Oil Rig Accidents – Spinal Injuries
The potential for injury aboard an oil rig is quite significant. Surfaces can quickly become wet and slippery. In a location where there are no railings to hold on to, a crew member can be involved in a slip and fall. Poor lighting, malfunctioning equipment, and lack of control over machinery can trigger incidents that result in broken bones and spinal injuries. Falling down a flight of stairs can cause an injury that takes months to recover from. If the spine is injured, the victim may never work again and/or face a lifetime of paralysis and other complications.
Drilling accidents, storms, seismic activity, and transportation and storage accidents contribute to the risk of injuries. Workers injured from any accident may suffer a range of injuries. Spinal injuries range from fractures to a more severe spinal cord injury. Damage to the spinal cord or nerves associated with it can cause permanent loss of function, strength, or feeling below where the injury takes place.
The issue can be complete, or all motor or sensory function is lost in the area, or incomplete, in which some function is left. Besides the loss of movement or sensation, other symptoms include exaggerated reflexes or spasms, loss of bowel or bladder control, and pain or stinging feelings caused by nerve damage. Respiratory problems may result from spinal injuries as well. If an accident occurs, it can be considered an emergency situation if any of these symptoms are present, or the neck or back seems to be twisted and/or positioned in an odd manner.
Getting Covered for a Spinal Injury
Workers injured on an offshore rig are covered under the general maritime law. Other laws that provide for compensation include:
The Jones Act: The Merchant Marine Act of 1920 allows seamen injured while working on jack-up rigs and mobile oil extraction vessels to file claims against liable parties. These include vessel owners, captains, and other crew members whose actions or negligence caused unsafe conditions that led to an accident. A special doctrine of the Jones Act is the right to maintenance and cure. It bears similarities to workers’ compensation in that a work-related injury or sickness yields eligibility for coverage including:
- A daily allowance to cover living expenses.
- Payment for expenses related to medical care and treatment.
- Compensation until the employee fully recovers or will recover no more.
- Recoveries for negligence and unseaworthiness.
The act compensates for loss of earnings, and present and anticipated future medical expenses. Pain and suffering are included as well, both for physical pain and mental effects of an accident, such as post-traumatic stress disorder.
Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act (LHWCA): This federal law covers the payment for medical care, compensation, and vocational rehabilitation for those injured on a maritime job in U.S. navigable waters. Extensions of the act include the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act, which provides coverage for employees who work on offshore oil drilling rigs and other vessels involved in natural resource exploration and development on the outer continental shelf.