Maritime work is a demanding profession that comes with all sorts of dangers on land and water. In fact, working on docks and piers can be as hazardous as working at shipyards or on boats at sea. On docks and piers, a tremendous amount of cargo is being loaded on and off ships at any given time. Heavy equipment and vehicles are in use. Passengers, crew, or longshoremen are constantly moving about too. All together, this can be a recipe for a shipyard accident that inflicts injury.
Shipyard work is also very precarious and shipyard accidents happen all too often. Specialized machinery, electrical equipment, and hazardous materials are used to build and repair ships. Any of these tools can contribute to an accident that seriously harms a worker.
Despite the risks, maritime workers are often attracted to the profession because of the challenge. Many workers develop industry-specific skills and are proud to work in the maritime industry. Even still, the most skilled and attentive worker can fall victim to a dock, pier, or shipyard accident.
If you or a loved one have been injured in such an accident, the maritime attorneys at Pierce Skrabanek PLLC in Houston, TX are here to help you.
Common Injuries While Working
Accidents on docks, piers, and shipyards come in all shapes and sizes. One of the most common types of dock and pier accidents involve moving vehicles. This often occurs when cargo has not been properly secured or loaded. Other common accidents on docks, piers and shipyards involve:
- Gangway accidents
- Container accidents
- Crane accidents
- Slips and falls
- Mooring line accidents
- Collisions between vessels and piers
- Structural failure of docks and piers
- Explosions and fires
- Hazardous materials accidents
Many of these maritime accidents are the result of the facility operator’s or employer’s negligence. If safety procedures are not followed, or workers are not properly trained, and an accident occurs, the facility operator or employer may be liable. For example, electrical wiring must be installed and secured to ensure that workers are not electrocuted while working near water. If this safety standard is not met and an employee is electrocuted, the employee has grounds for a claim.
Other instances of facility operator or employer negligence are not so cut-and-dry. Employers who pressure workers to work beyond their hourly limits, for example, may also be at-fault for accidents that occur. Similarly, operators who do not keep their docks and piers in good repair, and allow them to deteriorate, are failing to uphold their obligation to provide a safe working environment.
When a pier, dock or shipyard accident does occur, it can inflict virtually any type of injury. Some injuries and their compensation under the Longshore and Harbor Workers Compensation Act (LHWCA) include:
- Head, neck, back and hernia injuries are compensable under LHWCA, if there is a loss of future earning capacity. Workers with these injuries are entitled to 2/3 of their weekly loss of wage earning capacity for life.
- Arm and leg injuries are based on the percentage of permanent impairment at a fixed dollar amount.
- Hearing loss claims may be filed against an employer at any time, even if part of the hearing loss was due to a prior injury or while working for another employer.
- Aggravation of a pre-existing condition by any shipyard work is compensable.
- Cumulative trauma to a part of the body – including the back, neck, knee, wrist or shoulder – that is created by overuse due to a repeated activity, like lifting, can be compensated. These conditions do not need a specific date of injury.
Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act
Injuries or fatalities on piers, docks and shipyards are generally covered under LHWCA. This act is designed to provide assistance to maritime employees injured while performing work on navigable waters, or areas adjoining navigable waters (like docks, piers, and shipyards). Employees can file a claim if they have sustained an injury due to an occupational accident, or contracted an illness as a result of employment.
A successful claim allows a victim to recover damages for medical benefits, rehabilitation, or lost wages connected to the injury or illness. If a maritime employee is involved in a fatal accident, surviving family members may recover damages under the act.
Among other benefits, LHWCA requires the employer to pay two-thirds of an injured longshoreman’s wages during time off work for recovery. This benefit is due to the employee whether or not management was at fault for the accident. The act also permits an injured worker (or a deceased worker’s family) to collect compensation for an employer or facility’s management recklessness or negligence.
Additionally, onshore workers may be covered under other legal protections, such as the Jones Act and state workers’ compensation. A maritime law attorney can determine which laws apply, and what the best legal remedies are for an injured worker’s unique situation.
What to Do If Injured
If you are injured on the job, or fall sick due to work-related conditions, it is important to do the following right away:
- Alert your supervisor
- Report your injury or illness to the shipyard clinic, if applicable
- Seek medical care
- Do not sign forms until you consult at least one of the following:
- Your chief shop steward
- Your union business agent
- Your lawyer
How Our Attorneys Can Help
Managing a complex maritime worker injury claim, while recovery from injury or illness, can be too much stress for victims. The laws surrounding the maritime industry and personal injury can be complicated. To win a claim, a person often needs legal expertise in these areas of the law. Not following filing regulations, or not making a strong case in favor of your claim can be disastrous. It can mean you do not get what you are due, or you might be denied benefits altogether.
The maritime attorneys at PSB focus on helping maritime workers who have been harmed on the job. We have the experience to get you the full compensation you need to heal. Your compensation can include your medical expenses, rehabilitation, pain and suffering, lost wages and more.
If you or a loved one was injured on a dock, pier or shipyard, contact us today for a free case evaluation.