The Longshore and Harbor Workers Compensation Act

The Longshore and Harbor Workers Compensation Act (referred to as the Longshore Act or LHWCA) provides compensation and medical benefits to injured maritime workers who are not covered by the Jones Act (ie. seamen) or state workers’ compensation.

Congress enacted the Longshore Act in 1927 in an effort to protect workers engaged in maritime activity.  However, the LHWCA covered only those workers injured or killed on navigable waters, while workers injured on land were limited to state workers’ compensation remedies.  Given advances in technology which effectively moved the loading and unloading apparatus further “up the bank”, Congress amended the Longshore Act in 1972 and 1984 in order to expand coverage of the LHWCA.  Congress enlarged the definition of the employees covered to include not only longshoremen, but any harborworker, including ship builders and repairmen.  The amendments also extended the definition of “navigable waters” to include “any adjoining pier, wharf, dry dock, terminal, building way, marine railway or other adjoining area customarily used by an employer in loading, unloading, repairing or building a vessel.”  With this addition, Congress intended to create a uniform compensation plan for those longshore and maritime workers who would otherwise have been entitled to varying amounts of coverage under land-based, state compensation laws.

However, whether a worker is covered under the LHWCA can be a difficult question when he or she is injured in an “adjoining” area.  Some shoreside activities are located quite a distance away from the vessel, docks, or piers yet an injured worker still may be covered by the Longshore Act.  Some workers have been covered by the Longshore Act even though they were injured 1 mile from the river, dock or harbor.  In other instances, a worker may be covered by both the Longshore Act and the state workers’ compensation act, depending on the location of the injury and work being performed.  Because there are many important differences between state workers’ compensation acts and the Longshore Act which can affect the benefits you receive, it is important to know your rights.  Our maritime attorneys are experienced in prosecuting claims under the Longshore Act, and can help you differentiate between the varying laws and compensation schemes available to you to assure you receive fair compensation for your injuries.  Contact an experienced maritime attorney at our law firm today to discuss your rights.

Who Is Covered?
Whether you are covered by the Longshore Act does not depend on your job classification or job title.  You may be covered by the Longshore Act if you are a:

  • Dock worker
  • Longshoremen
  • Maintenance worker
  • Crane operator
  • Laborer
  • Mechanic
  • Ship builders and repairmen, including welders
  • Employee loading and unloading cargo
  • Oil-production fixed-platform workers

So what kind of benefits are provided for those who are injured and covered by the LHWCA?  There are several benefits and remedies available to compensate an injured maritime worker, depending on the type and severity of the injury.  These benefits can include:

  • Weekly compensation at a rate of 2/3 of your average weekly wage while you are totally disabled
  • Partial Disability benefits if you do no fully recover from your injury
  • Medical treatment for injuries and diseases sustained from maritime employment
  • Rehabilitation Services
  • Specific Loss benefits including money for Hearing Loss
  • Funeral expenses up to $3,000 and death benefits for dependent family members, if the maritime worker is killed in a work accident

Can I Qualify for Money Damages?
Injured workers may be entitled to money damages – apart from medical treatment and weekly disability benefits discussed above – if the worker is injured because of the negligence of another company, person or vessel.  Section 905(B) of the LHWCA was added by Congress in 1984 to allow maritime workers the right to file a lawsuit (aside from workers compensation) and recover damages from injuries received as a result of “vessel negligence”.  These types of claims arise when a worker covered by the LHWCA is injured while aboard a vessel because of some defect with that vessel.  Damages available to such workers include pain and suffering, past and future lost wages, and the cost of future medical treatment, among others.  It is therefore important to know your rights.  Our maritime attorneys are experienced in prosecuting these types of lawsuits and can tell you whether you have a viable third-party lawsuit against a vessel or entity.

Time is of the Essence

If you think you have a claim under the LHWCA, there are time limits on how soon after an accident you must notify your employer of your injury and file a claim.  First, you must notify your employer of the injury within 30 days, and then you only have 1 year to file a formal Claim for Compensation with the U.S. Department of Labor.  If you intend on pursuing a claim or potential settlement, do not delay in contacting an experienced maritime attorney at The Moschetta Law Firm, P.C beforehand to assure you receive proper and adequate benefits or read more about our Longshore & Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act practice.