Frostbite can severely damage a victim’s tissues, leading to permanent harm, such as loss of sensation, chronic pain, and in severe cases, amputation. It affects the victim’s ability to perform daily tasks and may require extensive medical treatment. The emotional and financial toll of recovering from frostbite can be overwhelming, impacting their overall quality of life. Because of this, frostbite victims may have the legal right to seek compensation.

Maritime Frostbite Lawyer

If you or a loved one have been affected by frostbite while working on a ship or shore, you may be eligible for compensation from your employer. Frostbite can have severe, long-lasting effects that impact your ability to work and enjoy life.

BoatLaw, LLP advocates on behalf of clients in Oregon, Washington, California and Alaska.

Cal 1 (800) 262-8529 to schedule a confidential consultation.

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Types and Causes of Frostbite

Frostbite, a concern for individuals working in cold, wet environments like the maritime industry, can manifest in several types. Mild frostbite, or frostnip, is the first stage, characterized by cold, red skin that turns white or pale. It’s superficial and doesn’t cause permanent skin damage. Superficial frostbite is the next level, where the skin feels warm, a sign of serious skin involvement. The affected area may become swollen, and ice crystals may form in the tissue. Deep frostbite is the most severe type, affecting all layers of the skin, including tissues that lie below. It results in numbness, loss of feeling, and eventually, the skin turns black and hard as tissues die. Frostbite can potentially be fatal, as it can lead to diseases such as disseminated intravascular coagulation (DIC).

Maritime frostbite injuries typically result from prolonged exposure to the cold, wet conditions common to maritime settings. Contributing factors include inadequate protective clothing, direct contact with cold surfaces or water, and windy conditions that accelerate the heat loss from the skin, known as wind chill. Workers exposed to cold temperatures without sufficient insulation or who have wet skin or clothing are particularly susceptible. Additionally, factors like fatigue, dehydration, and certain medical conditions can impair the body’s ability to regulate temperature, increasing the risk of frostbite.

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Common Types of Victims in Frostbite Cases

Victims of frostbite are often workers exposed to harsh, cold environments. This group includes fishermen, deckhands, cargo ship workers, and those involved in offshore drilling operations. These individuals frequently work in extreme conditions where cold and moisture are prevalent, increasing the likelihood of frostbite injuries, especially if they lack proper protective gear or adequate training on working safely in cold environments.

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Where Frostbite Happens

In the United States, frostbite is commonly reported in colder coastal regions like Washington, California, Oregon, and Alaska. In Washington, the cold, damp climate, especially during winter months, makes maritime workers prone to frostbite. California, despite its generally milder climate, still poses a risk in its northern coastal areas. Oregon, with its cold coastal waters, especially in the winter and early spring, is another area where frostbite occurs. Alaska, known for its frigid temperatures and icy waters, is perhaps the most common state for injuries among maritime workers. The surrounding waters of these states, particularly during the colder seasons, are high-risk zones for maritime frostbite because of low temperatures and icy conditions.

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Legal Options for a Frostbite Victim

When a maritime worker suffers frostbite, several parties could be held responsible under federal maritime laws. The Jones Act is an important law in these cases, allowing seamen to sue their employers for negligence. If the employer didn’t provide a safe working environment or the right gear for cold weather, and this leads to frostbite, the employer could be liable.

Another possible claim is for unseaworthiness. This isn’t about someone’s mistake but about the ship’s condition. If a ship isn’t fit for its purpose and this causes frostbite, the owner of the ship could be held responsible. For example, if the ship lacks proper heating or protective gear for cold conditions, it could be considered unseaworthy.

There could be other relevant federal laws, depending on the specifics of the frostbite injury. These laws aim to protect maritime workers and help them if they get hurt because of their work environment.

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Potential Damages in Frostbite Cases

Under the Jones Act, a seaman who gets injured because of employer negligence can seek damages for lost wages, medical expenses, pain and suffering, and future earning capacity.

Maintenance and cure benefits include medical treatment and coverage of daily living expenses during recovery. Unseaworthiness claims allow a seaman to get compensation if the injury occurred because of the ship’s unfit condition. These damages can include medical costs, lost wages, and pain and suffering.

Workers who aren’t covered by the Jones Act, like dock or harbor workers, might use the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act (LHWCA) for their frostbite injuries. This Act lets these workers get compensation for their injuries without having to prove someone else was at fault. Damages could include medical expenses, rehabilitation costs, and compensation for lost wages. However, it does not cover pain and suffering.

In cases of wrongful death because of frostbite, the family of the deceased may claim damages for loss of financial support, funeral expenses, and the pain and suffering of the deceased before death.

A victim’s partial fault affects the damages they can receive in some maritime injury cases. The reduction is generally proportional to their amount of fault in the accident.

There are also deadlines for filing claims. Specifically, the Jones Act provides a three-year statute of limitations for negligence claims against employers. This same three-year period applies to claims of unseaworthiness, where a vessel’s condition leads to injury. However, the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act differs, generally offering injured maritime workers one year to file for compensation.

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Steps to Take After Experiencing Frostbite

  1. First, report the injury to your supervisor.
  2. Second, seek immediate medical attention, documenting where and when the injury occurred, and the conditions surrounding the injury.
  3. Next, a victim should speak with a lawyer. A frostbite lawyer can guide the victim through the legal process. They can help in understanding the applicable laws, like the Jones Act and the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act. The lawyer will assess the case, gather evidence, and handle the necessary paperwork. They negotiate with insurance companies and employers on behalf of the victim to ensure fair compensation. If needed, the lawyer can represent the victim in court.

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Wind Chill Safety – The National Weather Service explains how wind chill, a combination of wind and low temperature, can lead to frostbite or hypothermia by accelerating heat loss from the body. For maritime workers exposed to cold and windy conditions at sea, understanding the wind chill index is crucial for determining when protective measures are necessary to prevent frostbite. The index calculates the risk based on wind speed and air temperature, offering guidance on how to dress and when to seek shelter.

Winter Weather – Cold Stress – The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) explains how cold stress affects outdoor workers, including those in maritime settings, by lowering body temperature and leading to frostbite, hypothermia, and other cold-related injuries. It emphasizes the importance of monitoring wind chill temperatures, proper clothing, and recognizing symptoms of cold stress. This resource can help maritime employers and workers better understand how to ensure safety and prevent frostbite through planned work, appropriate gear, and education on cold stress prevention.

FDA Approves First Medication to Treat Severe Frostbite – The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved Aurlumyn (iloprost) for treating severe frostbite in adults, a significant advancement for maritime workers at risk of frostbite because of exposure to extreme cold and wet conditions. This medication reduces the risk of amputation by improving blood flow and preventing blood clotting in frostbitten areas. Aurlumyn’s availability marks an important development in medical treatment for severe frostbite, offering hope and a solution for those in maritime professions prone to injuries.

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Hire a Maritime Frostbite Lawyer

Cal 1 (800) 262-8529 to schedule a confidential consultation. BoatLaw, LLP advocates on behalf of clients in Oregon, Washington, California and Alaska.

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