What are Common Head Injuries in the Maritime Industry?

by | May 19, 2023 | Maritime Injury, Maritime Law, Personal Injury, The Jones Act, Workplace Accident, Workplace Safety

Working in the maritime industry is inherently dangerous. Accidents and injuries are common – some more severe than others. Maritime head injuries are unfortunately common, and range from minor bumps and bruises to more severe, or even fatal injuries.

If you or someone you love works in the maritime industry, you deserve to know all the facts about head injuries, risk factors, what to look for, and how to get help. Maritime workers are eligible for certain benefits and compensation under maritime law, and the maritime injury attorneys at Kherkher Garcia, LLP can help you get it.

Learn more about maritime head injuries and your legal rights below. For questions, do not hesitate to contact us.

What are Common Types of Accidental Head Trauma?

In the maritime industry, there are several common head injuries that can occur due to the nature of the work and the potential hazards involved. Some of the common head injuries that occur in maritime occupations include:

Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)

This is a severe injury that can occur when a person’s head sustains a significant blow or jolt, leading to damage to the brain. TBIs can range from mild concussions to more severe injuries that result in long-term complications.

Skull Fractures

A skull fracture refers to a break or crack in the bones of the skull. It can occur as a result of a direct impact to the head, such as from falling objects, collisions, or slips and falls on a vessel.


Contusions are bruises on the brain that develop when blood vessels are damaged due to an impact to the head. They can vary in severity, and more severe contusions may require medical intervention.

Scalp and Facial Injuries

These injuries can range from cuts and lacerations to more severe injuries that involve significant tissue damage. They can occur due to falling objects, equipment accidents, or other incidents onboard a vessel.


A concussion is a mild form of traumatic brain injury caused by a blow to the head. It can result in symptoms such as headache, dizziness, confusion, memory problems, and sensitivity to light and noise.

Penetrating Head Injuries

These injuries occur when a foreign object, such as a fragment of metal or equipment, penetrates the skull and enters the brain. Penetrating head injuries are often severe and require immediate medical attention.

Closed Head Injuries

Closed head injuries occur when there is no visible external damage to the head, but the brain is still injured. These injuries can result from sudden acceleration or deceleration forces, causing the brain to move within the skull.

Maritime head injuries can range from mild to severe, and even seemingly minor head injuries should be taken seriously. Prompt medical attention should be sought for any head injury to ensure proper evaluation and treatment.

What are the Symptoms of a Head Injury?

The symptoms of a head injury can vary depending on the severity of the injury. Some symptoms, such as open wounds or unconsciousness are easy to recognize. Symptoms of a closed head injury may be more difficult to recognize, which is why it is so important to monitor anyone who has sustained a head injury.

Some of the most common symptoms to look for include:

  • Headache
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Dizziness
  • Confusion
  • Memory loss
  • Seizures
  • Vision problems
  • Hearing problems
  • Weakness or numbness on one side of the body
  • Changes in personality or behavior
  • Loss of consciousness

If you or someone you know has any of these symptoms after a head injury, it is important to seek medical attention immediately.

How are Head Injuries Treated?

Treating a head injury depends on the severity and specific type of injury. It is essential to seek medical attention immediately, as some injuries may require urgent intervention. Here are some general approaches to the treatment of head injuries:

  • Initial Assessment: Upon arrival at a medical facility, healthcare professionals will conduct a thorough assessment to evaluate the severity and extent of the injury. This may involve assessing vital signs, neurological examination, and imaging tests such as a CT scan or MRI.
  • Stabilization: The first priority is to stabilize the patient and ensure their vital signs are within a safe range. If there are any life-threatening conditions, such as bleeding or swelling in the brain, immediate interventions may be necessary.
  • Observation and Monitoring: Depending on the severity of the head injury, the patient may need to be closely monitored for a period of time to assess for any changes in their condition.
  • Medications: Medications may be administered to manage symptoms, reduce swelling, prevent seizures, and control pain.
  • Surgical Interventions: In severe cases, surgical intervention may be necessary to address complications such as bleeding in the brain, hematoma (collection of blood), skull fractures, or brain swelling. Surgical procedures may involve removing clots, repairing fractures, or relieving pressure on the brain.
  • Rehabilitation: After the acute treatment phase, rehabilitation may be necessary to aid recovery and minimize long-term complications. Rehabilitation programs can include physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy, and cognitive rehabilitation
  • Follow-up Care: After initial treatment and rehabilitation, regular follow-up appointments with healthcare professionals are essential to monitor progress, address any ongoing symptoms or concerns, and make adjustments to the treatment plan as needed.

The specific treatment approach for a head injury can vary significantly depending on the individual case. The severity and type of head injury, as well as the patient’s overall health, will influence the course of treatment.

What are Some Potential Complications of Head Injuries?

Maritime head injuries can have a wide range of complications, depending on the severity of the injury and how quickly treatment is initiated. Some of the most common complications include:

  • Coma: A coma is a state of unconsciousness from which a person cannot be awakened. It is a serious complication of head injury that can be life-threatening.
  • Brain Damage: Head injuries can cause damage to the brain, which can lead to a variety of problems, including:
    • Cognitive Impairment: This can include problems with memory, thinking, and learning.
    • Personality Changes: People with brain damage may experience changes in their personality, such as becoming more irritable or aggressive.
    • Mood Disorders: People with brain damage may also be more likely to develop mood disorders, such as depression or anxiety.
    • Seizures: Seizures are a sudden, uncontrolled electrical disturbance in the brain. They can be a sign of brain damage, and they can be a serious complication of head injury.
    • Physical Disabilities: Head injuries can also cause physical disabilities, such as paralysis or difficulty walking.
  • Death: Head injuries can be fatal.

If you have suffered a maritime head injury, it is important to seek medical attention immediately. The sooner you receive treatment, the better your chances of a full recovery.

What are the Causes of Head Injuries in the Maritime Industry?

In the maritime industry, there are several common causes of head injuries due to the unique working conditions and potential hazards involved. Some of the common causes of head injuries in the maritime industry include:


Falls are a leading cause of head injuries in various industries, including the maritime sector. Workers may slip, trip, or lose their balance on slippery surfaces, uneven decks, or during vessel transfers. Falls from heights, such as ladders, scaffolding, or elevated platforms, can also result in head injuries.

Falling Objects

In the maritime industry, there is a risk of objects falling from height or being improperly secured. Equipment, tools, cargo, or other heavy objects can cause severe head injuries if they strike a worker. This risk is particularly high during lifting, loading, unloading, or rough sea conditions.


Collisions between vessels, with other structures, or even with floating debris can result in head injuries. Sudden impact or jolts can cause a worker’s head to strike against hard surfaces, leading to various types of head injuries.

Moving Machinery and Equipment

Working with machinery and equipment on board a vessel poses a risk of head injuries. Workers may come into contact with rotating parts, moving objects, or protruding equipment.

Slip and Trip Hazards

Maritime environments can be wet, slippery, and subject to the motion of the sea, increasing the risk of slips and trips. When workers fall and strike their heads against the ground, decks, or other structures, head injuries can occur.

Explosions and Fires

In certain maritime operations involving flammable materials, there is a risk of explosions and fires. These incidents can cause head injuries due to the force of the explosion, flying debris, or exposure to heat and flames.

Lack of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

Insufficient or improper use of personal protective equipment, such as hard hats, can increase the risk of head injuries. Wearing appropriate PPE is essential to protect against falling objects, impact, and other head injury hazards.

Human Error and Fatigue

Human error, lack of situational awareness, and fatigue can contribute to incidents that result in head injuries. Fatigue can impair cognitive function and reaction time, increasing the likelihood of accidents and injuries.

How Can Maritime Workers Prevent Head Injuries?

Preventing head injuries in the maritime industry is crucial for the safety and well-being of workers. Here are some preventive measures that can help minimize the risk of head injuries:

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

Ensure that all workers wear appropriate PPE, including hard hats or helmets, whenever there is a potential risk of head injury. PPE should be properly fitted, in good condition, and compliant with safety standards.

Safety Training and Awareness

Provide comprehensive training to maritime workers on recognizing and mitigating head injury hazards. This includes educating them about proper work practices, identifying potential risks, and emphasizing the importance of wearing PPE. Encourage workers to be vigilant and report any unsafe conditions or practices.

Hazard Assessments

Conduct thorough hazard assessments to identify potential head injury risks in the maritime workplace. Regularly review and update these assessments as the work environment changes. Take into account factors such as falls, falling objects, collisions, and moving machinery.

Worksite Organization

Maintain a clean, organized, and clutter-free worksite to minimize the risk of slips, trips, and falls. Properly secure tools, equipment, and cargo to prevent them from becoming loose and falling.

Secure Load Handling

Implement proper lifting and load handling procedures to minimize the risk of falling objects. Use secure fastenings, nets, or barriers to prevent objects from shifting or falling during transport or rough sea conditions.

Safe Access and Egress

Ensure safe access and egress to vessels and other structures, such as gangways, ladders, and stairs. Maintain clear signage, proper lighting, and non-slip surfaces to prevent falls and head injuries during boarding or disembarking.

Maintenance and Inspection

Regularly inspect and maintain equipment, machinery, and infrastructure to identify and rectify any potential hazards that could lead to head injuries. Promptly repair or replace faulty or damaged equipment.

Emergency Preparedness

Establish emergency response protocols and conduct drills to ensure workers are prepared to respond quickly and appropriately in the event of an incident that could result in head injuries. This includes procedures for reporting injuries, providing first aid, and accessing medical assistance.

Fatigue Management

Implement policies and schedules that address worker fatigue to reduce the risk of human error and accidents. Encourage proper rest breaks, limit excessive overtime, and promote a healthy work-life balance.

Safety Culture

Foster a culture of safety throughout the organization by promoting open communication, reporting near-misses, and encouraging workers to actively participate in safety initiatives. Provide ongoing safety training and reinforce safe work practices regularly.

By implementing these preventive measures and continuously promoting a safety-conscious environment, the maritime industry can significantly reduce the occurrence of head injuries and ensure the well-being of its workers.

Benefits and Compensation Available after a Maritime Head Injury

There are a number of options available for benefits, or to recover compensation, after a maritime head injury. Here are some of the benefits and compensation that may be available to maritime workers and their families after a maritime head injury:

  • Maintenance and Cure: Maintenance and cure is a no-fault benefit that covers medical expenses and reasonable living expenses while workers are unable to work due to an injury or illness.
  • Wages: If workers are unable to work due to an injury, they may be entitled to lost wages.
  • Pain and Suffering: Workers may be entitled to compensation for the pain and suffering that they have experienced as a result of an injury.
  • Permanent Disability: If an injury results in permanent disability, workers may be entitled to a monthly pension.
  • Death Benefits: If a worker dies as a result of an injury, their surviving dependents may be entitled to death benefits.

The amount of benefits that workers may qualify for will depend on several factors.

Do I Need a Maritime Injury Attorney?

If you have suffered a maritime head injury, it is important to speak with an experienced attorney to discuss your legal options. An attorney can help you to understand your rights and to pursue the compensation that you deserve. Maritime injury cases can be complex. Working with a maritime injury attorney can help ensure that your rights are protected, and that you understand all available options for compensation.

It is extremely important to contact an attorney if your case involves:

  • Serious Injuries or Fatalities: If the maritime accident resulted in serious injuries, disabilities, or fatalities, it is advisable to consult with a maritime accident attorney. They can help protect your rights and navigate the legal processes associated with compensation claims or wrongful death lawsuits.
  • Employer Negligence: If the accident occurred due to the negligence of the vessel owner, operator, or employer, a maritime accident attorney can assist in determining liability and pursuing appropriate legal action. They can help gather evidence, evaluate your case, and represent your interests in negotiations or litigation.
  • Insurance Claims: Dealing with insurance companies after a maritime accident can be complex and challenging. A maritime accident attorney can help you navigate the insurance claims process, negotiate with insurers, and maximize the compensation you are entitled to under your policy.
  • Third-Party Liability: If a third party, such as a contractor, equipment manufacturer, or another vessel, contributed to the accident, a maritime accident attorney can help identify potential sources of liability and pursue legal action against those responsible.

Get Help with a Maritime Head Injury Case

If you are battling a head injury due to an accident or negligence that occurred while working in the maritime industry, contact Kherkher Garcia today. Our maritime injury attorneys have experience handling cases similar to yours. We can provide personalized advice based on the specifics of your situation and guide you through the legal process to help you achieve the best possible outcome.

Get the help you need by calling us at , or by completing our online contact form. Our consultations are 100% free, and you have no obligation by contacting us to learn more.

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Steve Kherkher

Steve Kherkher

Founding Partner and Trial Lawyer

This article was written and reviewed by Injury Trial Lawyer and Founding Firm Partner Steve Kherkher. Steve has been a practicing injury lawyer for more than 30 years. He has won $300 Million+ in Settlements and Verdicts for his clients. He is a force to be reckoned with in the courtroom and the trial lawyer you want on your side if you or a loved one have been catastrophically injured.

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