If you work in the maritime industry in Michigan, you take risks every day. If you get injured on the job, you could be facing an uphill battle to get the payment you are owed for your injuries or illness. Let a Michigan maritime lawyer help you get that compensation by using the law to fight for it.
Michigan’s Maritime Industry
With so much coastline, Michigan is a big player in maritime industries. The state’s coasts are dotted with multiple small ports like Monroe, Port Huron, Bay City, and Muskegon in the Lower Peninsula and Escanaba, Houghton, and Sault Ste. Marie in the Upper Peninsula.
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Most are smaller ports, but the Port of Detroit, in the state’s largest city, is the biggest port in Michigan. The Port of Detroit has several terminals situated on the Detroit River across from Windsor, Ontario.
It can handle a variety of cargo from liquid to dry to breakbulk and general cargo. The terminals include passenger vessels like river cruise boats, river ferries, and larger regional Great Lakes cruise ships.
The terminals for the Port of Detroit stretch several miles and can be found in Detroit and other cities like River Rouge and Ecorse. There are both public and privately-owned terminals. Millions of tons of cargo go through the port every year, including domestic and international cargo.
In terms of steel cargo handled, Detroit is the third largest port in the country. Other important types of cargo in Detroit include coal, cement, iron ore, and road-building commodities.
The second largest port in Michigan is the Port of Muskegon on the west side of the state. Located in Muskegon Lake, the state’s largest natural deep-water harbor, this port has long been a minor port, but that is changing.
The port has built terminals suitable for container shipping, and traffic into the harbor is expected to keep increasing. From Muskegon, ships can quickly get to Milwaukee and Chicago to further distribute cargo.
Maritime Accidents in Michigan
Michigan has a long maritime history, and the bottoms of the Great Lakes are littered with the tragic accidents that have occurred over the years. The Great Lakes are big enough to be as dangerous as any ocean in the right conditions, and many ships have sunk in these waters over the last few hundred years.
The Edmund Fitzgerald
The most tragic and infamous of these accidents occurred in 1975 when the SS Edmund Fitzgerald sank in Lake Superior. All 29 workers on board the ship drowned, and it was the single worst accident in the maritime history of Lake Superior.
The ship encountered bad weather and rough water, rough enough to sink it quickly. There wasn’t even time to send a distress call.
A contributing factor may have been too much cargo on the ship, which made it unstable. A faulty cargo latch may also have caused the cargo to shift dangerously. The ship was eventually found 530 feet below the lake’s surface, broken into two pieces.
Some accidents are far less tragic but unfortunate, especially when easily preventable. In 2013, a collision occurred on the Rouge River, near the Port of Detroit, when a bulk carrier struck the Jefferson Avenue Bridge.
Collisions are common in the maritime industry, and they happen for many reasons. In this case, the blame was placed solely on the bridge operator, who was intoxicated. He failed to lower the drawbridge correctly and it struck the carrier.
Thankfully no one was injured in the incident, but the ship was damaged. The bridge, a historic structure, was seriously damaged and remained closed for a long time for repairs.
Port of Detroit Fatality
The terminals of ports are busy places, and workers here are susceptible to any number of accidents. In 2013 at a terminal in the Port of Detroit, one worker died due to one of these accidents.
The worker, 62 years old, was spotting for a forklift driver. The driver lost sight of the victim and ran him over with the forklift. This illustrates just how important communication is in these busy terminals. Without it, such tragic accidents become more common.
Legal Rights and Resources
You have certain rights if you are facing injuries or illness in a workplace accident. An injury at work can leave you off the job and without a paycheck for weeks or even months. You may have injuries severe enough that you can never go back to your maritime job.
Maritime laws are in place to provide you with the compensation you need to cover your lost income and future lost earnings and pay for medical bills associated with your recovery. Through these laws, you can ensure your employer pays what you owe.
Facing a big employer in a battle for compensation isn’t always straightforward. The laws are there to protect you, but they can be confusing. Your employer’s insurer may try to get you to sign away your rights or to accept less than you deserve.
Hire a good Michigan maritime lawyer to help you get it all straight. This person can be your guide and represent you against your employer. With a professional at your side, you can be sure you get what you deserve.