California has eleven different ports on its long coastline, including the Port of San Diego. It is not as large as some of the state’s other ports, like those at Los Angeles, Long Beach, and Oakland, but San Diego’s port is still the fourth largest port in California and a major center for shipping, cargo, commercial fishing and cruise ships.
If you work at the Port of San Diego, you enjoy an exciting job in a sunny, warm city. You also face the many dangers and hazards that face any port worker. Seamen also face risks and hazards while out to sea and when they come into the port. Accidents occur in ports and on ships and the results can range from mild injuries to fatalities. If you have been caught in a workplace accident and injured, a San Diego maritime lawyer can help you figure out what compensation you are owed and how to get it.
The Port of San Diego
The port was first created in 1962 by the state of California’s legislature. A port was needed to manage activities in and around San Diego Bay and today the port is the fourth largest in the state, behind Los Angeles, Long Beach, and Oakland. The member cities of the port include San Diego, Chula Vista, Imperial Beach, National City, and Coronado.
The Port of San Diego has two cargo terminals which take in all types of cargo but particularly break bulk, cement, forest products, fertilizer, and refrigerated goods. One of the two terminals is also the major entry port for imported vehicles from several companies. Several cruise lines also operate at the cruise terminals here, sending several hundred thousand passengers on cruises to Mexico each year as well as on recreational fishing cruises. In addition to cargo shipping and cruises, the port also supports a local commercial fishing industry.
The Dangers of Maritime Work
Workers for the port, on the cargo and container ships, on cruise ships, and on commercial fishing vessels in San Diego all face serious hazards on the job. On ships at sea, workers face the possibility of capsizing or sinking. They may be injured in a ship fire. They may fall overboard during rough weather. They can also be injured by the equipment that is used on the ship. Commercial fishermen are particularly vulnerable to this possibility and many injuries occur with the trawls, winches, and processing equipment used on these fishing boats.
For port workers, there are many dangers and potential accidents on the job. Cranes, trucks, forklifts, and other machinery used to move cargo are major sources of injuries, and unfortunately fatalities, in port areas. The causes of these accidents may range from a miscommunication between workers to a negligent employer not keeping equipment in good working order.
There are many other possible ways in which workers can get injured in a port. Large warehouses storing cargo can be stocked badly and cause cargo to fall on workers. Falls into the water can be deadly if rescue doesn’t happen immediately. Exposure to toxic chemicals being shipped and stored can also be a potential problem. There are many reasons why these accidents happen, and negligence is often at the root of the reason, but sometimes accidents are also truly accidental.
Examples of Maritime Accidents
Two people died in a boating accident in the San Diego Bay in 2011 when the small recreational cruise vessel sank off the coast of the Port of San Diego. The investigation concluded that the boat had been overloaded and that this contributed to the capsizing and subsequent drowning of two passengers. The condition of the boat and its equipment was also found to be inadequate for its purpose. Everyone on the boat ended up in the water and a lack of safety equipment may have played a role in the drowning of two of them.
Boating collisions represent another major risk for anyone working on a vessel or any passengers on recreational and tourist vessels. In 2009, in the water off the coast near the Port of San Diego, a boy died after a U.S. Coast Guard boat collided with a recreational vessel. Five other people involved in the incident were injured, treated, and released.
A seaman died aboard a vessel in the Pacific Ocean in 1999 when an explosive device went off in his hands. The man was a skipper aboard a Port of San Diego fishing boat taking recreational fishing tourists out to sea for an 18-day cruise. A passenger had brought some type of homemade fireworks on the cruise and the skipper had joined in lighting and throwing them overboard when the accident happened. The explosion damaged his arm and torso badly enough that he bled to death. This is an example of a poor decision being made by the skipper, but negligence could also be involved as the captain should not have allowed the explosives to be used in that way.
Legal Resources after a Maritime Accident
As a maritime worker you have rights and legal resources to get compensation after a workplace accident leaves you injured. Compensation can help you get your life back together as it covers the costs of medical treatments, medications, counseling, and lost wages. If you die in a workplace accident, these rights extend to your surviving dependent loved ones. The laws that ensure you have access to this compensation are called maritime law.
Understanding maritime law, how it applies to your situation, and how to take advantage of it to get the money you need isn’t very straightforward. It can be confusing to know what to do next and how to do it, especially if you are sick or injured. This is where a San Diego maritime lawyer can be your best resource. This professional can guide you through the process of filing a claim, going through arbitration, making appeals, and even going to trial if it comes to that. With an experienced lawyer by your side, you will be able to get the money you are owed so you can get back to work.