Situated in the northeastern portion of Florida along the St. John’s River, Jacksonville is a prime spot for a host of maritime services and activities. With one of the largest ports in the nation, Jacksonville provides employment to numerous maritime workers. Yet, as with most other large ports, seamen are at frequent risk for maritime accidents and injuries while working.
The Jacksonville Port Authority
The Port of Jacksonville, also known as JAXPORT, is the newest of the United States’ major ports and the third largest in Florida, following the Port of Tampa and Port Everglades. Located in the mouth of the St. John’s River, the port operates three public marine terminals and one cruise ship terminal near the city of Jacksonville. In 2013, the port handled nearly 8.2 million tons of cargo, and its cruise terminal embarked 185, 434 passengers. JAXPORT handles a wide range of vessels and cargoes, including container ships, recreational boats, tankers, car carriers, and bulk freighters. The port provides 65,000 jobs in the Jacksonville area, and many seamen pass through in vessels from all over the world.
Maritime Accidents and Injuries
As mentioned earlier, Jacksonville is home to some of the most busiest maritime activities in the nation, and without proper safety precautions and well-maintained equipment, accidents and injuries are bound to happen. The most common types of Jacksonville maritime accidents include:
- Slip, trip, and fall accidents
- Crane and winch accidents
- Exposure to toxic substances
- Burns from flammable materials
- Mooring line accidents
- Exposure to corrosive materials
- Exposure to asbestos, especially on older ships and buildings
- Fires aboard ships or in port buildings
Cargo and Container Accidents
Transporting goods is an invisible process for many, but at JAXPORT, thousands of stevedores, longshoremen, and other workers are loading and unloading containers to and from vessels, moving them on trucks and getting them to the stores where shoppers buy products. Loading and unloading multi-ton containers full of cargo is a demanding and dangerous job, and accidents occur frequently in large ports such as Jacksonville.These accidents are usually caused by:
- Equipment Failure
- Poor or nonexistent safety procedures
- Unseaworthy vessels
- Equipment not properly maintained or repaired
- Negligence by employers
- Hull breaches
- Poor staff training
- Failure to follow government regulations
- Vessel not designed or equipped properly
Maritime workers, including onshore employees as well as seamen on cargo vessels, are often injured when heavy objects, such as steel pipes or wooden crates, fall from one deck of a ship to another or are dropped when a crane’s hoist breaks in midlift. They can also be struck by machinery being used by careless or poorly trained operators.
Victims of maritime accidents suffer serious injuries that can cause permanent disability or death. Common injuries caused by maritime accidents include:
- Traumatic brain injury
- Fractured or broken bones
- Spine injuries
- Burn injuries
- Chemical poisoning
It’s important to remember to report all injuries, regardless of how minor they seem. In addition, seek immediate medical treatment, even if you feel fine. This provides proof in the event a claim for disability is disputed. Furthermore, aside from filling out and accident and injury, never sign any other paperwork, especially if you have any questions or concerns regarding the benefits and compensation you’re entitled to. It’s best to retain legal representation and have your attorney review any documents before signing.
Additional Resources for Jacksonville Maritime Workers
Seaman have legal rights under general maritime that protects in the event that they are injured on the job as a result of employer negligence. If you’ve been injured, it’s important to speak to a Jacksonville maritime attorney in order to understand what you may qualify for. Although all seamen are covered under maintenance and cure regardless of how the accident and injuries happen, you may also be covered under additional benefits if your condition resulted from an unseaworthy vessel and/or employer negligence.