Maritime Injuries

The maritime injury is one of the most dangerous. Maritime injuries on ships, in shipyards, and on offshore platforms range from minor cuts and bruises to head injuries, broken bones, and fatalities. Know what to do if you have been injured in a maritime incident.

Who is Affected by Maritime Injuries?

Victims of maritime injuries fall into two broad categories: maritime workers and non-workers. Workers in maritime industries are regularly at risk of accidents and injuries because of the nature of the work. Whether they work in a bustling port or shipyard moving heavy equipment and cargo or on a ship at sea, many dangers lead to accidents and injuries.

People who do not work in the maritime industry may still be injured in ports or on boats. Cruise ship or ferry accidents, for instance, can cause serious injuries to passengers. Major accidents, like collisions, fires, or sinking ships, may lead to casualties as well.

The process for taking legal action is a little different for these two groups. Workers have a number of federal maritime laws that guarantee their rights to a safe workplace and to sue employers.[1] Passengers and consumers rely on tort laws and maritime laws to sue negligent parties in accidents and injuries.

Maritime Injury Facts and Statistics

Facts and Statistics show how dangerous the maritime industry is:[2][3][4]

  • Between 2011 and 2017, there were 87 fatalities in maritime workers, a rate six times higher than the average of all American workers.
  • The 87 fatalities were related to cardiovascular disease, drownings, suicides, work accidents, and workplace violence.
  • In the same time period, from 2011 to 2017, maritime workers suffered more than 11,000 non-fatal injuries.
  • The injuries include a high proportion of back injuries, upper or lower extremity injuries, and permanent disabilities.
  • Port and terminal workers had a fatality rate of 16 per 100,000 workers between 2011 and 2017, five times the average for American workers.
  • In 2017, there were 27 passenger ship disasters with over 1,000 victims.

Types of Maritime Accidents and Injuries

Accidents in the maritime industry take many forms. Some of the more common maritime accidents include:

  • Slips, trips, and falls
  • Falls overboard
  • Shifting or falling cargo
  • Fires and electrical accidents
  • Ships running aground or colliding with something
  • Fights and assaults
  • Chemical spills and exposure

These types of accidents can result in minor injuries, severe injuries, and fatalities in workers or passengers on ships and boats. Common injuries seen in maritime accidents include:

  • Head, neck, and brain injuries
  • Crushed or lost limbs
  • Shoulder injuries
  • Repetitive use injuries
  • Burns
  • Cuts and scrapes
  • Broken bones
  • Fatalities

Causes of Maritime Injuries

Accidents cause injuries on ships and in other maritime settings, but underlying causes trigger those accidents. Many of these are preventable:

  • Faulty equipment or poorly maintained equipment and machinery
  • Misuse of equipment and tools
  • Inadequate protection from falls, including railings, non-slip surfaces, and regular cleanup of deck areas
  • Poor training or inadequate worker supervision
  • Inadequate safety training, safety guidelines, of safety equipment
  • Improperly loaded cargo or shifting cargo during transit
  • Long shifts with too few breaks and not enough sleep
  • Inadequate protection from weather conditions
  • Operator error, such as poor judgment or intoxication on the job
  • Failing to use weather, navigation, and safety technology

Who is Negligent in Maritime Injuries?

In some cases, there may be no negligence. There are pure accidents and also victims who cause their own accidents. In most maritime accidents, however, someone can be found to carry at least part of the blame:

  • The ship’s crew or captain for not providing a safe environment, safety equipment, or proper training and warnings
  • The owner of the ship for not keeping it maintained
  • The company that chartered or operated the ship if different from the owner
  • Workers, for work errors, such as loading cargo incorrectly or leaving trip hazards
  • A ship passenger for behaving unreasonably or carelessly, for instance, by getting drunk and attacking someone else

What to Do After a Maritime Workplace Injury

Maritime workers have rights guaranteed under a group of federal laws. The process of getting compensation after an injury differs from the workers’ compensation claims employees in other industries use. A maritime lawyer can help you understand your rights and what you need to do to recover damages.

Your well-being should be the priority after an incident, so get medical attention right away. Keep your medical records and bills, and if possible, document your injuries with photographs. Once you are stable, file a report with your supervisor or employer immediately. This will be essential for taking any legal action later.

Also, try to get information from any co-workers involved in or who witnessed the accident. Their immediate recollections are valuable for your case. Finally, contact an experienced maritime lawyer for advice on what to do next.

What to Do After a Non-Working Maritime Injury

If you suffered injuries as a passenger in a terminal or port or on a boat, again, your priority should be to get medical attention. Get the medical care you need and keep records of injuries, treatments, and costs. Talk to witnesses to get details on what happened and their contact information. Record information about the boat and the crew as well.

Find a lawyer or law firm specializing in personal injury cases. They should also have experience helping victims of maritime accidents. The laws that govern your case are different from those involved in a worker’s injury. The laws that apply and the jurisdiction also depend on whether the accident occurred on navigable waters.

Make sure you find a lawyer with the right expertise because these cases can get complicated. A general lawyer does not have the detailed knowledge needed to give you the best chance of recovering damages. Maritime injuries can be serious, and someone is usually responsible. You have a right to take legal action and seek damages.

  1. Force, R. (2004). Admiralty and Maritime Law. Federal Judicial Center.
    Retrieved from:
  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2018, December 7). Center for Maritime Safety and Health Studies. Marine Transportation.
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  3. Insurance Information Institute. (n.d.). Facts + Statistics: Marine Accidents.
    Retrieved from:
  4. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2020, January 9). Center for Maritime Safety and Health Studies. Marine Terminals and Port Operations.
    Retrieved from: