Of the eleven ports that are in the state of California, the Port of Oakland is one of the biggest and busiest. It is the biggest port in the northern half of the state and handles the most cargo, 99 percent of all cargo that goes through northern California. It is the fifth busiest port in the country. The port is located on the inland side of San Francisco Bay and includes both private and public terminals and berths. The Port of Oakland also has the historic distinction of being the first major west coast port to build container shipping terminals.
The Port of Oakland is a busy place and accounts for about 50,000 jobs. If you work in the port or on any of the ships that come into the port, you work in an exciting job, but also a dangerous one. The container industry is hazardous because the container themselves are huge and heavy, and the cranes that lift them are several stories high. If anything goes wrong, an accident can be fatal. For workers like you who face these hazards every day, there are maritime laws to ensure you get compensation after an accident and maritime lawyers to help you get it.
The Port of Oakland
The port was first built in 1927 and is now the third largest and busiest port in the state after the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach. It is the fifth busiest container shipping port in the country, and is responsible for importing and exporting nearly all of the cargo that comes and goes from northern California. The port continues to expand its cargo industry and in 2002 it became one of the first in the world to specialize in intermodal container shipping.
There are five container terminals here and two intermodal railways and facilities for moving cargo. Most of the international trade conducted in Portland is with Asian countries and shipping companies. The port is in a unique location to be able to welcome ships from the entire Pacific Rim, from Asia to Australia and New Zealand. The port even takes in cargo and exports cargo to and from Europe. Oakland is also responsible for trade with Guam and Hawaii, including military locations.
Accidents in Oakland
Any port area and shipping channel is busy and hazardous, but with such a huge and busy port as the one at Oakland, dangers are even more present. Workers here are at risk from any number of accidents, some of which may cause injuries, while others, tragically, lead to deaths. From being out to sea, to navigating the crowded waters coming into the port, to the cargo-moving areas of the port itself, all aspects of work in this industry and in this location are dangerous.
An example of one such accident that led to the death of a port worker occurred in November of 2013. The worker was in one of the large cargo cranes, used to lift cargo to and from ships, when he fell from the crane and died. Why he was in the crane is unknown, as he was not the crane operator. The man was an engineer aboard a Portuguese freighter docked in the port. It is also not known why he fell, but the incident illustrates how simply being at great heights in a port presents a hazard and a situation that can quickly and inexplicably lead to a tragic death.
Also in 2103 another incident led to the death of a worker at the port. A longshore worker died in a truck crash. She was hauling a container at the time, and was thought to have had a seizure while driving. This led her to crash into a stationary object. The accident and its subsequent investigation closed the port for the day. Her seizure could have happened anywhere, but when it happens in a busy port with so much equipment, cargo, and so many vehicles and machinery moving, the results are bound to be tragic.
Oakland maritime accidents don’t just occur in the port itself. Ships coming in and out have to traverse the San Francisco Bay, which is a busy waterway. Accidents here can be very serious, as was the case in 2007 when a pilot taking a container ship into port struck a tower on the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge. The accident could have caused injuries and deaths, but luckily no one was hurt. The real tragedy was that the collision caused thousands of gallons of fuel to spill into the Bay killing wildlife and causing an environmental disaster. The pilot was later found to be to blame. He had been taking prescription medications that impaired his ability to navigate and had told no one he was on the medication.
Legal Rights for Maritime Workers
As a maritime worker in Oakland you have rights under federal law. These rights ensure that you get compensation after experiencing a workplace accident that causes you to be injured or even killed. In the latter case, the rights extend to your loved ones. If you work in the port you probably qualify for compensation through the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act. This federal program provides a way for you to get money to cover medical expenses, lost wages, and other costs associated with getting better and getting back to work.
If you work on a ship and spend most of your time at sea, you most likely qualify as a seaman under the definition of the Jones Act. This law also provides compensation after an accident, but it does require that you demonstrate negligence played a role in your injuries. Doing so is not usually difficult, but you may find that your employer’s insurance company doesn’t want to pay out and you could be facing an uphill battle to get the money you are owed.
Legal Resources in Oakland
Facing a battle with your employer for compensation after an accident is the last thing you need while you are trying to recover. Federal maritime laws are in place so that if this happens, you can file a claim or start a lawsuit to get your money. The whole process can be daunting, though, especially if you have never done this before. You have to figure out which law applies to you, how to file a claim, and how to avoid mistakes that could cost you, like missing the deadline for the statute of limitations.
This is why an Oakland maritime lawyer can be your best friend in this situation. A lawyer that has studied and practiced maritime law is the expert who can guide you through the process and represent your best interests in an arbitration or trial. Don’t fight this battle alone and miss out on the compensation you are owed. Rely on a good maritime lawyer to help you get everything you need to get well again and get back on the job and back to your normal life.