The port industry is a vital part of our nation’s economy, moving billions of dollars’ worth of goods into and out of our country annually. It takes thousands of hardworking, dedicated workers to move this vast amount of cargo through ports, however, and people who make their living in this industry are at a substantial risk of harm, due to the nature of the work that they perform. Longshoremen and harbor workers who spend their working hours loading and unloading cargo from docked ships may be particularly vulnerable to serious injuries. Representation by a maritime law attorney may be vital to protect the legal rights of longshoremen who are hurt on the job. The skillful Miami longshoreman injury lawyers at Rivkind Margulies & Rivkind P.A. can guide you through the legal process and ensure that your rights are fully asserted.
Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act (LHWCA)
When an accident happens during the loading or unloading of cargo from a vessel, a longshoreman or harbor worker who is employed by the stevedore company will usually be limited to benefits under the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act, found at 33 U.S.C. §§ 901–950 (also known as the “Longshoremen’s Act” or the “LHWCA”). Just as with state workers’ compensation laws, the “exclusive remedy” of an injured worker against their employer is that of workers’ compensation. Under the Longshoremen’s Act, an “employee” is defined as any person who is engaged in maritime employment, including not only longshoremen but also harbor workers, such as ship repairmen, shipbuilders, and ship-breakers. The term specifically does not include clerical workers, people employed by restaurants or retail outlets, people who work at marinas in activities other than routine maintenance, crew members, and certain other people who are covered under state workers’ compensation laws.
Suing for Longshoreman or Harbor Worker Injuries
The Longshoremen’s Act provides for the payment of benefits for the disability or death of an employee caused by injuries that occurred upon the navigable waters of the United States, or on a pier or another adjoining area that is customarily used in loading, unloading, repairing, dismantling, or building a vessel. Depending upon the nature and extent of the injury or illness suffered by the employee, they may be entitled to temporary total disability benefits, permanent partial disability benefits, permanent total disability benefits, and medical benefits. If an employee is killed, their family may be entitled to death benefits. Although an employer may not defend a Longshoremen’s Act case by denying that it was negligent or otherwise at fault, a worker’s claim may be defeated if it is proven that the sole cause of their injury was intoxication or a willful intent to injure or kill themselves or another person.
Although the Longshoremen’s Act limits the employee’s relief against the employer to the benefits stated above, there are some instances in which an employee may be able to pursue additional claims. This may happen when a third party that is not an “employer” under the Act contributed to the accident, such as the owner or operator of a vessel where a longshoreman or harbor worker was injured. In this situation, the Longshoremen’s Act provides for a third-party action for negligence. This means that more generous damages may be available, such as pain and suffering, medical expenses, lost wages, and possibly even a loss of consortium claim filed by the injured employee’s spouse.
A third-party negligence action requires the plaintiff to prove that the defendant against which compensation is sought owed them a duty of care and breached that duty, and the plaintiff suffered damages as a proximate result. For instance, if a worker goes on board a vessel when it is at port to perform repairs or other functions, the worker may be able to assert a negligence action against the vessel’s owner if the owner’s failure to act in a reasonably prudent manner causes an injury. If the limited connection to the particular vessel involves work typical of that performed by seamen, there are situations in which the worker may be classified as a seaman (even though they are not a “Jones Act” seaman) and obtain rights similar to a seaman, even if the connection with the vessel is temporary. If the worker is successful in a third-party negligence lawsuit, it is likely that the employer or carrier that paid benefits to the longshoreman or harbor worker will assert a lien against the proceeds of the settlement or judgment.
Maritime Law Attorneys Serving Victims in Miami and Other Florida Ports
Many cargo ships travel all around the United States and the world. Regardless of where an accident occurred, there may be a basis for a lawsuit to be filed in the state of Florida or elsewhere in the U.S., depending on the contacts that the vessel owner or operator has with the U.S. The Miami longshoreman injury attorneys at Rivkind Margulies & Rivkind P.A. can help you explore your legal options. Call us at (866) 386-1762 or contact us online for a free appointment to discuss your case with a Florida boat accident attorney today. We represent victims in Miami, Palm Beach, Fort Lauderdale, Hollywood, Jacksonville, Tampa, Key West, Brevard County, and throughout the Florida Panhandle, as well as other areas along the coastline of Florida and other states.