Dealing with Injuries after a Barge Accident on the Mississippi River

The Mississippi River is not really known to be a troublesome river. But with its immense length of more than 2,340 miles from Minnesota to Louisiana, it does have its share of tug and barge accidents, especially during the busiest seasons of this central waterway. The same is true with the Illinois, Ohio and Missouri Rivers, as well as the other principal tributaries of the Mississippi.

These accidents can result in grave personal injuries and also require massive cleanups in order to rid the water of oil leaks and debris. Also, the mandatory closing of large parts of the rivers during the cleanup process does cause a lot of significant disruptions in the local and international economy.

barge accidents

What Major Barge Accidents Have Happened in the Mississippi?

In January of 2013, a barge loaded with 80,000 gallons of oil crashed into a Vicksburg bridge, spilling crude oil into the river and resulting in the closure of the river for 8 miles to the north and to the south. Because of the closure, at least 47 other barges were disrupted in their passage and one other barge was also damaged.

In 2016, also in the month of January, a series of barge accidents happened along the Mississippi, starting with the breakout of 6 barges that hit one of the piers of the Old US 80 Bridge. Later on, an ethanol barge hit the railroad bridge at Vicksburg, shortly followed by a towboat hitting a Natchez bridge. Due to these crashes, the passage was temporarily put on hold for a 75-mile stretch, causing the delay of at least 35 other boats waiting to pass. The week prior, there was an incident of a towboat hitting the bridge, resulting in the sinking of 4 of the 22 barges it was pushing. There a grain barge sank as the tugboat pushing it went slightly out of control and drifted toward a pier bridge. It’s not common to have so many accidents in close proximity but it has happened and could certainly happen again.

More recently in January of 2020, two barges being pushed by tugboats in opposite directions of the Mississippi collided in a part of the river near New Orleans. The cause of the accident was a lack of communication and resulted in the death of 3 crew members. And just a couple of days ago, a tow boat hit a lock and dam at almost midnight, and fortunately, there were no injuries or spillage.

What Are the Most Common Barge Accidents?

Barges are large vessels whose main purpose is to carry a variety of goods from one port to another. As such, they usually do not require crew members to be on board at all times. The workers typically live on the tugboat that pushes the barges as they traverse the waterways. However, there is still a fairly high risk of barge accidents that directly involve crew members, as well as those that can damage the vessel itself and the surrounding river. Following are some of the most common causes of barge accidents that maritime workers must watch out for.

Hazardous Materials

The containers onboard barges can carry all sorts of materials, and some of these can be hazardous. Prolonged exposure to these materials can cause accidents or create serious health issues. There are also cases where barge workers might experience hypoxia if they often stay in environments with low oxygen levels, like in closed containers.

Slips and Falls

Barges have a low deck that is very close to the waterline. This means that the surface is often wet and very slippery, making it a very accident-prone area. Slips and falls can be avoided by wearing the right safety attire but despite these precautions, the very nature of the barge’s environment makes accidents very likely.


Some barges are used mainly for exploration and drilling and as such, they carry massive amounts of flammable materials. There is always a risk of fire in any shipping vessel but with these particular barges, the risks are far higher. The inadequate ventilation of vapors from these flammable materials is usually the cause of fires, and so the necessary measures must be taken in order to avoid this as much as possible.

Heavy Machinery

Loading and unloading of barges obviously require heavy machinery like cranes, pneumatic unloaders, and so on. The slightest malfunction of any of the equipment can lead to serious physical injuries.


The Mississippi River is very wide but with the relatively heavy barge traffic that goes through it, there will always be the risk of collision between two vessels. Also, weather and river conditions, as well as other factors, can cause a myriad of problems with steering and navigation that can cause barges to hit bridges and ports, or become grounded.

What Are My Legal Rights If I Sustain Injuries from a Barge Accident?

If you have suffered any kind of injuries following a barge accident, it is important that you understand your legal rights. First of all, you are fully entitled to compensation for treatment and daily living expenses even if there is no one liable for the accident. This is clearly stated under the Jones Act.

Now, if there is a party at fault, like if the accident is due to negligence, unseaworthy equipment, or inadequate training, then the law allows you to get a lot more in terms of financial compensation. But in order to claim what is justly yours, you will need the help of an experienced and qualified maritime lawyer.

Here at O’Bryan Law, we will stop at nothing until you get the maximum compensation that is legally allowed for all the injuries that you have experienced from the barge accident. We will take care of all the legal matters and negotiations so you can spend your time recuperating and getting your life back on track.