Situated on the far northern Atlantic coast of Florida, Fernandina Beach is home to the busy Port of Fernandina. It is a natural deep water port near Amelia Island and close to the border with Georgia to the north. The port is home to Kinder Morgan, of the paper pulp industry, but also has terminals serving independent container shipping from various international locations. The main imports for the port are lumber, steel, and wood pulp. Ships leaving Fernandina Beach are mostly carrying wood products, wood pulp, steel, treated lumber, and Kraft liner board.
Fernandina is not the state’s largest port, and it can’t compete with the big cruise terminals of other Florida ports, but it is an important shipping port, bringing in and sending out tons of cargo every day. Workers here at the port as well on the cargo ships coming and going are working in a dangerous industry. They are covered, though, by federal maritime law, which helps to ensure compensation for injuries and illnesses from worktime accidents.
Accidents Facing Fernandina Workers
If you work at the Port of Fernandina, or on board one of the many ships that comes into the port, there are many ways in which you could be the victim of an accident while on the job. In the port, longshoremen, truck drivers, crane operators, warehouse workers, ship repairers, and other types of workers are vulnerable to many types of accidents, for example falls. Personnel platforms, warehouse roofs, catwalks, walkways, docks, ladders, and other locations have to be traversed by these workers, and falls are possible. Falls can cause minor to major injuries, and even can be fatal.
Cargo accidents are also common in ports. For example a crane used to load and unload cargo could fail if not properly maintained or if a worker operating it makes a mistake. If that happens, very heavy cargo can drop onto a worker or strike someone and cause fatalities and serious injuries from broken bones to head and back injuries. Trucks and forklifts that move cargo around the port may also cause accidents, especially when a worker is not paying attention or has not communicated properly with other workers.
On the cargo and container ships that come into the port, seamen are vulnerable to a number of accidents as well. If you work on one of these ships you may be the victim of bad weather, rough waters, and falling overboard or sinking with the ship. Ships are also often the scene of less extreme accidents like slips, trips, and falls, falls from ladders and stairs, accidents with machinery, engine room accidents, electrical equipment malfunctions, and onboard fires.
Legal Resources for Seamen
If you are a seaman working in the Port of Fernandina and you are injured on the job, you have legal resources to get compensation. As a seaman you are entitled to maintenance and cure if you are injured on the ship, or compensation from the doctrine of unseaworthiness if you can prove that something about the vessel was unseaworthy. This could be anything from untrained workers to missing safety equipment to leaks that caused the ship to take on water.
You may find that your employer wants to deny you compensation for your injuries, but if you can show that the ship owner’s negligence played even just a small role in your accident, you can file a Jones Act claim to fight for that compensation. The money can help you pay for your medical bills, cover the wages you have lost while off the job, and even cover other expenses related to your injuries, including diminished future earnings. The burden of proving negligence for the Jones Act is small and is not difficult to do for most injured workers.
Legal Resources for Longshoremen
If you work in the port most of the time you may not qualify as a seaman under the Jones Act, but you probably qualify for money through the Longshoreman and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act. This federal workers’ compensation program is designed to provide money for harbor and port workers who have been injured on the job, regardless of whether any negligence can be proven. If your employer doesn’t want to pay you, know that you have a right to compensation through this federal law. Often it is the employer’s insurance company refusing to pay, but you are entitled to compensation that will help you get well again and get back to work.
Getting Help from a Fernandina Beach Maritime Lawyer
If this all sounds a little confusing and complicated, you are not alone. Federal maritime law is not easy to navigate. You have to understand which laws apply to you, under which law you can file a claim, how to file that claim, what steps to take next, and you have to make sure you do it all before the statute of limitations runs out. Without guidance it is easy to make mistakes that can prevent you from getting the money you need.
Instead of trying to go it alone when seeking compensation for your injuries, rely on the expertise of a professional. There are maritime lawyers available in and around Fernandina Beach who can help you make your case and guide you through all the crucial steps you have to take to get your money. A lawyer can help you file a claim, can be your representation during an arbitration, and can even litigate for you if your case goes in front of a judge or a jury. If you find yourself in the difficult position of being injured on the job in the maritime industry, don’t try to fight your employer alone. Rely on an experienced maritime lawyer to get you through this and to get you what you are owed.