Receiving compensation after suffering a loading dock accident in Georgia
Loading docks are chaotic by nature. There is freight coming and going, lots of employees, heavy machinery, etc. They’re often noisy and it’s easy to lose your bearings in this kind of situation. Since there is so much going on, injuries are bound to happen while on the job.
When a Georgia dock worker is injured or killed on the job, there are possibly federal as well as state sources of compensation for their losses. In order to receive the maximum benefits available to you, it’s in your best interest to contact an experienced workers’ compensation attorney as soon as the injury occurs.
Common causes of loading dock accidents
Whether a dock is located next to water or is attached to a warehouse or factory, dock worker accidents are all too frequent and preventable. They include:
- Injuries to forklift driver from forklift collapse
- Falls of forklift operators or dockhands off of raised platforms
- Flying debris or falling pallets
- Failure to establish proper safety standards, protocols and equipment
- Workers crushed under improperly secured loads or between pallets and machinery
- Miscommunication between truck drivers and dockworkers in a typically loud environment
- Pressure for fast work leading to failure to follow safety protocols
Compensation for injured dockworkers
Depending on the unique circumstances of each loading dock accident, injured dock workers may be eligible for compensation in 3 ways.
1. Georgia workers’ compensation
Georgia law requires most employers with 3 or more employees to carry workers’ compensation insurance. These laws protect workers from the consequences of an accident or illness incurred on the job.
An injured employee’s insurance benefits include compensation for lost income, qualified work-related medical and rehabilitation treatments, death and other benefits.
2. Federal longshoremen compensation program
Many dockworker jobs are normally associated with warehouse operations throughout Georgia, but some employees work on docks where ocean and river shipping is loaded and unloaded. Those dock workers might be eligible for workers’ compensation under the federal Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act (LHWCA).
Workers eligible for LHWCA benefits include the following:
- People who work on platforms where shipping is loaded or unloaded from vessels
- Individuals who make repairs to vessels
- Workers who build docks and piers
- Workers on vessels less than 30 percent of the time
The types of compensation awarded under the LHWCA are similar to those awardable under the Georgia workers’ compensation law. However, for some types, the LHWCA awards are more generous.
3. Third-party claims outside LHWCA or Georgia workers’ compensation
Like workers’ compensation, the LHWCA law is a no-fault coverage required of the injured person’s employer. However, if your injuries are caused by the negligence of a third party, you can file suit against the vessel owner or operator under §905(b) section of the Act.
If you recover damages from the third party, your employer will not be held liable under either the Georgia workers’ compensation or LHWCA provisions.
Typically, these third-party claims will arise when a longshoreman or dock worker is onboard a vessel doing normal longshoreman duties.
In a third-party lawsuit, an injured longshoreman can recover past and future lost wages, past and future medical benefits, past and future pain and suffering, mental anguish, and loss of the capacity for enjoyment of life damages. Some of those damages aren’t recoverable under either Georgia workers’ compensation laws or the LHWCA. The total amount of these damages can be substantial. However, the burden of proof is higher in these types of cases.
Can you file a claim under both Georgia workers’ compensation and LHWCA?
In short, yes, you can. But you can’t double-dip—that is, you can’t be paid twice for the same injury, illness or death.
Why should you file a claim with both jurisdictions?
The first reason is to hedge your bets. The Georgia State Board of Workers’ Compensation and the U.S. Department of Labor Office of Workers’ Compensation Programs are separate jurisdictions. They have their own loading dock rules and regulations, and dispose of cases independently. One jurisdiction might deny your claim while the other one allows it. You don’t have to wait until a final disposition by 1 jurisdiction before you file a claim in the other.
Another reason might be to assure your recovery of the higher benefits. If you think you will recover all benefits to which you are entitled under the law, you can still file a simultaneous LHWCA claim to preserve your chance to enjoy the higher benefits under LHWCA.
The United States Supreme Court upheld that an injured longshoreman can file simultaneous claims for the same event under both state workers’ compensation law and the federal LHWCA in the Sun Ship, Inc. v Pennsylvania 447 U.D. 715 (1980) case.
Some “exclusive” jurisdiction states (e.g. Florida) hold that a claim may not be made under state law workers’ compensation if one is made under LHWCA. Georgia is not one of these exclusive states, though. Rather, Georgia is a “dual” or “concurrent” jurisdiction state, recognizing that a claim for the same event can be made under both the workers’ compensation law and the LHWCA.
What if you recover your claim under both jurisdictions?
Even in dual jurisdiction states, including Georgia, it’s understood that you can’t double-dip—recover twice for the same injury, illness or death.
Typically, a claim under the workers’ compensation law is processed faster than a LHWCA claim. That means you could receive your benefits before you get a disposition of your LHWCA claim. If and when your LHWCA claim is approved, you will receive the LHWCA benefits minus the amount you received from workers’ comp.
If you receive your LHWCA approval first, your LHWCA lawyer will advise you about the calculation of the offset.
What to do if you are hurt on a loading dock
As you can tell, the issues raised in connection with a dock worker injury are very complex. And we’ve only hit the tip of the iceberg. You also only have a limited time to report your injury to your employer.
Moreover, if you wait too long, you could compromise the strength of your claim. The contents of your accident report as well as subsequent filings require the experienced hand of an attorney.