The Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act

Mar 31, 2022 | Jones Act And Maritime Law, Personal Injury, Work Accidents

Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act
The Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act (LHWCA) is a federal law that provides workers’ comp benefits to maritime employees who suffer injuries on the navigable waters of the United States. The benefits offered by the LHWCA are generally better than those provided by a standard state workers’ compensation act.

Who is Covered by the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act?

The LHWCA provides workers’ compensation benefits to a wide variety of maritime employees, such as:

  • Shipbuilders
  • Ship repairers
  • Shipbreakers
  • Longshoremen, and
  • Harbor workers

For a worker to be covered under the LHWCA, their injury must happen on, near, or adjacent to the navigable waters of the United States. Therefore, injuries that occur on marine railways, ferry terminals, wharves, piers, and dry docks are generally covered by this act.

Extensions to the LHWCA

Though the primary goal of the LHWCA is to provide benefits to injured maritime workers, it has been extended to include other employees on several occasions.

The most notable extensions include:

The Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act (OCSLA)

The OCSLA extends LHWCA benefits to people who suffer injuries while working on the Outer Continental Shelf of the United States to explore and produce natural resources. It is often used to compensate sick and injured oil rig employees.

The Defense Base Act (DBA)

The DBA extends LHWCA coverage to individuals who sustain injuries while:

  • Working for a private employer on a US military base anywhere in the world
  • Working on a public work contract with any US government agency
  • Working on contracts approved and funded by the Foreign Assistance Act, or
  • Working for a US employer to provide welfare to the Armed Services outside the US

Benefits under the DBA are payable regardless of the injured party’s nationality.

The Non-Appropriated Fund Instrumentalities Act (NAFIA)

The NAFIA extends LHWCA coverage to people who become ill or suffer an injury working as a civilian employee of a non-appropriated fund instrumentality of the Armed Forces. Employees of military base exchanges are typically covered under this extension.

Who is Excluded from the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act?

The LHWCA excludes the following groups and individuals:

  • Employees of the US government, any state government, or any foreign government
  • Employees who suffered injuries as a result of their willful intention to harm themselves or others 
  • Employees who suffered injuries caused solely by their intoxication, and
  • Seamen (crewmembers or captains who work on a vessel in navigation)

Many of these people can recover compensation under other federal laws (like the Jones Act) or private insurance policies.

The LHWCA further excludes the following groups of people if they can claim benefits through a standard state workers’ comp program:

  • Employees of clubs, camps, museums, retail outlets, and restaurants
  • People employed exclusively to perform security, secretarial, or clerical work
  • Aquaculture workers
  • People employed to build recreational vessels under 65 feet in length
  • People employed to repair or dismantle recreational vessels under 65 feet in length
  • Employees of a marina who are not engaged in the construction, expansion, or replacement of the marina, and
  • Employees of vendors or suppliers who are temporarily doing business on the premises of a marine company and are not engaged in work ordinarily performed by employees of the company.

Should these people suffer an on-the-job injury, they must generally file a claim with the relevant state workers’ compensation board.

What Benefits are Available Under the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act?

Eligible employees who suffer injuries while working on US navigable waters can typically claim the following benefits under the LHWCA:

  • Temporary Partial Disability: Available to individuals who have partial disabilities from which they are expected to make a full recovery. 
  • Temporary Total Disability: Available to people who have disabilities from which they are expected to make a full recovery but are currently preventing them from working.
  • Permanent Partial Disability: Available to individuals with partial disabilities from which they are not expected to recover fully.
  • Permanent Total Disability: Available to individuals who have disabilities that prevent them from working and from which they are not expected to recover fully.

When maritime employees die on the job, their surviving family members are typically entitled to death benefits under the LHWCA. The amount of compensation they receive depends on the decedent’s wage and the size of their family:

  • Widow Only: 50 percent of the decedent’s average weekly wage
  • Widow and Child(ren): 66.7 percent of the decedent’s average weekly wage
  • One Child Only: 50 percent of the decedent’s average weekly wage
  • Two or More Children: 66.7 percent of the decedent’s average weekly wage

Individuals who wish to obtain a benefits estimate should consult with an experienced lawyer. In general, however, the benefits offered by the LHWCA are much better than those provided by a standard state workers’ comp program.

What Should Workers Do If They Suffer an Injury on the Job?

People who sustain injuries in workplace accidents and believe they may be eligible for benefits under the LHWCA should:

  1. Notify their supervisor or manager immediately (or as soon as possible).
  2. Seek medical attention as soon as practically possible.
  3. Request Form LS-1 (Request for Examination and/or Treatment) from their employer. This form authorizes necessary medical treatment.
  4. Retain the services of an experienced workers’ comp lawyer.

Injured workers should also provide written notice of injury to their employer using Form LS-201 (Notice of Employee’s Injury or Death). They (or their attorney) must generally submit this notice within 30 days.

Once an injured employee has completed these initial steps, they should then apply for LHWCA benefits with the help of their attorney. They should submit Form LS-203 (Employee’s Claim for Compensation) to the Office of Workers’ Compensation Programs (OWCP) within one year.

Houston’s Trusted LHWCA Law Firm

Do you need help filing a claim under the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act? If so, please don’t hesitate to reach out to the knowledgeable workers’ comp attorneys at Williams Hart & Boundas Boundas LLP. We’ve been standing up for the people of Houston since 1983, and we are more than ready to do the same for you!

Disclaimer: This material is provided for informational purposes only. The provision of this material does not create an attorney-client relationship between the firm and the reader and does not constitute legal advice. Legal advice must be tailored to the specific circumstances of each case, and the contents of this newsletter are not a substitute for legal counsel. Do not take action in reliance on the contents of this material without seeking the advice of counsel.

The information contained in this blog may or may not reflect the most current legal developments. Accordingly, information in this blog is not promised or guaranteed to be correct or complete, and should not be relied upon as such. Readers should conduct their own appropriate legal research.

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