Broken or fractured bones are common injuries that result from traumatic accidents in the maritime industry. If you suffered a fractured bone while working in the maritime industry, you can depend on federal maritime laws to ensure you get any compensation you are owed.
Fractures and Breaks
A fracture and a break mean the same thing in medical terms and can be used interchangeably. It occurs when a bone splits or breaks due to a force applied to it. Bones are somewhat flexible and relatively strong but will break when enough or prolonged force is applied to a bone.
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A break may be clean, just a crack, or even result in a shattered bone, producing multiple fragments. The types of bone fractures include:
- Stable fracture. This occurs when the break is clean, and the two parts of the 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 overuse, a stress fracture occurs when the bone develops a crack. This is also known as a hairline fracture, which is difficult to see in an X-ray image.
- Avulsion. This fracture includes a piece of bone pulled away from a ligament or tendon.
Causes of Broken Bones
In many cases, broken bones have obvious causes, usually 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 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 overuse.
Overuse breaks are caused by repetitive movements that typically cause stress fractures. This is most typical in sports but can also be caused by overuse in a work setting.
Symptoms and Complications of a Fracture
When the cause of a fracture is apparent, 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 apparent, though. A minor fracture or a fracture that doesn’t cause the bones to separate may not cause a broken appearance. Symptoms of a minor fracture may include:
- Pain and swelling
- Difficulty moving part of the body
Bone breaks may be painful but minor, requiring time to heal. In some cases, the break may be more severe and potentially cause immediate harm or lasting damage:
- 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, which can be fatal if not treated.
- A broken bone or bones may cause organ damage, especially when bones are broken in the trunk, such as a rib.
- A wound from a fractured 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 cause other complications resulting 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 some smaller breaks or fractures 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. This slows the healing process.
Bones that are difficult to cast may be wrapped. Pins may be used to hold fragments of bones together. Surgery may be needed to repair the damage for severe fractures and breaks.
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
- 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 due to 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, in 2017, two boats collided, 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 severe enough to cause significant 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 the crew, failure to fix or maintain equipment, inadequate training, lack of communication equipment, and even substance use in the crew can all result in accidents that cause fractures.
In many 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, 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 severe fracture could cost you the ability to work and earn an income or months of rehabilitation. Maritime laws may help you get the necessary compensation if you are seriously injured.