Situated in the Pacific Northwest, the state of Washington is one of the busiest states when it comes to maritime activity. With an array of ports and harbors, it is home to several marine terminals, commercial fishing vessels, and much more. Of course, without a multitude of hard-working seamen, the Washington maritime industry wouldn’t survive. However, hard work in the maritime industry is coupled with the risk of accidents and injuries, and although sometimes they happen even with the most careful planning, many injuries and accidents are due to negligent employers, lack of safety training, and unseaworthy vessels.
Maritime Workers and Accidents in Washington
Like other states with major maritime activity, Washington provides employment to a myriad of maritime workers, including, but not limited to:
- Shipyard and dock workers
- Tugboat crew
- Commercial fishermen
- Deckhands and vessel crew members (cooks, barbers, etc.)
- Ferry workers
Each of the aforementioned occupations come with inherent dangers. In fact, maritime work is considered one of the most dangerous occupations in the world. Yet, the chances of accidents and injuries are reduced significantly when maritime workers are properly trained and given a safe, seaworthy vessel to work aboard. For example, Washington crew members typically work long, hard hours in dangerous conditions in order to increase revenue. In some instances, even though the employer realizes the weather is ominous and that the seamen are being overworked, they are ordered to continue on even though the risks of being injured increase. Employers have the obligation to ensure that seamen are working under the best conditions possible. Yet, in order to meet deadlines and increase revenue, some employers forgo state and federal laws, which can ultimately lead to severe accidents and injuries.
In other instances, faulty equipments or parts aboard a vessel may be ignored in order to cut financial corners. For instance, a conveyor belt repair on a commercial fishing vessel can become quite costly, and since the conveyor belt has been holding up fine without the repair, employers ignore the required maintenance in order to get the job done. Conveyor belt accidents are one of the leading reasons for severe injuries in Washington.
Longshoremen in Washington have also been victim to accidents as a result of poor safety training and unsafe working conditions. For instance, in 1994, a longshoreman working aboard a container vessel in Seattle was struck and killed by the beam from a crane. Accidents such as these rarely happen with the correct training. Employers must provide all workers with in-depth courses that teach them to handle machinery correctly as well as look out for other crew members, especially when handling large, powerful equipment.
If You’ve Been Injured
If you’re a Washington maritime worker and you’ve been injured while on the job, remember that along with maintenance and cure benefits, you may be eligible for compensation under general maritime law and specific bills, such as the Jones Act and the Longshore Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act (LHWCA). Keep in mind that aside from an accident report, you should never sign any forms you feel uncomfortable with until you’re completely sure and confident that your rights under maritime law are not being pushed under the rug. An experienced maritime attorney can assist you in understanding your legal rights and options.
For additional information regarding maritime accidents and injuries in Washington, see our city-specific articles, including:
- Tacoma Maritime Lawyer
- Everett Maritime Lawyer
- Seattle Maritime Lawyer
- Olympia Maritime Lawyer