Longshoremen—also known as stevedores and dockworkers—are the individuals responsible for loading and unloading ships in busy harbors. Until the 1950’s, longshoremen mostly dealt with irregularly shaped parcels of goods, which they had to lash down on the deck, or in the interior, of the ship—at which point the rapid adoption of multi-ton shipping containers made longshoremen’s jobs both simpler and more hazardous.
If you’ve ever been to a busy port, you probably have seen huge, 20- to 40-foot long crates being loaded and unloaded onto and off of massive ships and barges. The only way to manipulate multi-ton shipping containers is with multi-ton hoisting machinery, which can be extremely dangerous absent the proper training and safety precautions.
In addition to loading and unloading cargo, often in perilous weather conditions, longshoremen have to maintain the piers, docks and shipping terminals of the ports where they work; they’re also employed by shipyards to build and maintain ships. As you can imagine, these activities come with their own risks, including falls from piers, injuries from construction equipment, and any of the other, sundry hazards encountered by the average factory worker or user of heavy machinery. It’s no wonder that longshoremen are usually depicted in movies and TV as tough, rugged, can-do individuals!
Accidents suffered by longshoremen are covered under the Longshore and Harbor Worker’s Compensation Act of 1927. Basically, what this law does is extend the provisions of the Jones Law, passed seven years earlier to protect the rights of sailors and marine workers, to dockworkers. Among other things, the LHWCA requires dock management to pay two-thirds of an injured longshoreman’s wages while he recuperates (whether or not management was at fault for the accident), and also allows an injured dockworker (or a deceased dockworker’s relatives) to collect damages for gross negligence or recklessness.
One wrinkle of the LHWCA is that it’s the only means for a dockworker to recover damages for his injuries; all claims against employers, owners and fellow longshoremen have to be pursued under this act. There is a loophole, however: if a longshoreman’s injuries or death was caused by the negligence of a third party (the owner of a ship coming into port, say, or the manufacturer of a faulty shipping container that leaked toxic chemicals), it may be possible to file a third-party lawsuit against the responsible party (even if the worker’s injuries are already being partially compensated under LHWCA).
The Law Offices of Preston Easley handles cases involving maritime and admiralty law and actively fights for the rights of injured longshoremen, seamen, crew members, passengers, and maritime workers. As an attorney, Mr. Easley has personally handled numerous catastrophic maritime accidents involving cranes, forklifts, dredges, barges, tugboats, and defective products and equipment. At the appellate level, he has been a pioneer in expanding the rights of injured workers, frequently reversing lower court decisions and making new law. [Published Decisions]
Preston Easley is an experienced maritime lawyer with considerable expertise in handling federal and state cases in the field of maritime and admiralty law. He will aggressively seek the maximum amount of compensation you are entitled to receive. For a free initial consultation, call or email our law firm today.