As a state in the Pacific Northwest, Washington has a long coast along the Pacific Ocean and some of the country’s busiest ports. In fact there are 75 different ports in the state with Seattle and Tacoma being two of the largest. These ports are busy with container shipping, tugboats, ferries, cruise ships, and commercial fishing vessels, not to mention all the workers aboard those ships and in the dock areas and ports.
With so much activity, it’s no wonder that maritime work in the state of Washington can be dangerous. If you are a fisherman here, a longshoreman, a cruise ship worker, or any other kind of maritime worker in the state, you take risks every day, and you may end up injured or even killed on the job. If something does happen, there are laws designed to ensure you get adequate compensation. To help you get through the process of filing claims and fighting for what you are owed, rely on a Washington maritime lawyer to guide you.
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Laws that Protect Maritime Workers in Washington
If you are injured on the job in a maritime position, you may have mounting medical bills and lost wages if you can’t go back to work. If you have children or a spouse to support, the situation may be even more difficult. In addition to lost wages and medical expenses, you may have other concerns. Maritime accidents are often traumatic and you may suffer mental health symptoms after your experience. You also may be facing a future in which you may never be able to do your job again. Because the risks in this industry are so big and accidents so common, there are several laws designed to make sure you get adequate compensation to get back on your feet after a workplace accident:
- The Jones Act. To qualify for the Jones Act after on on-the-job injury, you must meet the definition of a seaman. If you work aboard a ship or boat at least 30 percent of the time you likely qualify. The Jones Act is also for accidents in which negligence was a cause. If your employer didn’t maintain your fishing equipment properly and it malfunctioned and hurt you, or another worker made a mistake because he wasn’t trained adequately, for example, you can prove that your employer was negligent and file a Jones Act claim to force compensation.
- The Death on the High Seas Act. In the unfortunate and tragic situation that you die while three or more miles out to sea and while working, your dependents can file a claim under the Death on the High Seas Act. This can provide them with money to replace your lost wages as well as funeral expenses and any other necessary costs related to your death.
- The Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Act. If you don’t qualify as a seaman, but you are injured doing maritime work in a port or harbor, you can seek compensation through the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Act. This federal program does not require you to prove that any negligence was involved in your accident. It simply provides workers’ compensation if you get sick or injured on the job and can’t go back to work immediately.
- The Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act. This law also provides a workers’ compensation plan for certain maritime workers. To qualify, you must be a worker on an offshore structure, such as an oil rig or natural gas platform or even a wind farm off the coast of Washington. Workers on these permanent structures don’t count as longshoremen or seamen, which is why this law was expanded to provide the needed coverage.
Examples of Maritime Accidents in Washington
There are so many different ways in which you could get injured, become ill, or even die while on the job in the Washington maritime industry. From the ferries that transport commuters around the Seattle area to the commercial fishing boats that set out from various ports and the cruise ships coming into harbor on the way to Alaska, there are many different jobs and many ways to get caught in a devastating accident.
A fire started on board a fish processing vessel in 2013 while docked at the port in Westport, Washington. The fire was successfully put out, but it caused a lot of damage and the harbor master was injured during the incident. The fire was later blamed on a space heater on the boat, which short circuited, but another issue was improper storage of flammable cargo. This cargo had been kept too close to the space heater and contributed to the extent of the fire.
In another, similar incident, a passenger boat caught fire at Pier 9 in Seattle in 2012. No cause of the start of the fire could be found, but it was accelerated by flammable materials on board. Fortunately no one was hurt, but such careless storing of materials in both examples of vessel fires is clearly negligent and could have caused serious injuries if anyone had been aboard.
In 2014, a commercial fishing vessel called the Titan ran aground near Ilwaco, Washington off Cape Disappointment. As it ran aground the hull was damaged and the boat began taking on water. The crew members were unable to save it, but were fortunately rescued by a U.S. Coast Guard boat. The boat eventually sank, and while the crew was safe, the entire catch was lost along with the boat. The cause was found to be the captain falling asleep while he should have been monitoring the progress.
Maritime Lawyers in Washington
If you have been injured while working on a ship or in a port in Washington, you have rights to adequate compensation to take care of your medical bills, lost wages, and other related expenses. It’s not unusual for an employer and insurance companies to try to get out of paying what is owed, though. If you find yourself in this situation, don’t settle for what small amount they offer, and never sign away your rights to request additional compensation. Instead, count on a maritime lawyer to help you take all the necessary steps to get the money you need.
The laws are all there, in place to help you get that money. Whether someone can be shown to be negligent in an accident or not, you have a right to get compensation. Make sure you find a good lawyer soon after your accident. This professional can help you file a claim, make sure you meet deadlines, and represent you if your claim goes to arbitration or trial. Only with an experienced lawyer can you be sure you have the best chance of getting maximum compensation.