Shipyard Injuries Attorney

Shipyard Injuries:  Your Rights Under The Longshore Act

San Diego, San Pedro, Ventura California & Honolulu, HI Shipyard Accident Attorneys

Accidents suffered by longshoremen are covered under the Longshore and Harbor Worker’s Compensation Act of 1927 (sometimes referred to simply as “Longshore Act.”) The Longshore Act extends the  provisions of the Jones Act, that was enacted to protect the rights of sailors, marine workers, dockworkers, etc.

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.

What To Do If You Have Been Injured

  • When injured at work, notify your supervisor immediately.
  • Report your injury to the shipyard clinic.
  • Do not sign any forms under any circumstances without first consulting:
    • Your chief shop steward; or
    • Your union business agent; or
    • Your attorney.

Your Rights Regarding Doctors And To Seek Medical Care

  • You have the right to an initial free choice of physician under the Longshore Act. The employer cannot pick the doctor for you.
  • Your right to temporary total disability payments while you are out of work is determined by your treating physician, not by the shipyard’s doctor.
  • Never choose a doctor recommended by the employer as your treating physician.
  • You cannot change doctors without the company’s permission unless a specialist is required.
  • Do not choose a chiropractor or general practitioner for an orthopedic injury.
  • If you are represented by an attorney, never sign any forms for the employer.
  • The company has a right to have you examined by their doctor, but do not allow their consulting physician to treat you.
  • You cannot be disciplined for leaving the yard to see your doctor.

Your Rights Regarding Pay And Compensation

  • Section 9 of the Longshore Act gives you the right to reinstatement and back wages if you are terminated for filing a claim or seeking benefits under the Longshore Act.
  • In addition to medical expenses and temporary disability payments, the employer must also pay for any permanent partial disability resulting from your injury.
  • If you are unable to work following an injury, the employer must pay you temporary disability equal to 2/3 of your average weekly wage for the 52 weeks prior to your injury.
  • Your right to temporary total disability payments while you are out of work is determined by your treating physician, not by the shipyard’s doctor.
  • A claim for Longshore benefits must be filed with the Department of Labor and your employer within one year of the date of injury or last payment of compensation.
  • You cannot sue the shipyard. You can only file a workers’ compensation claim against your employer, unless you are a member of the crew of a vessel (tug, workboat, etc.).
  • All communication with the employer regarding your case must be done by the attorney, not by you.

Specific Injuries

  • Arm and leg injuries are scheduled under the Longshore Act and have specific dollar values according to your percentage of permanent impairment.
  • Head, neck, back and hernia injuries are unscheduled under the Longshore Act and are only compensable if they result in future wage loss (loss of wage earning capacity). Such injuries entitle you to 2/3 of your weekly loss of wage earning capacity for life.
  • Hearing Loss. You may file a hearing loss claim against your employer at any time, even if some of your hearing loss was caused by a prior employer or prior injury.
  • Cumulative Trauma. Back, knee, wrist, and other medical problems caused by repeated lifting, stair climbing, chipping, stress and strain, etc., are compensable under the Longshore Act. You need not have a specific injury or a specific date of injury..
  • Aggravation of a Pre-existing Condition. Any shipyard work activity which aggravated, accelerates, or combines with a prior injury or pre-existing medical condition is compensable.
  • You must carefully guard your workers’ compensation rights and avoid signing forms that you do not understand. Do not assume that the company will voluntarily take care of you after you are injured.

Third Party Lawsuits

If your injury is caused by an unsafe condition aboard ship, a defective product, or a negligent subcontractor, then you may file a lawsuit against the responsible third party, including the Navy. Shipyard workers commonly sue vessel owners for accidents caused by slippery decks, gangways, and ladders. There have been numerous shipyard crane accidents where shipyard workers filed lawsuits against crane manufacturers for not having required safety devices on cranes.

When You Can Sue Your Employer as a Seaman

Seamen fall under the Jones Act which allows them to sue their employers for negligence and seek damages for wage loss, medical bills, and pain and suffering. Workers’ Compensation does not pay for pain and suffering.  Shipyard workers assigned to vessels owned by their employers such as tugboats, workboats, barges, and floating cranes, can claim seaman status and sue their employers directly.

This right was affirmed in a landmark U.S. Supreme Court case known as Southwest Marine. Inc. v. Gizoni, a San Diego case that was handled by attorney Preston Easley.  Gizoni was a rigging foreman who was injured when he fell through a hole in the deck of a work barge.

You have three years from the date of injury to file a Jones Act lawsuit against an employer.

Time Limitations

If you have a work related medical condition, you should seek competent legal advice immediately. Under most circumstances, you must notify your employer within 30 days of any injury (there are some exceptions). Often a shipyard will promise a light duty job to an injured worker to keep him from filing a claim. When the light duty job does not materialize and the worker contacts an attorney, quite often it is too late to do anything. Do not gamble with you health and your future.

Let Us Get You the Compensation You Deserve

California & Hawaii Shipyard Accident Attorneys • Free Consultation

Preston Easley is an experienced maritime lawyer with considerable expertise in handling federal and state cases in the field of maritime and admiralty law. We will aggressively seek the maximum amount of compensation you are entitled to receive. Preston Easley is a seasoned trial lawyer who has the qualifications, experience, and resources to take your case to court if a fair settlement cannot be obtained for you. Email our law firm or call us today to schedule a free initial consultation.

Law Offices of Preston Easley
2500 Via Cabrillo Marina
Suite 106
San Pedro, California 90731

Phone:  (310) 832-5315
FAX:  (310) 832-7730

San Diego, CA (619) 699-4884
Ventura, CA (805) 289-1551
Honolulu, HI (808) 922-2383