Life as a deckhand aboard a barge on the Mississippi River is not for the faint of heart. It’s long hours toiling under the unforgiving southern sun and frigid mornings when the decks are encased in a dangerous patina of ice. It’s missing out on the routines of family life — children’s birthdays celebrated late, empty chairs at holiday celebrations and the growing distance between disconnected spouses.
In short, it takes a certain kind of man or woman to choose a career working on the river. The rugged individualists are the ones who tend to gravitate toward it. Also, many families have generations of river workers who began their careers as lowly deckhands but managed to persevere and earn a spot in the pilot’s wheelhouse.
Danger abounds on the river
An injury that might result in stitches or a cast on the bank can turn deadly within seconds on the river. A slip, a fall or missed grasp can send a deckhand plunging into the churning river where they can get sucked under the paddle and never emerge. During the cold winter months, the icy waters can induce hypothermia within minutes.
Unfortunately, it takes time and distance to stop and turn a towboat and loaded barges. By the time rescue comes, it could be too late for the hapless deckhand who went overboard on the Mississippi River. The violent mid-river currents can overwhelm even competent swimmers with life jackets. In short, life on the river is always fraught with a plethora of dangers.
Seeking compensation after a river accident
There are special maritime laws governing what occurs on the water. Provisions of the Jones Act determine the course of events after a worker is injured on the water, not the Louisiana workers’ compensation laws.
But one thing remains the same — your employer is legally liable for unsafe conditions that cause or contribute to the injuries that you suffer while toiling aboard a barge or tugboat on the Mississippi river.
If you are a deckhand who suffered career-ending injuries on the river, you may worry that you will never again be able to work to support your wife and family. But you have rights in the matter and can pursue legal action and recover damages.