Georgia has a small, but significant coastline on the Atlantic Ocean, with a strategic position that gives access to railways and interstates for moving cargo. The two ports on the coast are at Savannah and Brunswick, and together they represent a major part of the cargo and container shipping industry. Savannah is the second-busiest container port in the country after Los Angeles, and Brunswick brings in more new cars than any other port.
With so much going on at Georgia’s ports, it’s no wonder that the maritime industry is a major source of employment for the coastal region. This success also makes the ports hazardous for workers. If you work in the ports of Georgia or on the ships that come and go from them, you face dangers every day. With a Georgia maritime lawyer, you can be sure that if you are hurt on the job that you will have an experienced partner ready to represent you and help you get the cash you need to get back on your feet.
Although Georgia has only a small slice of Atlantic coastline, it takes full advantage of that position with two major ports. With quick access to trains and the interstate, as well as a central coast location for incoming ships, this area has become an international hub for container and cargo importing and exporting.
The container terminal at Savannah is the second busiest in the country and is the largest of all single-operator container facilities on the continent. It is the fourth-largest port, the fastest growing, and serves more than 100 shipping lines. The Port of Brunswick, south of Savannah, holds the title of biggest car importer in the country and also takes in more than 16 percent of all cargo for the east coast.
Clearly, the state of Georgia is a big player in the maritime industry. To keep these busy ports and terminals running, thousands of workers are needed. There are longshoremen, stevedores, ship repairers, crane operators, forklift operators, truck drivers, electricians, and more working every day in the thriving ports, in warehouses, on the docks and on the ships.
The Dangers of Working in a Port
For port workers, especially in busy cargo and container ports like those in Georgia, every day is a risk. Working in a crowded place, with heavy equipment and large cargo, is dangerous. Just one seemingly minor mistake can lead to a catastrophe. Causes of accidents include things like inadequate training for workers, poor equipment maintenance, a lack of safety equipment or training, miscommunications between workers, or just simple human error and mistakes in judgment. Unfortunately, some of these mistakes cause accidents that injure workers or even kill them.
There are many types of possible accidents that can occur in ports from slips, trips, and falls to toxic chemical exposure. One of the biggest risks that leads to the most severe consequences is that a large piece of equipment or cargo will strike and injure or kill a worker. Cranes of various sizes are used to lift cargo and move it on and off ships and if something goes wrong, the crane or its load can hit someone. Cranes have been known to collapse and injure or kill workers, while dropped cargo is also not uncommon.
Accidents like these are to be expected in a work environment that has so many different moving pieces, from cranes and trucks to the ships themselves and even the water. However, port employers and shipping line employers are supposed to take all reasonable precautions to prevent accidents. They are responsible for making sure workers are trained, equipment is maintained, and cargo is being secured correctly. When things go wrong, there is almost always a reason and someone to blame. Negligence is behind many of the accidents that sideline or kill port workers.
The Port of Savannah saw a tragic accident in 2008 when a longshoreman was killed on the job. Lee Fluker died after he was struck tubular steel that was being transported by forklift at the Ocean Terminal dock. While working on the dock, Fluker was hit by the steel that was on one forklift and knocked into the path of another forklift. That forklift driver hit the brakes with the best intentions, but the motion caused his load of steel tubes to fly forward and strike Fluker again. He died on the spot, nearly instantly. It can be hard to know where negligence may play a role in such an accident, but it could have been that the steel was not secured properly or that there was a lack of communication between the workers.
Another tragic year for the Georgia port was in 1994 when two different accidents led to the deaths of two longshoremen. In one incident, a worker was run over by a forklift while he was working at unloading some cargo from a ship. In the other incident a bale of cotton, with a weight of nearly 500 pounds fell on a worker at the Ocean Terminal docks. Both longshoremen died on the scene.
Legal Rights for Georgia Maritime Workers
If you work in Georgia’s maritime industry, you don’t have to be told how dangerous it is. As a longshoreman or other worker in the port area, or as a seaman on a ship, you face daily hazards. This is why federal maritime law was created: to ensure injured workers in the industry had a way to get the money they need to recover and get back to work after an accident. These laws can provide you with money for medical bills, wages you lose while being off the job, and other costs like any future lost earning capacity related to a permanent injury.
Workers in the maritime industry can also be at ease knowing that their dependent loved ones have rights too. If you are killed on the job in an accident your loved ones have the right to your benefits through these laws. The money can help pay for funeral expenses and the wages they depended on while you worked.
Georgia Maritime Lawyers
You don’t have to fight the battle to get compensation after an injury alone. You might find that when you get hurt your employer’s insurance company is reluctant to pay or may want to offer you less than what you deserve.
Instead of signing your rights away, taking the first deal, or trying to fight the insurance company to get more without any guidance, rely on a maritime lawyer to help you. With the expertise of this professional, you can be sure that you are not making mistakes, that you haven’t missed any deadlines for filing claims, and that you are filing a claim under the correct law, the one that applies to you. Only with a lawyer can you know that you will get everything you are owed under the law.