Mississippi River Barge Collision Raises Questions about Maritime Law and Environmental Safety

Two barges collided in the Mississippi River near St. John the Baptist Parish this month, spilling an estimated 10,000 gallons of crude oil into the Mississippi River. No injuries were reported, and the cause of the accident remains unclear. This accident shows the relationship between maritime law and environmental safety.

In the maritime setting, a vessel owner or operator’s failure to take reasonable safety measures can lead to serious injury. For this reason, the crew’s health and safety should be a priority to vessel owners and operators. In addition, because large vessels often carry dangerous toxic chemicals, vessel owners and operators also owe a duty to the public to transport these chemicals safely.

Maritime law can be used to protect a seaman’s rights when he suffers an injury on the job. The Jones Act is a federal statute that protects maritime workers who are injured or killed on the job. Under the Jones Act, a worker must prove negligence on the part of his employer. Upon proof of negligence, an injured seaman is entitled to receive maintenance and cure, which includes a daily payment at a fixed rate and payment for medical expenses reasonably necessary to restore the seaman to health.

As with this incident, a maritime accident can also raise environmental concerns and implicate toxic tort law in the future. Unfortunately, when a maritime accident results in the release of chemicals into the environment, the health consequences related to the accident are unknown. Toxic tort injuries often remain latent for years. However, in the long term, toxic tort law can be utilized when an individual or group of individuals suffers an unexpected health consequence caused by the release of a dangerous chemical into the environment.

If you or a loved one suffered an injury as a result of a maritime accident, you should speak with an attorney to learn about your rights. An experienced attorney can assist you in understanding your legal rights and filing a timely claim. For questions, contact Broussard & David at 1-888-337-2323 (toll free) or 337-233-2323 (local).

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