Nestled on the shores of Lake Michigan, Chicago was once the busiest port city in the United States.
While Chicago now doesn’t crack the top 10, it is still a thriving port, and that means many boats – and boating accidents – are part of the territory.
Chicago is a strategic part of the maritime industry because it connects several waterways including the St. Lawrence Seaway, the Great Lakes and the Mississippi River, making it a busy port for container and cargo shipping.
For boat workers, safety is one of the biggest concerns, because turbulence, dangerous working conditions and other factors including employer negligence can lead to serious injuries or death.
Still, the roles they play are important ones aboard ships, whether we are talking about a commercial shipping vessel, a fishing boat, a dredger or a tugboat.
Not only do boat workers suffer devastating injuries in Chicago. Passengers can also experience severe injury when boat owners do not take the proper safety precautions.
Common Maritime Injuries and Negligence
Deckhands and other maritime workers have risky jobs, as anyone who has seen the movie “The Perfect Storm” or knows the story of the Edmund Fitzgerald, which sank on Lake Superior in 1975, taking the lives of 29 men and inspiring a Gordon Lightfoot song understands.
In fact, commercial fishing ranks as the most dangerous job in the United States, and although the once thriving industry was a way of life on Lake Michigan in years past, invasive species such as the zebra mussel have decimated the fish population, leaving behind smelt – a small fish that is available during only part of the year – as well as a handful of other fish including perch and whitefish.
Still, for those who find themselves out on the lake, they are putting their lives at risk, with the potential for serious injury or death always lurking as part of a day’s work.
Because boats are on the water, deck surfaces are usually wet, making conditions dangerous. The risks are serious, especially for deckhands, who are at risk of serious slips and falls or tumbling overboard, among a host of other potential disastrous injuries.
Slip and fall accidents are one of the main contributors to brain and spinal cord injuries in the United States, and in the case of boating accidents, they are often the result of someone else’s negligence.
These are the some common maritime injuries include:
- Hypothermia and frostbite, conditions that are especially risky on the often-frigid waters of Lake Michigan.
- Compartment syndrome, a condition that occurs when pressure builds inside a muscle compartment after an injury. It usually requires surgery in order to avoid permanent damage.
- Amputations can occur of a body part becomes caught in a boat’s rigging, if a cable snaps or if a person falls overboard and becomes caught in a boat’s propeller.
- Burns can occur if a boat catches on fire or if someone stumbles against a boat’s engine.
- Lung damage. Lung damage can occur if turbulence causes a person to strike an object on the boat or if a person falls overboard, where their lungs may fill with water, damaging the air sacs inside. Water intake can cause lasting lung damage and can also lead to wrongful death if the person who falls overboard drowns.
- Slip and fall accidents that can lead to spinal cord, head and brain injuries.
- Drowning can occur when a boat owner capsizes the boat or runs over a swimmer or passenger.
Pulled muscles, injuries that occur as a result of fatigue from working long hours and repetitive stress injuries are also risk factors for deckhands and other boat workers.
Common Types of Boat Accidents
- Head-on crashes
- Falling Overboard
Common Causes of Boat Injuries Leading to Lawsuits
- Boat owner inexperience
- Boat operator use of drugs and alcohol
- Reckless driving or behavior
- Boat machinery failure
- Boat captain not paying attention
- Inattention to water hazards and dangers
Other Dangers for a Boat Worker or Deckhand Job
For some deckhands and maritime workers, the equipment with which they are working can be the most unsafe part of the job.
Since they work on the deck of a ship, deckhands are especially vulnerable to accidents, especially in turbulent water, when one trip and fall can result in broken bones, cuts and abrasions or exposure to harsh weather, which can lead to illness or hypothermia. A careless collision with another boat can also put a deckhand at risk of falling overboard if they are not prepared for the impact.
While some accidents are an act of nature, others occur because someone else was careless in their own position, putting other workers at risk.
There are some essentials for safety aboard ship, including proper maintenance of equipment and adequate training for all those aboard, but when maintenance and training is neglected and workers fail to use proper judgement when navigating waterways, the ship’s captain or owners may be found negligent for damages in the event of a tragic accident.
If you were seriously injured in a maritime related incident or a loved one was killed while working aboard a commercial vessel, consulting an experienced maritime attorney is one of the most important steps you can take in order to secure a settlement that can help pay for medical expenses or compensate families for the loss of income experienced by the death of their loved one.
If you suffered an injury on the job and are being denied compensation, an attorney is the best way to ensure that you are fairly compensated for your injuries, especially if you are unable to return to work.
There are maritime laws including the Jones Act, established in 1920 to regulate maritime commerce in United States waters and in U.S. ports, as well as the Death on the High Seas Act, which was established by Congress to allow a spouse, child or other dependent family member to recover damages against a shipowner if a seaman is killed in international waterways, which begin beyond the 12 nautical miles of U.S. territorial waters.
Maritime law can be confusing, if you have been injured working as a deckhand or boat worker in the Chicago area or on Lake Michigan, call our offices today. Our experienced team will help determine adequate compensation for your injuries and help you secure it.
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