Working in the busy Chicago ports or on the ships that have to navigate through the St. Lawrence Seaway and the Great Lakes is full of daily risks and dangers. If you work in this industry in Illinois, you may get hurt on the job. Let an Illinois maritime lawyer be your guide and representative to help you get compensation after a workplace accident.
The Ports of Illinois
Illinois’s largest port is the complex of terminals, ports, and docks called the Illinois International Port District. The Port of Chicago is the largest in the district, but there are other essential ports too. For instance, Calumet Harbor is a busy port kept in good shape by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
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Illinois’s ports include multiple terminals and harbors with both berths for shipping and storage for liquid and dry cargo. A Foreign Trade Zone is also operated here by the Illinois International Port District.
Although Illinois is so far inland, this area represents a point of entry for the U.S. since international ships may come all the way up from the ocean without stopping at other terminals.
From the port area in Illinois, cargo can be sent out by rail, truck, or barge. Barges go from Chicago and the surrounding area down the Mississippi River to various destinations north and south of Illinois and out into the Gulf of Mexico for international trade.
A small, regional cruise industry also makes it home here in Illinois. Smaller cruise lines specializing in the Great Lakes and Midwest tours have docked in Chicago.
The Dangers of Maritime Work
All maritime jobs come with hazards, including those on ships and in ports.
For instance, accidents with the large cranes used to lift cargo and containers are too common in ports.
One mistake by the crane operator or miscommunication between the operator and someone on the ground, and cargo can drop or swing and hurt or kill someone.
Working in the ports of Illinois can be very dangerous because these are busy places with many moving parts and heavy and complicated machinery.
There are also risks with tractors, forklifts, and trucks in ports. These vehicles have to move people and cargo all around the port, and accidents with them are not uncommon. Many port workers have been struck, injured, or killed in such incidents.
Sometimes it is the cargo that presents a danger. Toxic or flammable cargo can spill and cause fires or exposure accidents. Heavy cargo can drop or be released at the wrong time and crush or hurt workers.
Jobs aboard the ships that come in and out of Illinois ports are also dangerous. Navigating the crowded and relatively narrow waters of the St. Lawrence Seaway and the Mississippi River is difficult.
Grounding, sinking, and colliding with other ships or objects sometimes cause people to get hurt. These accidents can also cause spills of chemicals or oil that cause significant environmental disasters.
Working the barges that leave Illinois ports to head down the Mississippi River is particularly dangerous. Barge workers are susceptible to falling into the water, getting crushed or struck by moving objects, being caught in fires, or getting hurt while handling the lines used for docking.
Accidents in the Illinois Maritime Industry
Although it is possible to take precautions to keep workers safe, maritime accidents are almost inevitable to some extent, and Illinois has experienced several such incidents.
Barge Oil Spill
The barges that leave the state and move cargo down the Mississippi toward the Gulf of Mexico are particularly vulnerable to accidents.
In 2013 a pile-up of at least four barges on the river caused a serious oil spill and stopped traffic there for more than a day. The accident occurred when barges being pushed by tugs collided. While no one was injured, this was a major environmental accident.
Another barge incident occurred on the Illinois River in 2013. A towing vessel was headed down the river while pushing 14 barges. A cross current dislodged several barges as it attempted to enter a canal next to a dam.
Several barges struck and damaged the dam before sinking. No one was injured in the incident, but it caused over $50 million in damage to the barges, cargo, and the dam.
The most famous and tragic accident in Illinois’s maritime industry occurred in 1944 when a munitions explosion shook the Port of Chicago.
The blast killed 320 civilians and sailors. Nearly 400 other people were injured. The incident led to a mutiny by servicemen who refused to work under the unsafe conditions that caused the explosion.
Legal Rights for Illinois Maritime Workers
The possibility of workplace accidents and resulting injuries are all too real for anyone working in Illinois’ maritime industry. Whether you work in the ports, on shipping vessels, on small cruise ships, or on the barges that head down the Mississippi, you put your life at risk every day.
The federal government has laws to ensure that maritime workers can seek compensation for workplace injuries. Their loved ones also have a right to get money for the deaths of maritime workers.
Different laws apply to different types of jobs and situations. For instance, if you work on a ship and your employer’s negligence played even a small role in your accident, you can seek compensation through the Jones Act.
If you are injured as a longshore worker, you can seek compensation through the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act.
Knowing which law applies to you, how to use that law to get money, and fighting against an employer who doesn’t want to pay up is challenging. This is why you should rely on an Illinois maritime lawyer if you get hurt on the job.
Let this expert, who has studied the law and helped others like you, guide you through filing a claim and getting the money you need to recover from your accident. With a professional like this as your representation, you can be sure you will get the money you owe.