Protecting Longshoreman Rights
Longshore work is some of the most strategic of all maritime employment. It’s also dangerous, and sometimes fatal. A longshoreman is responsible for loading and unloading cargo from ships and other vessels at East Coast ports. It’s a highly skilled line of work that involves operating big equipment, rigging cargo, and carrying heavy loads. Small mistakes or lapses in safety protocol can lead to accidents — longshore workers can, and do, lose limbs and their lives.
If you’re a longshore worker who has been injured on the job and it has impacted your ability to work, you could be eligible for compensation. In the most extreme cases, your injuries could even make it impossible to return to work. In that case, it’s crucial you understand your longshoreman rights.
The attorneys at Montagna Maritime Law can help you make a claim under the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act. Our firm has a proven track record of success securing favorable settlements and verdicts for injured longshore workers.
Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act
The Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act (LHWCA) was created in 1927 to help protect dock worker and longshoreman rights, and maritime workers who are not seamen.
The LHWCA covers longshoreman rights for employees who suffer a workplace injury on the navigable waters of the United States. This includes workers who are loading and unloading vessels, repairing vessels, and building vessels, and includes work carried out at piers, wharves, dry docks, and terminals.
Similar to state workers’ compensation programs, the LHWCA requires no proof of fault or negligence on your part. If you are a qualified longshore employee who was injured at work, you are automatically entitled to recover full benefits, even if you were partially at fault. The LHWCA provides for the payment of compensation, medical care, and rehabilitation. It also provides benefits for a longshoreman’s family after a fatal injury.
Common Causes of Longshore Accidents
Ports and marine terminals are busy, high-traffic areas with cranes, tractors, forklifts, and heavy cargo containers that are often in motion. This requires longshore workers to be constantly alert. While there are many safety regulations that terminals and ports must adhere to, the possibility of an accident is still high.
Due to the extreme dangers unique to this type of work, the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration has put together data on the hazards faced by longshore workers in an effort to promote the development of safety guidelines and protect longshoreman rights.
The common causes of longshore accidents typically involve:
- Vehicle accidents – Accidents involving vehicles are the most frequent cause of serious and fatal injuries. This includes longshore workers who may be struck by front-end loaders and forklifts with missing or defective safety devices. In other cases, employees have been run over by trucks during unloading and transfer operations in high-traffic areas with poor visibility.
- Falls and drowning accidents – Slips and falls can lead to both serious injuries and drowning. Improper safety procedures, unsafe working conditions, and a lack of guard rails and safety harnesses — and even safety equipment that fails — have led to catastrophic injuries and deaths. In many cases, longshore workers have fallen overboard while not wearing life vests, and defective life rings have also contributed to drowning deaths.
- Material handling accidents – Working with heavy cargo can lead to serious and fatal injuries involving workers being struck or crushed by improperly secured or stacked loads. This includes incidents where longshore employees have been working underneath suspended containers, or cargo has toppled or tipped over onto a worker.
Common Types of Longshore Injuries
Longshoremen work in dangerous conditions. Even when those conditions are seemingly safe, everyday and night risks remain. It’s work that requires good health, physical stamina, and strength, not to mention agility and coordination. For these reasons, it’s critical that you understand your longshoreman rights in the event of an accident.
Some common injuries frequently suffered by longshoremen on the waterfront include:
- Back and neck injuries – Operating equipment, rigging cargo, and carrying heavy loads can be back-breaking work, requiring many hours of standing, lifting, twisting, and pulling. Longshore workers can sustain injuries from falls or being struck by vehicles or unstable loads. A back or neck injury can result in chronic pain, limited mobility, and in the most severe cases can result in paraplegia or quadriplegia.
- Brain injuries – A blow to the head from a slip or fall, or being struck by a swinging or unsecured cargo, can cause traumatic brain injury. This can result in permanent cognitive or personality changes.
- Broken bones and fractures – Slips and falls on slippery surfaces, lifting heavy and unstable loads, or just dropping tools can result in broken legs, arms, hands, and wrists. While a broken bone may heal in time, some fractures can cause lifelong pain or disability.
- Loss of limb – Inadvertently walking into the path of a truck or forklift, working with cables under tensions, or getting a leg caught and crushed beneath unsteady cargo like coils, pipes, plates, and tires can lead to injuries requiring amputation. The loss of a limb is a life-changing injury and often requires a prosthetic.
- Fatalities – Each year, longshore workers die as a result of falls and drowning, being struck by trucks, forklifts, and other vehicles, and being crushed by swinging and improperly secured cargo. The death of a longshore worker can have a lasting impact on surviving family members who lose not just a loved one, but the breadwinner in the family.
Who is Covered by the LHWCA?
The LHWCA covers workers in traditional maritime occupations, such as longshore workers, ship repairers, shipbuilders, and harbor construction workers who have been injured on piers, docks, terminals, wharves, and areas used in loading and unloading vessels.
Non-maritime employees may also be covered if they are injured on the navigable water of the East Coast. Our experienced maritime attorneys at Montagna Maritime can help you understand your longshoreman rights and whether you are entitled to pursue compensation under the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation.
Understanding Your Longshoreman Rights
If you’ve been seriously injured at work, it’s crucial that you seek legal help right away. If your employer was reckless or negligent in upholding safety standards or failed in their duty of care, it is your right to seek damages. You shouldn’t be responsible for your medical bills. The maritime attorneys at Montagna Maritime Law can help guide you through this difficult time and help you get the compensation you need to protect you and your family.
If a company other than your employer contributed to your injury, you may be eligible for additional benefits outside the LHWCA. We can help you file a third-party claim or lawsuit, which could be for negligence, a liability for a defective product, or machinery or parts that failed and caused your injury.
Talk to an Experienced Longshoreman Rights Attorney
Suffering an injury while at work can be a stressful, confusing, and traumatic experience for anyone. Your employer might not be making the effort you expect to ensure your well-being. Often times, employers and insurers use underhanded techniques to get workers to settle their cases quickly. That’s why it’s important you speak to a knowledgeable longshore attorney who can advise you of your longshoreman rights under maritime law.
If you’ve been injured on the East Coast, call the skilled attorneys at Montagna Maritime Law to talk about your case. Our attorneys offer a high level of personal attention to each and every client, combined with extensive experience in the litigation of general maritime law. As an injured maritime worker who depends on your physical ability for your livelihood, it’s critical that you get the maximum compensation and benefits you’re entitled to under longshore laws for you and your family.