In recreational boating accidents or commercial maritime accidents involving
seamen, there are many ways for injuries to arise. Someone can loose their footing
as the vessel under them noses into the trough of a wave. Heavy objects, such as
improperly stacked pipes or oxy-acetylene tanks can come loose and fall on
someone. Yacht and cruise ship stewards  can injure their backs carrying heavy food
trays.

On commercial vessels, a seaman could become injured over the course of months,
or even years. Seamen and maritime workers could be exposed to benzene
containing solvents aboard chemical tankers, manganese fumes from welding in
shipyards, mercury, asbestos and other harmful materials. With certain toxic
substances, the latency periods (time for an illness to develop) can sometimes span
decades.

Years ago, I represented a man in a severe fracture injury. The tibia and fibula (lower
bones of the leg) had been badly crushed. The only medical option was
reconstruction of the leg using shafts, pins, and screws. The bright side of the ordeal
was that he recovered well and we came to be good friends after his case was
favorably concluded. Although the leg injury was something this man would always
live with, I admired his sense of humor. Despite everything he’d been through, he still
managed to joke about how his re-built leg was going to cause a scene at airport
metal detectors every time he boarded a plane.

If a plaintiff is injured the way my friend was injured, the damages are obvious. . A
second grader could have told you that something wasn’t right with the leg…that the
injuries were serious. But what about other kinds of injury…where the physical
damages are not as obvious? How does one measure injury there? In those cases,
clinical examinations are required to evaluate the extent of injury. And the exams
generally utilize diagnostic tools that include the following:

X-Ray: Radiographs, or x-rays as they are more commonly called, reveal fractures,
dislocations, and other evidence of injury. Chest x-rays are used in the screening of
respiratory diseases.

Cat Scan: A Cat Scan, or CT, is a more powerful imaging tool than a basic x-ray. It
uses traditional x-ray technology but enhances the capability by integrating multiple
images taken as the scanning equipment moves around the subject.

Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI): The MRI is a powerful diagnostic tool. Unlike
radiographs, MRI’s do not use photon radiation. Instead, they measure a return signal
after the body part has been excited by an energy source. Since different types of
tissue, whether bone, muscle, or tumor emit different return signals based on their
density, MRI’s reveal more than basic fractures or dislocations. They can reveal
herniations, disc bulges, nerve impingement, and other evidence of injury…or illness
as well.

EMG: Electromyography (EMG) is used to assess the condition of muscles and nerves
following an injury. EMG involves measuring electrical signals from muscle cells
when they are at rest and when they have been contracted. It is an invasive
procedure, involving insertion of electrodes through the skin. A trained medical
professional observes and interprets the electrical response.

NCV: Nerve Conduction Velocity is used to diagnose for nerve damage following an
injury. An electrical impulse is administered to a nerve. Characteristics such as the
velocity, potential and latency of the electrical signal are measured at the other end
of the nerve. A trained medical professional can interpret the response signal to rule
out or confirm nerve damage.

Ultra Sound: Ultrasound is an imaging technique. Ultrasound is also a physical
therapy modality. As a diagnostic imaging tool, ultrasound is valuable because it
provides real time images and is non-invasive. A sonogram for a woman during
pregnancy usually comes to mind with this tool.

Blood Tests: A blood sample can be sent to a lab to test for any number of
substances. This is a valuable tool in investigating whether someone has been
exposed to chemical substances.

Lung Capacity Test: This test is used to measure changes in a person’s breathing
capacity…which can be the result of exposure to harmful chemicals or airborne
particulates.


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Medical Issues in Maritime Injuries - Boating Accident Injuries
Documenting the Marine Injury - Diagnostic Tests as Evidence - Determining the Nature of a Maritime Injury
One of the attributes of the MRI
as a powerful imaging tool is
its ability to depict body parts
as "slices". You can look at the
body as having three
fundamental planes. Making
imaginary slices on those
different planes enables the
physician to better evaluate an
injury or medical condition.

Images where the viewer
"looks" through the long axis of
the body (i.e., looking
downward through the top of
the head in the direction of
feet, as if looking at the tops of
people's heads from one floor
above) is what the radiologist
sees in an axial view. Images
formed where the viewer
"looks" at the subject facing
them is a coronal image (i.e.
looking straight into a person's
eyes). A sagittal view is a side
view, as if looking at a profile
of someone's face.
The x-ray above is of more or
less intact leg (the heavy bone
on top is the femur. Below the
knee are the tibia and fibula).
In the case I describe above
and to the right, the patient's
lower leg was severely
crushed and shattered in
numerous points.