Visit any port in Hawaii or California, and you will see longshoremen lifting and manipulating multi-ton shipping containers with the aid of massive forklifts and cranes. Much of the grunt work of modern marine commerce involves packing, loading, unloading and unpacking these 20- to 40-foot long containers, hundreds of which can be stacked on large barges and other marine vessels. Although the containers themselves are fairly standardized, their contents are not, ranging from clothing to machine parts to toxic chemicals which pose an added risk to unwary workers.
Even on dry land, the operation of cranes and forklifts entails significant risks. These devices have numerous moving parts, and they’re extremely heavy, in order to counterbalance the multi-ton loads they’re designed to manipulate. If the operator of a crane or forklift is insufficiently trained, or if he’s using the wrong piece of machinery for the job, he can easily lose control of the load he’s attempting to move, and may even cause the entire vehicle to tip over. By the same token, an improperly maintained crane or forklift can, through no fault of its operator or crew, be involved in a serious or even deadly accident. Not only the crane or forklift’s crew is at risk, but anyone else working (or even walking) in the immediate vicinity.
All sorts of cranes and forklifts are used in shipping ports, but some types are so common that they’re practically a part of the average longshoreman’s vocabulary. The Transtainer crane, manufactured by PACECO, is a massive, four-legged piece of machinery that stacks shipping containers for storage and loads them onto trucks. Another piece of PACECO equipment, the Top Handler, is a truck-mounted crane capable of lifting multi-ton shipping containers, albeit one at a time. “Hammerheads” are especially difficult to operate; these giant cranes are cantilevered, and have a wide perimeter of operation. Finally, a Zodiac crane attaches to the end of a large boat, and is used to lift slightly less massive loads.
Longshoremen who are injured while operating forklifts and cranes have recourse to file for damages under the Longshore and Harbor Worker’s Compensation Act (LHWCA), which entitles stevedores and dockworkers to the same legal protections as their colleagues on dry land. The LHWCA requires a longshoreman’s employer to pay two-thirds of his wages while he recuperates from an accident (whether or not that accident was caused by an identifiable party), and also allows an injured dockworker (or the relatives of a deceased dockworker) to collect damages for gross negligence or recklessness.
While most claims for crane and forklift injuries have to be filed through the LHWCA, there is a notable loophole, which a seasoned maritime attorney will be certain to look out for. If it can be proved that the accident was the result of faulty equipment, the manufacturer of the crane or forklift can be sued in a third-party action, over and above any compensation received under LHWCA. This loophole doesn’t apply, of course, if the crane or forklift doesn’t have any intrinsic mechanical defects, but has simply been improperly maintained or serviced by harbor management.
Mr. Easley practices primarily in California and Hawaii and his clients include longshoremen, shipyard workers, tugboat and barge crewmen, dredge crewmen, pile drivers, marine construction workers, merchant seaman and tour boat/recreational boat crews and passengers and he may be able to help you recover for your losses if you were injured on any waterway, port or harbor in Hawaii, including:
Attorney Preston 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]
His background in the Navy, and hands-on experience working in the maritime industry gives him a unique perspective on maritime accidents. If you have been injured in a boating or ship accident, or while working on a vessel, or someone you loved was involved in a fatal accident you need an experienced maritime accident attorney to fight for you.