On April 13th, 2017, emergency services were called to New York Harbor to help a tugboat worker whose life was forever changed in a terrible accident.
A Linehandling Accident
The injured worker was onboard the Mister T, a tugboat that was helping to move another boat in the harbor. While working to adjust a line, the tugboat moved and his arm became entangled. The line was so strong and the movement so quick that the line actually severed his arm completely below the elbow.
Luckily, nearby crewmembers immediately assisted him by applying a tourniquet to his arm and calling for help. NYPD Harbor Officers brought him ashore where he was then taken by ambulance to NYU Lutheran Medical Center.
In some cases, if the amputation is a clean cut, doctors are able to reattach the severed limb. Sadly, despite rescue workers best efforts, they were unable to find the rest of his arm which fell into the water the moment it detached, leaving doctors with no choice but to simply close the amputation.
According to the Coast Guard, linehandling accidents are the second more common cause of injuries aboard tugboats. Given how seriously injured the worker in this case became, it’s unlikely that many who are involved in such an accident are able to walk away unharmed.
Amputations: The Monetary, Physical, & Emotional Cost
No one ever wants to think about the possibility that they may lose a limb but every single day in New York accidents result in severed arms, hands, feet, legs, and other body parts.
Not only do patients have to deal with the sudden loss of a body part and the physical pain that comes with it but they also have to deal with the aftermath which likely includes one if not multiple surgeries, phantom limb pain, emotional turmoil that may result in PTSD, anxiety, or depression, and medical bills. To top it all off, an amputation usually means that the line of work the patient was previously employed in is no longer an option.
The medical bills alone can put enormous stress on an individual that’s already struggling with their new situation. For one surgery alone, the average costs of an amputation are between $20,000 and $60,000. Even with health insurance, the patient is likely going to be left with thousands of dollars in treatments and that’s just for one surgery – most patients need at least one follow up surgery. Then, if all goes well and there are no complications, they usually undergo months or years of physical therapy and are fitted with a prosthetic.
This is all while the patient is usually struggling to pay for their everyday expenses since most amputees are unable to return to work for an extended period of time, if at all. So what options do these injured workers have?
Workers’ Compensation Does Not Apply
Unlike most workers, tugboat employees are not provided coverage under workers’ compensation in the state of New York. Instead, maritime workers are covered under the Jones Act.
The Jones Act was created to protect Americans who were hurt on the job while on the water. Unlike workers’ compensation, if the negligent act of the employer resulted in the employee’s injuries, the employee is able to file a personal injury lawsuit against them.
Injured Seaman are able to obtain compensation for medical expenses, lost wages, and physical trauma, and even emotional trauma. If the worker died from their injuries, their loved ones can file a wrongful death lawsuit against the party whose negligence caused the accident.
What Is Negligence?
In cases like these, negligence means that one party failed to do everything that was reasonably within their power to prevent another party from being injured. So for example, if the owner and employer on a boat didn’t do what was needed to be done to maintain the ship, and poor maintenance leads to an accident, they would be considered negligent.
In order to prove negligence a thorough investigation into the accident and the preservation of evidence must occur, two things that are difficult for a victim to do without the assistance of an attorney.
It’s incredibly important for the victim of a workplace accident on a boat to contact an experienced attorney as soon as possible because not only do the negligent parties frequently try to hide and destroy evidence, but there is also a statute of limitations which means that injured workers only have a certain amount of time to file their claim. If they fail to file during this time period, they may completely lose the chance to recover compensation.