If you work in a harbor or port, then you’re considered a “maritime” worker. State and federal maritime law will cover your injuries on the job. Both Indiana and Illinois have lots of maritime activity. Trade routes move through Lake Michigan as well as along the Chicago, Ohio, and Wabash Rivers.
Indiana Waterways and Maritime Work
According to Indiana University, over half of the Indiana border is water-based. Indiana has over 400 miles of state shoreline. For years, our waterways have been an alternative to transporting goods in big rigs or by train. Back in 1991, the Indiana Port Commission saw 6 million tons of cargo move through Indiana ports.
Today, the Port of Indiana is a port authority. It is a system, operating three ports. It’s located on two of the main U.S. freight routes: the Great Lakes, and the Inland Waterway Systems. These three ports work in tandem, with maritime work for Hoosiers at either:
- Port of Indiana – Burns Harbor in Portage, Indiana (Lake Michigan);
- Port of Indiana – Jeffersonville, Indiana (Ohio River); or
- Port of Indiana – Mount Vernon near Evansville, Indiana (Ohio River).
The Ports of Indiana now move over 33,000,000 truckloads of cargo throughout the United States. The ports are a key part of the “Crossroads of America.” Much of this product is steel or steel-related cargo.
And the amount of port traffic in Indiana is increasing. The Port of Indiana – Burns Harbor has seen a 66% jump in cargo volume so far this year, as compared to 2015. That’s a huge increase.
Illinois Waterways and Maritime Work
There’s also work for professional longshoremen and harbor workers in Illinois. First, there is the huge Port of Chicago, which is several ports within the city of Chicago. They are under the control of either the Illinois International Port District or the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
Aside from the Port of Chicago, lots of Illinois maritime workers are employed at the Chicago Harbor, as well as the Calumet Harbor.
In Chicago, the Chicago Harbor is complex. It is an artificial harbor built at the mouth of the Chicago River. Within the Chicago Harbor are several municipal harbors (Dusable, Monroe), the Jardine Water Purification Plant, and several yacht clubs. It serves the Chicago River, the Calumet River, Lake Calumet, Lake Michigan, as well as the Ogden Canal and the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal.
There is also the Chicago Park District. This is another harbor system. The Chicago Park District is within the larger Chicago Harbor. It’s dedicated to recreational boating.
The Chicago Park District is the largest municipal harbor system in the country. Within the Chicago Park District are nine harbors: Montrose Harbor, Belmont Harbor, Diversey Harbor, Dusable Harbor, Monroe Harbor, Burnham Harbor, 31st Street Harbor, 59th Street Harbor, and Jackson Park Inner and Outer Harbors. It can serve over 5000 boats with “state of the art” offerings that include floating docks, star docks, moorings, and more.
Maritime Workers Hurt on the Job in Indiana or Illinois
Maritime work is specialized. Most of these jobs require technical skills and education; much of the work is hazardous. Maritime work is any kind of work done on, or near, a vessel. It can be work done on a vessel (tug, barge, etc.) as well as at a port or in a harbor. It can involve longshoring operations or harbor work (ship repair, ship building, shipbreaking).
One federal court defined maritime work as, “… activities that bear a significant relationship to navigation or to commerce on navigable waters.” Boudreaux v. American Workover, Inc., 664 F.2d 463 (5th Cir. La. 1981). That covers a lot of different jobs and employees.
Often, this work is dangerous. Maritime workers can be seriously and permanently injured while on the job. Sometimes, maritime workers die from accidents that happen at work.
If a maritime worker is hurt or killed on the job, the federal Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act (”LHWCA”) may govern the claim. The LHWCA procedures will control. The LHWCA defines the types of relief and damages he and his family can expect to receive.
This is the Workers’ Compensation Plan for maritime employees in Indiana and Illinois. Workers and their families can seek claims for damages that include lost wages, medical expenses, and rehabilitation costs, and more. Death benefits are available to family members who have tragically lost someone in a maritime work accident.
Indiana and Illinois maritime workers have their claims overseen by the federal government via the Division of Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation (DLHWC).
The Jones Act may also apply to injuries or wrongful death of a maritime worker in Indiana or Illinois. From an insurance carrier’s perspective, the Jones Act is the workers’ compensation system established by the federal government for seamen (crew on a vessel) while the Longshore and Harbor Worker’s Compensation Act covers all other maritime workers (i.e., those that are not seamen).
Fighting for Justice for Maritime Workers Hurt or Killed on the Job
When someone is injured or killed doing maritime work, one of the first issues will be whether or not the worker was a “maritime worker” as that term is defined under federal and state law. The second argument may be what laws apply to his case.
- Does the Jones Act cover him?
- Does the LHWCA provide coverage?
- Does he have to look at state workers’ compensation systems?
- Can he sue under general negligence laws for damages?
For those harbor workers, longshoremen, stevedores, seamen, tug workers, barge workers, and other maritime workers who are seriously injured on the job, it may be necessary to fight for justice in this system. Maximum compensation under these provisions is not something that is guaranteed. Anyone hurt either at port or on board a vessel (container ship, barge, tug, cargo ship, etc.) may need to have the support of legal counsel in order to find the coverage and compensation that justice demands.