Tankerman Injured While Being Forced to Work With Little Sleep

Curtis James Bickers

Practice Area:Admiralty / Maritime

Outcome:Confidential

Description:In the Spring of 2009, Jonathan was working on a tug as a tankerman. Having worked for this particular company for over a year and a half, Jonathan was considered by his captain to be experienced. So, it wasn't a surprise to Jonathan that, one night while docked in Texas City, he was asked by his captain to help an inexperienced tankerwoman out with her duties. Jonathan, however, had just finished his now 12-hour shift. He had been asleep for just a few minutes when the captain asked him to help the tanker woman. Being a good, helpful worker, he got up and aided her in her tasks. He went back to his bunk a while later, hoping to get a few hours of sleep before his next shift. Jonathan had just fallen back asleep when the captain woke him again with the same request. The tankerwoman needed his helpagain. This time, Jonathan recognized that she was in real danger because she was so inexperienced. He took over her barge at the captain's instruction. She left her tools and tool bucket on the catwalk - against safety procedures. As Jonathan walked across the catwalk, he tripped over them, not realizing they were there. He fell hard onto the barge. Pain & numbness. He couldn't feel his right arm - he'd tried to catch himself when he fell, a normal reaction to falling, and suffered intense pain immediately. The captain saw Jonathan lying on the barge. He went over to see what happened, and realizing that Jonathan was in acute pain, asked that Jonathan be taken to the hospital immediately. Wanting to wait and send Jonathan to a company doctor, the company denied the captain's request to get Jonathan to the hospital. Jonathan was made to wait in excruciating pain until it was convenient for the company doctor to see him. The doctor informed Jonathan that his triceps had "exploded," and he recommended that Jonathan undergo reparative surgery immediately. During the surgery, it was confirmed that his muscle had shredded, essentially exploding inside his body. Not only did the company make Jonathan wait to receive medical attention for his injury, they forced him to sign an incomplete and inaccurate incident report. If he didn't sign it, then they wouldn't send him to the company doctor. They threatened to withhold necessary medical treatment from him. So, he signed it. He was then forced to be accompanied by a company representative at all of his doctor's appointments - the company representative even sat in the room with Jonathan while he was examined. (Workers do not have to allow company representatives to be present during doctor examinations.) These are all tricks companies use to reduce, negate, or disprove injury claims. We at V&B have seen them in too many cases to count. Eventually, the company offered Jonathan less than $5,000 IF he would sign a waiver. Jonathan realized he needed legal help to get the compensation he deserved for his injury. He was reluctant about hiring an attorney because he was afraid of being blackballed from the maritime industry if he filed a lawsuit. He had heard stories about companies pretending to care about an injured worker - promising the injured worker that the company would take care of lost wages and medical bills - only to turn around and fire the injured worker. Blackballing the injured worker in the maritime industry at the same time. Jonathan's case was taken on by V&B - Curtis Bickers took charge of his case. It was headed for trial, but during a pre-trial mediation, the case was settled for a confidential amount. With this money, Jonathan will be able to get back on his feet financially after being out of work and having medical bills from the surgery and intense physical therapy to repair the damage to his arm. He will also be able to provide for his child, which makes him more confident about his future.