Marine terminals and docks are very busy places. Container shipping results in massive amounts of goods and products in a single location, which need to be unloaded and then reloaded to be transported to final destinations. Dock workers and longshore workers are particularly at risk of suffering serious injuries in work related accidents. For example, a forklift operator may strike another worker walking near the forklift. These kinds of forklift strike injuries are often fatal or lead to devastating injuries like amputation or crush injuries when arms or legs get caught underneath the forklift.
The federal Longshore and Harbor Worker’s Compensation Act provides for workers’ compensation benefits for certain dock, harbor and longshore workers who are injured while on the job. However, many accidents are caused not only by the actions of an employer, but also by the actions of various third parties, including barge owners, dock maintenance companies, forklift maintenance companies, forklift training companies, and many more. In addition, there may be products liability claims against manufacturers and distributors of equipment like ship ladders.
Section 905(b) provides in relevant part: In the event of injury to a person covered under this Act caused by the negligence of a vessel, then such person, or anyone otherwise entitled to recover damages by reason thereof, may bring an action against such vessel as a third party in accordance with the provisions of section 33 of this Act [33 USCS § 933], and the employer shall not be liable to the vessel for such damages directly or indirectly and any agreements or warranties to the contrary shall be void. If such person was employed by the vessel to provide stevedoring services, no such action shall be permitted if the injury was caused by the negligence of persons engaged in providing stevedoring services to the vessel.
Section 905 actions against barge or vessel owners are not the only type of claims which can be made in workplace longshore or dock accidents. Additional parties can be sued under state or federal tort laws. The single most important factor in a work related longshore accident case is proper investigation to assess liability of all potential parties.
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Last updated: November 5, 2014