Decompression Sickness in Commercial Dive Accidents

Commercial divers face many potential dangers in the course of their work. Divers can be seriously injured or killed when there is an accident. One of the most common and most debilitating of the potential injuries is decompression sickness. Decompression sickness(DCS), is part of general barotraumas and is also commonly known as the bends.

Understanding the Bends

Divers may experience a number of different problems related to gasses that circulate through the body during a dive. Gas bubbles, primarily made of nitrogen, may get into the circulatory system through the lungs. When a diver is under the surface the body’s tissues absorb gasses until a balance in pressure is reached. These bubbles of gas can travel deep into the tissues where they get trapped. During a slow ascent, the body absorbs the gasses at a rate that is tolerable, and they do not cause harm.

When the diver ascends too quickly, however, the gas bubbles expand and burst when the pressure in the tissues is lowered. When the bubbles burst they can cause serious problems depending on where they are located. Since divers are vertical when they ascend, gas bubbles often travel upwards where they can affect the brain and lungs. Deep dives and dives made in cold water increase the risk factors for decompression problems.

Injuries Caused by Barotraumas

Signs of illness may happen during the ascent but most often begin to appear within an hour after reaching the surface. The symptoms may not be immediately apparent but may begin up to several of more hours later. The victim will notice skin redness or rash accompanied by itching. In some cases, small bubbles appear under the skin. Additionally, he may experience shortness of breath, chest pain, joint pain and nervous system problems such as partial paralysis.

Severe and sometimes fatal injuries can occur due to decompression sickness in divers. DCS is one of the most serious problems in diving because a diver may not show symptoms immediately. The diver could suffer from neurological problems, a collapsed lung, and even brain damage or paralysis. As soon as possible, the diver must seek emergency medical treatment. The diver will need to recompress in a hyperbolic chamber.

Negligence in Commercial Diving Accidents

Divers do not experience the bends under normal circumstances. It occurs when a diver ascends very quickly. This can be due to a number of different reasons such as an underwater accident, running out of air, equipment problems, or something that causes the diver to panic. The diver’s employer must use proper care while supervising commercial dives. If the company did not follow OSHA guidelines, did not provide safe equipment, had poorly trained crew members, or failed to provide medical treatment, they could be negligent.

If you experienced decompression sickness as a result of negligence, your employer may be held responsible. The Jones Act is legislation that allows workers to seek damages in the event of a serious commercial dive injury. An experienced attorney will review your case and help to gather critical information to support your claim. You may be entitled to damages such as medical costs, lost wages and money for pain and suffering, among others. Contact an experienced commercial dive attorney to discuss your injury today.

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