The Port of Seattle is a major maritime center and busy workplace. Whether you work aboard a ship, in the port, or in another related Seattle-area maritime job, you are at risk of getting injured. If you do, let a Seattle maritime lawyer provide options for getting compensation.
Seattle Maritime Industries and Jobs
If you are a part of the maritime industry in this area, you work in a dangerous job. Whether you are a longshoreman or a seaman, your daily work duties probably put you at risk of getting sick, injured, or even dying. At such a large port, there are many different types of jobs and maritime industries at work.
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One of these is cargo shipping. Cargo shipping is one of Seattle’s most important industries. Numerous large cargo and container terminals provide the space needed for ships to come in to unload goods or to take on cargo to be shipped out to other locations.
This is one of the busiest ports in the country because of how much load goes through each year, and that makes it inherently dangerous for workers.
Tourism is another big maritime industry in the Port of Seattle. Many cruises to Alaska have their point of origin here, but whale watching and recreational charter fishing are also big business in the port.
Commercial fishing is also essential to the city and maritime port industry. Many commercial fishing vessels are based at the port and go in and out to bring in shipments of fish and shellfish.
With so much cargo, fishing, or recreational shipping that goes in and out of the Port of Seattle, it’s no wonder the port is a significant source of land-based maritime jobs:
- Tugboat operators
- Pilots, longshoremen
- Ship repair workers
- Truck drivers
- Fish processors
The Risks of Maritime Jobs in Seattle
Regardless of which type of maritime job you do, there are risks. If you work in the port as a longshoreman or other type of worker, you must navigate the crowded harbor and marina, doing your job without getting caught up in an accident.
Giant cranes lift cargo to and from ships, trucks, and other equipment, move cargo around the harbor, and warehouses are stocked with cargo and equipment.
An accident can occur if any part of the busy environment fails. For instance, workers might improperly attach cargo to a train or truck, which could lead to it falling on and injuring or killing a worker. A trip hazard could cause a worker to fall from a dock into the water.
Incorrectly stored cargo in a warehouse could cause a worker to be crushed or a fire to start that could harm many people.
There are several other risks for seamen working aboard the ships that come into dock at the port. Workers aboard vessels have to contend with:
- Rough water out at sea
- Bad weather
- Long and grueling working hours
- Falls overboard
- Exposure to improperly stored toxic chemicals
- Ship fires
- Trips, slips, and falls from ladders and walkways
Examples of Seattle Accidents
As a large and busy port, Seattle has seen its fair share of accidents like those described here.
Forklift Driver Fatality
Some occur at sea, while others, like an incident from 2012, occur right in the port. A forklift driver died from being crushed between a shipping container and a forklift. It was a tragic accident that, like many other accidents in ports, should have been avoided.
In another tragedy, much earlier in 1994, a longshoreman was struck by the beam of a crane. The beam, which lifts cargo, weighs several tons. The worker was severely injured and later died because of the injuries.
This one should have been avoided, as with the crushing accident that led to a fatality. The man was working for a stevedoring company when he died.
Truck Driver Safety Strike
In 2012, truck drivers at the port walked out on the job, effectively shutting down operations over safety issues. The drivers said they were pressured to overload their trucks to dangerous weight levels.
When the trucks were found overweight, the drivers said they took the blame and the fine when their employers were at fault.
They also complained that too many trucks were in poor condition and posed safety concerns. One driver cited an incident in which a truck in front of him broke down, sending heavy cargo scattering and nearly striking him.
Tourists and workers aboard tourist vessels also face serious dangers working on the water and in ports. A whale-watching boat capsized in late 2015 when large waves struck it.
It happened so quickly that rescue was difficult, and six people died. The remaining 21 passengers and crew were rescued. The tragic incident prompted a review of safety regulations, such as requiring passengers to always wear life vests.
Legal Rights for Maritime Workers
People working in the maritime industry, both those working on ships and those who spend more time in port-based jobs, have a right to compensation in the event of illness or injury.
If you spend most of your time on a ship, you probably qualify as a seaman and are covered by the Jones Act. Many of the accidents that occur on ships can be blamed on some kind of negligence. If you can prove that negligence played even a tiny role in your accident, the Jones Act will allow you to file a claim to get compensation for medical bills and lost wages.
The Longshoreman and Harbor Workers ‘ Compensation Act covers accidents that occur to harbor workers and longshoremen. It provides similar compensation to the Jones Act but does not require that negligence be proven.
You can simply file your claim and prove that you were injured on the job to get money for your lost wages, medical expenses, and other related costs.
Most federal maritime laws also extend these rights to the dependent loved ones of those workers that died on the job. If you worry about your family, know they are entitled to your benefits if you lose your life at work.
Navigating all the laws that apply to maritime accidents is complicated. Rely on the experience of a knowledgeable maritime lawyer to get you through it and to represent you in your claim for adequate compensation.