Do Dockworkers Have Remedies Under Maritime Law?
The Port of New Orleans is a vital part of the City’s economy. The port generates approximately $100 million in revenue annually through cargo, rail, industrial real estate, and cruises. This economic power is supported by the hard work of dockworkers. These workers load and unload the outgoing and incoming cargo, and prepare the dock for incoming ships, and more vessels to the dock.
The nature of this important job also brings with it extreme dangers. In 2018 alone, the Bureau of Transportation reported that 6,600 people missed work because of injuries or illnesses that occurred on loading docks, dock plates, and ramps. Some of the most common accidents that dockworkers can face are:
- Slips and falls on docks
- Toxic Exposure
- Occupational Diseases
The resulting injuries from these incidents can severely alter a dock worker’s life. A common question these dockworkers must confront is what remedies are available for them to begin the process of rebuilding their lives. Given, that these dockworkers play such a vital role in ocean commerce, maritime law provides a source of relief during these difficult times.
Although maritime remedies are available to these injured workers, typically a dockworker does not qualify as a Jones Act seaman. To qualify as a Jones Act plaintiff, the injured worker must have a connection to a vessel that is substantial in both nature and duration. Dockworkers typically owe their allegiance to a shoreside employer instead of a ship, thus they often do not qualify to bring a Jones Act claim. However, this does not mean that every dockworker is barred from filing a Jones Act claim. It is important to consult with a maritime attorney to review your job duties to decide if you qualify for seaman status.
The Longshore and Harbor Worker’s Compensation Act (LHWCA) is a federal law that applies to workers who are injured in navigable waters or adjoining areas in jobs that assist in maritime commerce. To qualify for compensation under the LHWCA, the injured worker must satisfy both the status and situs test.
To meet the status test, the worker must perform maritime-related duties in the scope of their employment. Typical workers who meet this test are:
- Port Workers
- Crane operator on Docks
- Ship Breakers
- Pier Constructors
The situs test revolves around the location of the injury. The definition of navigable waters found in the LHWCA extends to adjoining piers, wharfs, dry docks, and marine railways. The situs test is also satisfied if the injury occurred on an adjoining area customarily used by an employer to load, unload, repair, dismantle, or build a vessel.
The status and situs requirements are more expansive than the Jones Act standards. This allows dockworkers and other port workers to obtain relief under federal maritime law. However, if the injured employee is found to qualify to receive benefits under the LHWCA, they may not also receive benefits under the Jones Act as the two are mutually exclusive.
Typical remedies that an injured dockworker may receive under the LHWCA are as follows:
- Lost Income (up to 2/3’s of your average weekly wage at the time of injury)
- Future and Past Medical Costs
- Vocational Rehabilitation
These remedies can be a life preserver for dockworkers whose injuries cause them to miss work and face an uncertain employment future. The LHWCA provides these individuals with an option to support themselves and their families.
An injured dock worker should notify their maritime attorney as quickly as possible if they believe that they may have a viable claim under the LHWCA. These actions are subject to strict statute of limitations that determine how long the claim is viable. An injured worker must notify his employer of his injury in writing within 30 days from the date of injury or from the date they became aware the injury was related to a maritime job. These claims must also be filed within one year from the date of injury or one year from the date the worker became aware the injury was related to his job.
The maritime attorneys at Scott Vicknair have years of experience representing the interests of dockworkers to ensure that they receive the damages they are owed. Contact one of our maritime attorneys at Scott Vicknair at (504) 500-1111 for a free consultation on your maritime injury claim today.