Open Reduction Internal Fixation (ORIF) Surgeries in Jones Act Cases
Open reduction internal fixation (ORIF) is a surgical procedure that fixes severely broken bones that cannot be treated with a cast or splint. Typically, ORIF surgery is required for fractures that are displaced, unstable, or involve a joint. Seamen suffering high-energy injuries from falling objects, crush injuries, or falls may require ORIF surgery.
During an ORIF surgery, an orthopedic surgeon will first make an incision through your skin and muscle. Next, the surgeon will realign the bones to put them back into the correct position. The bones are held together with hardware, such as metal pins, plates, rods, or screws. The hardware stays in your body permanently. Recovery from ORIF surgery can take from three to twelve months and often requires physical therapy. It is major surgery with the potential for complications. Possible complications include infection, bleeding, nerve and muscle damage, bone healing out of place, and arthritis.
If you have suffered an injury on a commercial fishing or shipping vessel that required an ORIF surgery, you should contact an experienced maritime attorney. You may be entitled to compensation. There are three primary avenues of recovery under maritime law: 1) maintenance and cure, 2) the doctrine of unseaworthiness, and 3) the Jones Act.
Maintenance and cure benefits are available to all seamen injured while working on a vessel, no matter who was at fault for the injury. Maintenance is meant to cover daily living expenses, like rent and food. Cure covers all reasonable and necessary medical costs, including ORIF surgery and follow-up therapy. Employers are obligated to pay maintenance and cure until the injured seaman is recovered or has reached a point where no additional treatment will help him recover.
The doctrine of unseaworthiness requires a shipowner to provide and maintain a seaworthy vessel. Seaworthy means the vessel, its equipment, and crew are reasonably fit for their intended use. The shipowner is strictly liable for any injuries caused by an unseaworthy condition, such as improperly stored cargo, worn-out equipment, or an untrained crew member. Types of damages available include loss of income, medical expenses, and pain and suffering.
The Jones Act is a negligence-based remedy that allows injured seamen to sue their employers. This is different than most professions, which limit recovery to workers’ compensation. Under the Jones Act, injured seamen have to prove that the employer’s negligence played some part, however small, in the worker’s injuries. This burden of causation is very low compared to most personal injury claims and sometimes referred to as “featherweight.”
To learn more about your rights under maritime law, call an experienced attorney to discuss your case. Kraft Davies, PLLC is a nationally recognized leader in maritime personal injury law. Kraft Davies has significant experience representing seamen who have suffered an injury requiring ORIF surgery against vessel owners, maritime employers, and maritime insurance companies. If you or a loved one were injured in a commercial fishing or shipping accident, contact the attorneys at Kraft Davies today at 206-624-8844 or through this website.