Longshoremen have lengthy and colorful history working the waterfronts of the world. Simply stated, a longshoreman’s job is to load and unload cargo from ships in port. Modern longshoremen, also called dock workers, hold a wide array of shore-based jobs like operating cranes, driving trucks, and using other heavy machinery. The work performed by longshoremen is vital to the shipping industry and operation of commercial vessels.
Longshoremen have a hard job. They work outdoors year-round and sometimes in inclement weather. Their shifts can be long and include nights, weekends, and holidays. The work is also physically demanding, involving lifting and repetitive use of body parts.
As a result of dangerous work performed by longshoremen, Congress passed the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act (LHWCA). The Act was intended to ensure that longshoremen injured on the job could continue to pay their bills and feed their families. It also shifts the financial burden of paying certain medical treatment expenses and other damages to the longshoreman’s employer.
It is important to remember that longshoremen are not seamen. The Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Action covers workers over or near the water who are not members of a vessel’s crew. The Act covers many maritime employees, sometimes including:
Other Cargo Handling Workers
Other Heavy Equipment Operators
For a worker to be covered under the LHWCA, a worker must meet the situs and status requirements of the Act. To satisfy situs, the worker must have been injured near navigable waters on a pier, wharf, drydock, marine railway, or other adjoining area customarily used by an employer in loading, unloading, repairing, dismantling, or building a vessel. To satisfy status, the worker must spend some portion of his job performing an essential or integral aspect of loading/unloading a vessel, ship building, ship repairing, or ship breaking.
While the LHWCA is not intended to include or exclude specific types of bodily injuries, some injuries are more common than others for maritime workers. Longshoremen seeking assistance of an admiralty lawyer often suffer from injuries such as:
Amputation of Limbs and Fingers
Traumatic Brain Injuries
Damage to the Spinal Cord or Nervous System
Burns from Explosions
Sickness from Exposure to Hazardous Chemicals
If a longshoreman is injured due to the negligence of a vessel, it is important to contact a seasoned maritime attorney as soon as possible. Section 905(b) of the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act allows an injured longshoreman to make a claim against vessel owners for negligence. This claim is available against a vessel owner, owner pro hac vice, agent, operator, charterer, master, officer, or crewmember.
Notably, vessel owners under the LHWCA typically owe three duties to longshore workers: the turnover duty, active control, and the duty to intervene. The turnover duty relates to the condition of a ship when the vessel owner turns it over to the longshoreman’s employer. The second duty, active control, is in effect during loading and unloading operations and subject to the active control of the vessel. Under the active control duty, a vessel owner is required to prevent injuries to longshoremen by using reasonable care in areas that are under the vessel owner’s control. The duty to intervene relates to a vessel owner’s responsibility to intervene and correct dangerous situations.
Other negligence claims may be available against non-vessel owning third parties as well.
Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation claims under Section 905(b) are complex matters. If you are a longshoreman, harbor worker, or other land-based employee injured on or near the navigable waters, Mariner Law, PLLC may be to help with your case. Call (253) 600-2531 for a free consultation. The firm proudly serves mariner clients in Washington, Oregon, New York, Connecticut, Alaska, and nationwide.