Towing and working on barges and lighters on Illinois waterways can be hazardous work. Captains, first mates, engineers, seamen, deckhands and cooks often work in treacherous ice and snow. The workers are often exposed to numerous dangers that put their lives at risk. Because of that, it is the duty of vessel owners and barge operating companies to protect workers at all cost. They are responsible to provide safety equipment and to maintain the seaworthiness of their floating vessels.
A barge is a flat bottom vessel with a capacity to transport huge volumes of freight on open waterways. A powered lighter is a smaller version of a classic barge that is typically used for transporting freight from the shoreline to ships moored in the harbor. The flat bottom produces a shallow draft, making it ideal for transport on shallow rivers and canals. Some barges move under their own power while others are towed. Moving freight on barges offers an economic solution to transporting freight because barges do not require a superstructure and can operate with limited crewmembers.
Injuries Encountered by Workers on Barges
This sheer size and weight of a moving barge create dangerous scenarios were accidents easily occur. Workers constantly check each barge for leaks or operate dams and locks using capstan and winch equipment. Typically, the injuries suffered on board a barge or tow are catastrophic, especially when an accident happens during inclement weather.
Often times, a crewmember will be injured when working the tugboat, towboat or barge when handling steel cables, lines, ropes and rigging used to hold barges against one another and/or the tug. A high majority of barge worker accidents occur from slipping and handling problems, or malfunctioning equipment. Common types of onboard injuries suffered by barge workers include:
- Head Injury – Slipping and falling cause many traumatic brain injuries and head traumas when crewmembers are forced to work on slippery surfaces or when not provided hardhats or other safety equipment
- Spinal Cord Injury – Crewmembers can easily suffer crushing injuries to their spinal cord and vertebrae during slip and fall accidents, and barge collisions, leaving them permanently or temporarily disabled
- Lower Back Injury – Many lower back injuries are the result of overexertion when workers are expected to carry or lift excessive amounts of weight because of a lack of training by the captain or insufficient crewmembers for the job
- Fractures – Due to the heavy cargo in transit on barges, many crewmembers suffer broken bones when handling freight. In many cases, bones are broken or fractured when handling machinery, equipment and rigging
- Crushed Limbs and Amputations – Crewmembers’ hands can easily become crushed by a steel line or cable during a “pinch-point” accident
- Wrongful Death – Workers and crewmembers can be killed by the negligence of barge operators and boat captains when there is miscommunication, the use of defective machinery, lack of sufficient training, or dangerous work conditions.
- Death – Barge workers have some of the highest rates of serious injury and fatalities compared to other maritime workers
Attorneys Committed to Protecting the Rights of Injured Barge Workers
Any barge crewmember injured because of negligence by others has a legal right to seek financial compensation to recover their losses. However, Illinois tort law involving barge worker accidents is complex. Because of that, many victims will hire a personal injury attorney who specializes in maritime law. Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers can provide assistance to file a claim for compensation under the Jones Act, a U.S. federal law that regulates marine employers and vessel operators.
The amount of compensation of a work-related injury or death in an accident on or around open water is based on the liability of every party at fault and the severity of the injury. Our law firm can ensure the victim receives adequate recompense involving:
- Maintenance and Cure – Recompense to pay for all medical bills and living expenses for the duration of the healing process when the injured employee is unable to work
- Negligence – Our law firm may be able to obtain additional funds compensation by proving negligence by crewmembers, captains or other parties
Call our personal injury attorneys at (888) 424-5757 to schedule an initial free consultation. Our personal injury attorneys specialize in barge worker accidents and fight aggressively to obtain full and adequate compensation for all injuries, damages and losses involved in a maritime accident. We accept onboard accident cases on contingency to avoid the need of paying upfront legal fees.