With a nearby portage between the Mississippi watershed and the Great Lakes, Chicago has been a huge presence in the maritime industry dating back to the 1800s’. The Port of Chicago, a world-class deepwater seaport, has barge traffic going through the Seaway, the Gulf of Mexico, Chicago inland points, and throughout various rivers. Similar to other seaports, Chicago is bustling with maritime activity, which can can lead to a myriad of accidents and injuries amongst its workers. Though injuries are a part of the risks involved in the maritime industry, these incidences can be curtailed with proper safety training, well-functioning equipment, and seaworthy vessels.
Examples of Maritime Accidents and Injuries in Chicago
In July of 1944, the cargo vessel S.S. EA Bryan, docked at the inward side of one of the Port of Chicago’s piers, exploded, killing at least 320 people. After loading for four days, the vessel had close to 4,600 tons of explosives aboard when the accident occurred. Although the men were apprehensive about working around and handling so many explosives, they were told by officers that the munitions were inactive and therefore could not explode.
Many experts speculate that the famous Port of Chicago disaster happened due to loading officers demanding that maritime workers load explosive cargo at a fast, unsafe pace. In addition, the winches in which the cargo were loaded had to work at an excessive pace without the proper maintenance and care.
Although the accident occurred several decades ago, there are still a multitude of accidents and injuries in Chicago caused by negligent employers, vessel owners, and other crew members. Vessel accidents in particular has been a cause for concern. Per the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, in 2009 alone, Chicago had 25 deaths and 70 injuries from boating accidents alone. Although some of these numbers indicate recreational boating, others stem directing from accidents and injuries aboard commercial vessels. Furthermore, several injuries could have been prevented if the seamen were offered seaworthy vessels and safe working conditions.
According to statistics provided by the United States Coast Guard, commercial fishing accidents leading to death is seven times higher than the national average of all deaths combined in all industry groups. Although most commercial fishing deaths tend to happen on coastal waters, at least 31 deaths were reported in Chicago alone during the 1980s.
If You’ve Been Injured Due to Negligence
If you’ve been injured on the job due to the negligence and carelessness of another party, keep in mind that may be entitled to benefits and compensation under general maritime law and the Jones Act. Longshoremen may be entitled to benefits under the Longshore Harbor Workers’ Act and dependents of a deceased maritime worker may be entitled to benefits under the Death on High Seas Act. It’s important that you understand what your rights are before signing any paperwork that your employer or insurance adjuster may coerce you to fill out. For more information, it’s recommended to seek legal representation from an experienced maritime attorney who can help you understand your legal rights and options. In the meantime, for more information on what you may be entitled to, see our article Maritime Rights and Compensation.