Maritime work is inherently dangerous, and accidents that lead to head injuries are common. Maritime head injuries range from minor to severe and even fatal. If an accident at work caused you to suffer a head injury, know your rights and the compensation to which you are entitled under federal maritime law.
Types of Head Injuries
Head injuries can be mild, with few symptoms and no long-term damage. They can also be severe and life-changing.
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There are several types of head injuries that you might suffer on the job in the maritime industry:
- Closed head injury – This is an injury that does not cause your skull to break or fracture. It may still cause damage, though, including bruising and swelling of the brain. These can be more difficult to diagnose than an open head injury but have the potential to be just as serious.
- Open head injury – This type of injury occurs when the skull actually cracks or fractures or when an object penetrates the skull and brain. It can lead to pressure on the brain as well as bleeding.
- Concussion – A concussion is the shaking of the brain within the skull. If strong enough, a blow to the head or another part of the body can cause a shaking motion that leads to the brain hitting the inside of the skull. Cumulative damage is possible with multiple concussions.
- Scalp wounds – An injury to your head may lead to a surface wound, bleeding, or infection in the scalp.
Head Injury Complications and Treatment
Head injuries often cause more damage and complications than is initially apparent. Immediate symptoms include:
- Fractures or penetration of the skull
- Bleeding and wounds
- Loss of consciousness
- Vomiting, sleepiness
- Stiff neck or headache
- Loss of movement in a limb
- Abnormal mood or behaviors
Even if there are no symptoms immediately, there may still be damage or later complications such as swelling or bleeding in the brain.
Treatment for a head injury depends on the severity of the accident and resulting damage. Any blow to the head should be treated, regardless of immediate symptoms.
Sometimes emergency treatment is necessary. Depending on the situation, other possible treatments may be needed, including rest and painkillers, blood thinners to prevent blood clotting and seizures, or surgery to relieve pressure on the brain or stop bleeding.
Complications of injuries to the head can be severe. Still, they may not develop right away, so it is essential to get immediate treatment, no matter how serious the injury seems.
Complications of head injuries include:
- Fluid build-up in the brain
- Nerve damage
- Blood vessel damage
- Cognitive and memory deficiencies
Causes of Head Injury in Maritime Work
Any busy, physical work environment can lead to accidents that cause head injuries. Maritime jobs are especially fraught with risk. Negligence can also play a big part in head injuries.
In maritime settings, common causes include slips and falls caused by obstacles or slippery surfaces, moving cargo, and equipment accidents.
Sometimes these accidents are truly accidental, but negligence is often involved. Your employer might be negligent in a head injury case if:
- Workers were not adequately trained
- Workers were not provided with good safety training or safety equipment
- Surfaces were not kept clean and obstacle-free
- Equipment was not properly maintained
What to Do if You Suffer a Head Injury at Work
After receiving some type of head injury, the first and most important thing you can do is get medical treatment. Even if the injury doesn’t seem serious, you need first aid and medical care.
Injuries to the head can be deceptive. You may not feel much pain or disorientation, but complications may appear later if you don’t get medical attention. Make sure that your medical treatment is well documented so that you can use it to make your case if you are denied compensation later.
The next thing to do after being cared for is file an accident report. Your supervisor should complete this report with as much detail about the incident as possible and send it to your employer, the human resources department, and your employer’s insurer.
If you are denied any compensation for the accident, you will need your medical records and this report to prove that you are entitled to recover damages.
Your Rights Under Federal Maritime Law
If you receive a head injury on the job, you have rights under federal maritime law. Whether you work offshore, aboard a vessel as a seaman, or in harbor, laws are designed to protect your rights to compensation.
When your employer or employer’s insurer refuses to pay out, and you have medical expenses and lost wages from being unable to work, you have the right to seek damages. Let an experienced maritime lawyer help you navigate these laws and make a claim to ensure you get as much compensation as you are owed under the law.