Maritime occupations are dangerous work. Whether on a vessel, on an offshore oil rig, or at the dockside, a worker faces all the risks of an industrial shop or construction site. These hazards are magnified by the other factors present at a maritime worksite: cramped spaces, unstable surfaces, and close contact between workers and heavy objects or dangerous machinery.
Fracture injuries and broken bones are among the most common on-the-job maritime injuries. A longshoreman, shipbuilder, seaman, or other maritime worker can suffer a broken bone as part of almost any incident. Common causes of fracture injuries in a maritime workplace include:
- Falls from heights
- Being trapped between moving, hard surfaces
- Slip-and-fall accidents
- Being caught and compressed in operating machinery
- Being crushed from falling objects
- Being struck by dense objects moving horizontally
Categories of broken bones
Fractures are classified in several ways, but for our purposes, the important distinctions are whether the skin remains intact and how much damage was done to the bone. As you would expect, the most serious fracture injuries occur when the bone is broken into many pieces, some of which pierce the skin. Of course, the location of the injury also influences the risk of the damage and the treatment used; a fractured finger is not likely to be life threatening, but a fractured skull involves extreme danger to long-term health.
Fracture injuries may fall into one or more of these categories:
- Incomplete fracture. This term is used to indicate that there is a crack in the bone, but the crack doesn’t split the bone in two.
- Complete fracture. This is a bone that has broken into two or more parts.
- Compound fracture. Also called an open fracture, this term describes a case in which a broken bone has pierced the skin. This is automatically a serious condition, due to the high risks of contamination of the bone and muscle tissue and of infection at the wound site.
- Displaced fracture. This term is used when the broken ends of the bone have shifted so they no longer align. At a minimum, a displaced fracture will need special care to keep the bones in alignment while they heal—and the healing period will be longer than that of simple fractures. Surgery is often required to align the displaced bones correctly, and it’s common for metal implants to be installed to stabilize the fracture location.
- Comminuted fracture. Medical professionals use this term when the bone has been broken into multiple fragments. Surgery is frequently required to reform the bone structure.
The standard treatment for a broken bone is immobilization and natural healing over time. Physicians may recommend a splint or cast for some fractures in limbs or extremities. In extreme cases, the patient may need an external support frame or metal plates and screws attached to the body. Full healing of a fracture injury can take several months to a year, or even longer for the most seriously injured patients.
When a bone fracture is a maritime work injury
Depending on your job and the circumstances of your injury, you may be entitled to financial relief for bone fracture that you suffer at work. Maritime accidents are covered exclusively under federal law, and different laws apply if you are injured on a vessel or on shore. Because of the complex nature of maritime and admiralty law, you need to consult with a Texas maritime injury lawyer as soon as possible to discuss the details of your case.
Start by calling VB Attorneys at 877-724-7800 today to request a FREE copy of our client book, Insider’s Guide to Winning Your Offshore Injury Case. We’ll send it to you at our expense. Then schedule a free, confidential case review that will answer all your questions about getting the financial recovery you need. We look forward to working with you.