One cause of maritime accidents is drug and alcohol use by workers. Employers are responsible for enforcing bans on substance use on the job. If you have been injured at a maritime job because someone was abusing drugs or alcohol, you could have a solid case to get compensation from your employer.
The Effects of Being Under the Influence
Being under the influence of drugs or alcohol results in impairment. Alcohol is a substance that acts as a depressant. It slows down the central nervous system, heart rate, blood pressure, and more. The normal functioning of the brain becomes delayed in someone drinking alcohol.
Get Matched with a Leading Maritime Attorney in Your Area
- Find the leading maritime lawyers in your area
- Discover how to get compensation as fast as possible
- Learn your legal rights as an injured maritime worker
Alcohol also affects how a person processes information, hand-eye coordination, and the ability to make sound decisions.
Drugs can affect a person in several different ways, depending on the specific substance. Both prescription and illegal drugs can affect judgment, memory, motor skills, visual acuity, ability to concentrate, and reaction time. Drugs affect a person’s ability to operate machinery, a vehicle, or a seagoing vessel.
Many jobs in the maritime industry are already dangerous. Maritime jobs require workers to be alert and to pay attention. They also must be able to make quick and sound decisions about what to do next or how to react to something that has changed.
If someone piloting a vessel, moving heavy cargo, or operating a vehicle in a busy terminal is under the influence of drugs or alcohol, it presents a significant danger to everyone in the area.
Employer Responsibility in Drug and Alcohol Use
Individual responsibility is involved when someone in a maritime position drinks or uses drugs on the job. A worker under the influence can face serious legal consequences in the aftermath of an accident that causes someone to get hurt or killed.
Maritime employers also have a responsibility to provide a reasonably safe workplace. This includes taking measures to prevent substance use.
A responsible maritime company will have a strict policy regarding the use of drugs and alcohol. Employers may be expected to test their workers regularly to enforce a ban on substance use. Random testing is a practice that can deter drug or alcohol use in workers on the job.
Employers must also go further and report positive tests of workers to the U.S. Coast Guard and remove anyone from a position if the use of substances puts others at risk.
Maritime Accidents Involving Drugs and Alcohol
There are far too many examples of maritime accidents where the blame lies with drug or alcohol use.
Exxon Valdez Oil Spill
In the infamous case of the Exxon Valdez oil spill in 1989, the captain of the large oil tanker was found to have been drinking alcohol. Ultimately witnesses testified that he had seemed sober.
However, the question has always remained, and some still believe that alcohol played a role in the accident, which was one of the worst environmental disasters of all time.
Cosco Busan Oil Spill
More recently, in 2007, a ship’s pilot was blamed for an oil spill because of being under the influence. The Cosco Busan pilot between San Francisco and Oakland in the San Francisco Bay ran the oil tanker into the Bay Bridge.
This resulted in a significant spill of heavy fuel oil into the bay. The pilot was later found to have been using prescription drugs that impaired his ability to use the electronic navigation system and radar, which directly led to the crash with the bridge.
Staten Island Ferry Crash
One of the most tragic examples of a maritime crash involving drugs or alcohol occurred in 2003 when the Staten Island Ferry did not slow down as it approached the dock in Manhattan. It was the first crash in the ferry’s 98-year history of going back and forth between the two New York City islands.
Over 70 people suffered injuries in the crash. Eleven people died. Later the ferry’s captain operating it was found to have been using Tylenol PM and tramadol, a prescription painkiller.
The combination of substances led to the captain losing consciousness as the ferry approached the dock. He eventually received a sentence of 18 months in prison.
What to Do After an Accident
The consequences of a maritime worker operating a ship or other type of equipment under the influence can be devastating. Too often, they are disastrous and include injuries and fatalities.
No one should be operating any type of vehicle while using drugs or alcohol, let alone the captains of large vessels carrying oil and other products.
If you have been the victim of an accident caused by someone under the influence, you may suffer from serious and long-lasting injuries. If so, you can seek compensation by appealing to maritime law.
The first thing you need to do after such an accident is to get medical care and an accident report. Documentation for both will help you make your case as you seek the money you need to get back on your feet.
Which law applies to you will depend on your position, but a maritime lawyer can help you figure it out. This professional can also help you decide what steps to take next and can be your representation throughout the process.
If someone drinks or uses drugs, law enforcement will probably get involved, which may be part of your case too. Ensure your lawyer is the person you trust to guide you through this challenging process.