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When Longshoremen and Stevedores Bring Suit: Vessel Duties Under the LHWCA

Like most maritime accident claims, injuries to longshoremen and stevedores can involve a complex web of state and federal laws. The Longshore and Harbor Worker's Compensation Act (LHWCA) and case law interpreting the LHWCA outline three duties that vessel owners and operators owe to longshoremen and stevedores. First, the vessel owner and operator have a turnover duty. That duty requires that owners and operators turn their vessel over to the longshoremen and stevedores without hidden dangers. This duty does not require that ship owners and operators remedy open and obvious conditions or easily-anticipated conditions. The vessel's turnover duty is one of the most litigated duties that vessel owners and operators owe to longshoremen and stevedores.

Second, vessel owners and operators owe a duty to longshoremen and stevedores when the vessel crew actively involve themselves in the cargo operations. The duty requires that the vessel use reasonable care to avoid exposing longshoremen to harm from hazards they may encounter from equipment under the vessel's active control or hazards in areas that are under the active control of the vessel. The issues surrounding "active control" claims depend on the vessel crew having active control over the equipment or areas where the longshoreman is injured.

Last, vessel owners and operators owe a duty to longshoremen and stevedores to intervene if the vessel has actual knowledge that the ship or its gear pose a danger to the longshoremen and that the stevedore is unreasonably failing to protect the longshoremen. These types of cases require that the injured person prove that the vessel had both actual knowledge of the danger and knowledge that the stevedore is not taking adequate steps to keep workers safe.

Claims against vessel owners and operators also involve other laws and regulations that may limit or restrict an injured worker's ability to bring a claim. The lawyers at Abraham, Watkins, Nichols, Sorrels, Agosto & Aziz have the experience to handle serious and complex maritime injury cases. If your loved one has been killed or you have been injured aboard a vessel, contact us today at 713-222-7211 or toll free at 1-800-870-9584 for your free consultation.

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