of bone do not shift relative to each other.
- Displaced fracture. A fracture that causes the bones to move relative to each other is called a displaced fracture.
- Open or compound fracture. An open fracture is when the skin is broken, either by the object that caused the fracture, or by the bone itself. The bone may or may not be visible.
- Transverse fracture. This is a break that is horizontal across the bone.
- Oblique fracture. This is a fracture that is at an angle.
- Comminuted fracture. This type of fracture occurs when the bone shatters into three or more smaller pieces.
- Stress fracture. Typically caused by over use, a stress fracture occurs when the bone develops a crack. This is also known as a hairline fracture, and it is difficult to see in an X-ray image.
- Avulsion. This fracture includes a piece of bone being pulled away from a ligament or tendon.
Causes of Broken Bones
In many cases broken bones have obvious causes: some kind of trauma. When an object strikes the body or the body strikes an object, the force can be enough to cause a fracture. This may be intentional, such as in an assault or abuse, or it may be the result of an accident such as a fall or a vehicle crash. Other common causes of broken bones include osteoporosis, the weakening of bones that results in breaks, and over use. Over use breaks are caused by repetitive movements that typically cause stress fractures. This is most typical in sports but can also be caused by over use in a work setting.
Symptoms and Complications of a Fracture
When the cause of a fracture is obvious, as in the case of trauma, the symptoms are also usually obvious: pain, swelling, and a limb that looks deformed or out of place. Not all broken bones are immediately obvious, though. A minor fracture or a fracture that doesn’t cause the bones to separate may not cause a broken appearance. Symptoms may include pain and swelling, difficulty moving part of the body, bruising, numbness, or tingling.
Bone breaks may be painful but minor, requiring time to heal. In some cases, though, the break may be more serious and has the potential to cause immediate harm or lasting damage. For instance, a broken bone can cause compartment syndrome, causing blood flow to be cut off to part of the body resulting in cell and tissue death. A break may also cause a blood clot to form, which can be fatal if not treated.
A broken bone or broken bones may cause organ damage, especially when bones are broken in the trunk, such as a rib. A wound from a broken bone may get infected. An accident that results in broken bones may also cause a person to go into shock. This can be fatal if not treated right away. Fractures may also not heal properly or may cause other complications that result in chronic pain, limited mobility, and permanent disability.
Diagnosing and Treating Fractures
If a fracture is not obvious it can typically be diagnosed with an imaging scan. An X-ray is usually good enough to detect most breaks, but hairline fractures are hard to see. A CT scan or MRI can be used to determine if there are smaller breaks or fractures that cannot be detected on an X-ray.
The most common treatment for a broken bone is to splint it or use a cast. This helps to keep the bone stable and in the correct position while it heals. Moving the bone can cause the fracture to re-break and slows the healing process. Bones that are difficult to cast may be wrapped. For severe fractures and breaks, surgery may be needed to repair the damage. Pins may be used to hold fragments of bones together.
Fractures in Maritime Jobs
Bone breaks in maritime jobs are most often caused by traumatic accidents. Possible causes of maritime fractures include slip and fall accidents, strikes from cargo, equipment, or machinery like cranes, vehicle accidents in ports, explosions that cause parts to fly away and strike workers, and accidents such as groundings or collisions that cause workers to fall or be struck by objects.
There are many examples of people suffering broken bones as a result of maritime accidents, including recent incidents. In Gran Canaria recently, a car ferry crashed into a wall in the harbor. Five people on board were taken to the hospital for treatment and one suffered broken bones from the collision. In Australia earlier in the year two boats collided with each other causing one death and broken bones in another victim. As with car crashes, these types of accidents can cause serious bodily damage.
What to Do if You Suffer Broken Bones on the Job
Maritime accidents can easily result in broken bones, which may be serious enough to cause major damage, harm to organs, disability, chronic pain, and other issues. In many cases the accidents that lead to these fractures were preventable. Poor judgment by crew, failure to fix or maintain equipment, inadequate training, lack of communication equipment, and even substance use in crew can all result in accidents that cause fractures. In many of these cases, negligence can be determined and the employer may be considered liable.
If you suffer a fracture in a maritime accident, get medical attention right away. Keep your records of treatment and file an accident report. If you feel that negligence was involved, be sure to contact a maritime lawyer and refuse to sign any agreements brought to you by your employer or the insurance company. Your lawyer can help you determine if these agreements are fair or if you are entitled to more compensation. A serious fracture could cost you the ability to work and earn an income or months of rehabilitation. If you are seriously injured, maritime laws may help you get the compensation you need.