Workers with protections under the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act can receive compensation for medical costs and lost wages associated with injuries and illnesses they suffered while working in navigable waters or adjoining facilities. But how can you get this compensation, and what level of compensation does the law provide workers?
Continue reading this article to learn about longshore and harbor worker compensation. If you have questions about a specific case and injuries you suffered, reach out to a maritime law attorney as soon as possible for a free case evaluation.
Benefits Offered in Longshore and Harbor Worker Compensation
If you qualify for LHWCA benefits, you might receive these benefits temporarily as you undergo medical treatment for injuries you sustained on the job. Typically, the benefits you can collect equate to approximately two-thirds of your usual pay. You also seek compensation for the costs of treatment for your job-related injuries.
This benefit includes LHWCA-approved healthcare costs, such as:
- Visits to the doctor
- Medically necessary surgeries
- Prescription medication purchases
- Skilled nursing care
- Durable medical equipment, like crutches or wheelchairs
- Prosthetic devices
- Hearing aids
Generally, the LHWCA will cover most of the primary health care services and devices necessary to treat your condition or enhance your recovery. When you complete treatment, you can get compensation for permanent injuries to body parts or a percentage of your long-term lost earning ability. When a maritime worker dies on the job, survivors can receive survivors’ benefits.
It is important to note that LHWCA benefits come through the employer, not the LHWCA Division itself.
People Covered by the LHWCA
The LHWCA protects maritime workers who do not operate in the capacity of a seaman. These employees work in ports, shipyards, and harbors in or near navigable waters under federal jurisdiction. Note that oil rig workers and employees of other offshore facilities are frequently eligible for LHWCA benefits. Though, they do not always have coverage.
Here is a list of occupations that qualify for LHWCA benefits:
- Longshore workers
- Harbor construction workers
- Ship repairmen
- Crane operators
- Offshore oil workers
Remember that the LHWCA only provides compensation for costs associated with injuries that occurred while someone was working on U.S. waters or within a facility on or near those waters.
Common locations that offer such protection include:
- Loading/unloading areas
Also, note that the LHWCA can cover individuals who do not hold a maritime occupation if their injuries occurred while working on U.S. navigable waters.
Extensions of LHWCA Benefits
In some instances, people who are not usually eligible for LHWCA benefits can receive them thanks to extensions made to the LHWCA.
Several extensions include:
- The Defense Base Act
- The Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act
- The Nonappropriated Fund Instrumentalities Act.
The Defense Base Act offers protections to the employees of 3rd party contractors who work in government facilities outside of the U.S. Through the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act, coverage extends to the employees of private enterprises that perform specialized tasks on the Outer Continental Shelf. Finally, the Nonappropriated Fund Instrumentalities Act provides civilians who work in military facilities with LHWCA coverage.
These extensions cover workers who otherwise would not receive LHWCA benefits. Therefore, if you thought you were not eligible due to the traditional rules of the program, you may be wrong. By speaking to a maritime rights lawyer, you can learn whether you are eligible for longshore and harbor worker compensation.
LHWCA Does Not Cover All Marine Employees
So far, we have discussed who is eligible for LHWCA benefits. Now you need to know who does not have coverage. The LHWCA has limits, meaning the scope of covered people does not include every maritime worker.
Some groups of marine workers that LHWCA may exclude from coverage include:
- Government workers
- Employees of foreign nations
- Employees who suffered injuries due to drug or alcohol impairment
- Employees who intentionally caused their injuries
Having state-supported workers’ compensation coverage also excludes you from acquiring LHWCA benefits.
According to the U.S. Department of Labor, people in the following roles do not qualify for LHWCA (Jones Act) benefits:
- Individuals employed exclusively to perform office clerical, secretarial, security, or data processing work;
- Workers employed by a club, camp, recreational program, restaurant, museum, or retail facility;
- Individuals employed by a marina that do not perform construction or the replacement or expansion of the marina they work for (excluding routine maintenance workers);
- Workers employed by suppliers, transporters, or vendors.
- Workers that are only doing business temporarily on the premises of maritime employers;
- Workers not performing work usually done by employees who the LHWCA typically covers;
- Aquaculture workers;
- Individuals hired to construct any recreational vessel under sixty-five feet in length;
- Workers hired to repair any recreational vessel;
- Workers hired to dismantle a recreational vessel in connection to repair it and;
- Small vessel workers exempt by Secretary of Labor certification.
The Jones Act vs. The LHWCA
The Jones Act, also called the Merchant Marine Act of 1920, is a federal law that enhances the development of commercial activity that merchant marine workers perform.
The Jones Act allows injured seamen, including offshore oil workers, to bring a civil action against their employers. This authority covers one of the gaps left in the LHWCA. Because the LHWCA does not provide benefits to seamen, the Jones act is often a necessary substitute. The two programs are mutually exclusive in providing compensation to maritime workers.
Through filing a Jones Act claim, injured seamen can seek maintenance benefits as well. This maintenance amount is the money a worker will need to pay for room and board, similar to what they had on the vessel they work for.
It can be as low as $8 per day or $35 per day. Similarly, injured seamen can seek coverage of reasonable medical care for maximum medical improvement. Many employers refuse to provide such benefits even though they are legally mandatory.
If your employer denies your rightful compensation for expenses for injuries you experienced while on or near navigable waters of the U.S., you may seek Jones Act or LHWCA benefits. To find out your rights to compensation, speak to an experienced maritime rights lawyer today.
Who Oversees the LHWCA?
The Office of Workers’ Compensation Programs oversees the administration of the LHWCA and all of its extensions. This office also oversees three other federal workers’ compensation statutes. The specific division that administers the LHWCA is the Division of Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation.
How To Report an Injury to the LHWCA
When you suffer an injury on the job, you must inform your employer or another representative as soon as possible. Following your report, seek appropriate medical treatment. Fortunately, you can see any physician you like for treatment. You must ask your employer to provide Form LS-1, the Request for Examination and/or Treatment document. This form authorizes medical treatment for work-related injuries.
Please note that people who have suffered severe injuries are free to acquire emergency medical treatment. You can request authorization from your employer later. Typically, employers will not deny someone’s need for medical care. If they do, contact a maritime rights attorney.
Here are some frequently asked questions that may help you properly report and recover compensation for your maritime work-related injuries.
Do You Have to Report Injuries?
As soon as you know you have suffered a work-related injury, you must report that information to your employer. Ideally, you must make this report within 30 days of the occurrence of the injury. Use Form LS-201, Notice of Employee’s Injury or Death, to report an injury. Once your report is submitted, continue seeking the appropriate medical attention.
Failing to report your injury within 30 days does not bar you from receiving treatment, but it does create an obstacle for individuals who hope to receive compensation under the LHWCA. The OWCP may excuse a failure to report when workers have a plausible reason for waiting to report their injuries.
How Can You Claim Compensation for Injuries?
To have a chance of recovering compensation for expenses associated with your maritime work-related injuries, you need to file a claim with the OWCP. You have one year from the date of the injury to file this written claim. However, if your employer has been providing compensation benefits voluntarily, you can make a claim up to a year after they paid their last compensation.
If you do not provide a written claim to the OWCP within the stated time frame, your employer has the option to deny you compensation benefits. This option can be incredibly problematic with workers disabled by their injuries. Work with a longshore and harbor worker compensation lawyer to ensure your claim gets filed appropriately.
How Do You File a Claim?
To file a claim, you need to submit the appropriate claim forms. You can do so via the SEAPortal site or fax it to the DFELHWC Office. It is best to discuss the process with an attorney before filing your claim, as you want to avoid making any errors or omissions that can hinder your ability to receive full benefits.
Blue Water vs. Brown Water
Recently, a Washington state appellate court distinguished between brown-water seamen and blue-water seamen. Blue-water seamen are said to live aboard their vessels; therefore, they are on duty even when on shore. Brown-water seamen, on the other hand, are responsible for commuting between their homes and their work. Therefore, brown-water seamen are not always at work on shore.
Courts must consider whether an employee was heading directly to the vessel to continue work, whether they were subject to discipline if they were to go elsewhere, and whether returning to the vessel might have benefited the worker and the ship owner. When administering Jones Act or LHWCA benefits, courts also question whether the injured seamen were under the supervision of the vessel owner when their injury occurred.
Why Hire a Maritime Lawyer?
A maritime rights lawyer can guide you towards compensation if your injury occurs at work. Without legal representation, your employer may attempt to skirt their responsibility to compensate for your losses. An attorney will be essential to the process if you need longshore and harbor worker compensation or Jones Act compensation.
You want to find and consult with a law firm that regularly handles claims involving the various maritime injury and worker laws. These laws are complex and often overlap, and you want to identify all possible opportunities for compensation for medical care, lost income, and more.
The sooner you consult with a maritime accident attorney, the sooner you can move forward with a claim. You do not want to miss the deadline to file a claim. If you do, you can forfeit the ability to receive compensation for your longshore injuries. Call a longshore or maritime compensation attorney today for a consultation. Consultations are free, so you cannot lose by taking action today.