If you work in the maritime industry in Florida, you may be a fisherman, a cruise ship worker, a seaman aboard a container ship, a longshoreman, or a tour boat captain, but whatever your job is, you take risks every day. The laws that make up federal maritime law protect workers like you and ensure you get compensation for injuries and illnesses. Florida maritime lawyers have the experience and training to help you get that money if you are the victim of a maritime workplace accident.
Florida’s Maritime Industry
Florida is a vital state in the maritime industry in the U.S. It has miles of the Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico coastline. Florida is home to 14 different ports and more registered boats than any other state in the union, with over 900,000 registered in 2010.
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The maritime industry in Florida is made up of a diversity of types of boating too. There are cargo and container shipping, tourist and recreational boating, cruise ships, commercial fishing, boats, and air taxis that take workers out to oil rigs in the Gulf of Mexico.
The Ports of Florida
Many types of water-based industries work in the state, from recreational and tourist businesses to international shipping and gas and oil refining. All vessels involved in these industries must come in and out of Florida’s ports.
With so many miles of coastline, the state has room for several ports. These include the ports of:
- Panama City
- St. Joe
- Fernandina Beach
- Fort Pierce
- Palm Beach
- The Everglades
- Key West
- St. Petersburg
- Tampa Bay
Ports are important centers of traffic and industry, with people working several jobs. There are commercial fishermen, stevedores, crane operators, fish processors, warehouse workers, shipbuilders and repairers, mechanics, electricians, truck drivers, ship captains, and cruise ship crew members.
Common Florida Maritime Accidents
Whether you work in a port, harbor, warehouse, or on a ship or boat, if you work in the maritime industry in Florida, you put yourself at risk of accidents, injuries, and illnesses every day on the job.
Cruise Ship Accidents
The cruise ship industry, for instance, is enormous in the state, and crew members are at risk from trip or slip and fall accidents, walkway, and ladder falls, falls overboard, harassment or assaults by passengers.
Illness is also a big risk on a ship when a virus or bacterial infection is spread among the passengers and crew.
Commercial Fishing Accidents
Commercial fishing vessels, winches, conveyor belts, nets, trawls, and other heavy-duty equipment are part of the everyday work experience and can be dangerous. If one person on the boat isn’t appropriately trained to work with fishing equipment, many people can get hurt.
If communication fails or the machinery hasn’t been adequately maintained, you can become seriously injured in an accident. Seamen on board, other types of ships, face similar accident risks, and all seamen are at risk of falling overboard or capsizing in rough waters and dangerous weather.
Workers aboard ships are not the only ones in the maritime industry who face daily risks. Ports are dangerous places to work as well. Weather and rough waters are less of an issue.
Still, port workers face becoming victims of:
- Cargo loading and unloading accidents
- Large cranes accidents
- Toxic chemical exposure
- Warehouse fires
- Collisions with trucks, forklifts, and other types of machinery
Examples of Florida Maritime Accidents
There are many unfortunate examples of tragic accidents in the Florida maritime industry. Many result in injuries and fatalities.
The Sinking of the El Faro
Hurricanes are common in the waters of the state. In 2015, a container ship, the El Faro, fell victim to one of these massive storms. The ship departed from the Port of Jacksonville as tropical storm Joaquin formed over its route to Puerto Rico.
After the ship left, the storm was upgraded to a hurricane. Communication from the ship ceased, and finally, it was determined that it sank in the storm. The entire crew of 33 was lost in this tragic and unfortunate accident.
Cruise Ship Fatality
In a terrible example of a cruise ship accident, a worker lost his life while working on a Carnival cruise ship elevator. The ship left on a three-day cruise from Miami to the Caribbean. The electrician had been working inside the elevator shaft when the car moved and crushed him.
Somehow communication broke down in this situation. More investigations will be needed to determine precisely what happened and who was to blame, but the accident should have been prevented.
Cruise Ship Navigation Accident
Another cruise ship accident in 2006 was less severe but on a larger scale. The ship, Crown Princess, had steering issues. When a crew officer tried to take over control of the steering, a too-hard turn resulted in the violent shifting of passengers, cargo, and other parts of the ship.
The blame was found on the officer who misjudged the need to turn the ship. The result was 284 minor injuries and 14 more serious injuries to passengers and crew.
Legal Rights for Injured Maritime Workers
All maritime workers in Florida are entitled to seek compensation after an on-the-job injury or illness. Dependents are also entitled to benefits when workers are killed on the job.
Laws provide for such compensation whether or not there was negligence involved in the accident and whether or not you work on a ship, in a port, or on an oil rig or platform.
If you get injured on the job, you will want to ensure you get the money to cover your medical bills, lost wages, and other related costs.
To help you get that compensation and get back on your feet, you will need the expertise of an experienced maritime lawyer. With good representation, you can navigate the complicated system of maritime laws and be sure that you end up with all of the compensation to which you are entitled.