What is the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act?
The Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act (LHWCA) is a federal law that provides for the payment of compensation, medical care, and vocational rehabilitation services to employees disabled from on the job injuries that occur on the navigable waters of the United States, or in adjoining areas customarily used in the loading, unloading, repairing, or building of a vessel. The LHWCA also provides for payment of survivor benefits to dependents if the work injury causes, or contributes to, the employee’s death. These benefits are typically paid by the self-insured employer or by a private insurance company on the employer’s behalf. The term “injury” includes occupational diseases, hearing loss and illnesses arising out of employment.
Who is covered by the LHWCA?
The LHWCA covers employees in traditional maritime occupations such as longshore workers, ship-repairers, shipbuilders or ship-breakers, and harbor construction workers. The injuries must occur on the navigable waters of the United States or in the adjoining areas, including piers, docks, terminals, wharves, and those areas used in loading and unloading vessels. Non-maritime employees may also be covered if they perform their work on navigable water and their injuries occur there.
What are the Longshore Act Extensions?
Congress extended the LHWCA to include other types of employment. Employees covered by these extensions are entitled to the same benefits, and their claims are handled in the same way as Longshore Act claims. The following are the extensions of the LHWCA:
Defense Base Act (DBA) – The DBA covers the following employment activities: (1) Work for private employers on U.S. military bases or on any lands used by the U.S. for military purposes outside of the United States, including those in U.S. Territories and possessions; (2) Work on public work contracts with any U.S. government agency, including construction and service contracts in connection with national defense or with war activities outside the United States; (3) Work on contracts approved and funded by the U.S. under the Foreign Assistance Act, which among other things provides for cash sale of military equipment, materials, and services to its allies if the contract is performed outside of the United States; and (4) Work for American employers providing welfare or similar services outside the United States for the benefit of the Armed Services, e.g. the United Service Organizations (USO). To learn more about the DBA, please see the DBA FAQs.
Who is excluded from the LHWCA?
The LHWCA specifically excludes the following individuals:
- Seamen (masters or members of a crew of any vessel – see FAQ 5);
- Employees of the United States government or of any state or foreign government;
- Employees whose injuries were caused solely by their intoxication; and
- Employees whose injuries were due to their own willful intention to harm themselves or others.
The LHWCA also excludes the following individuals if they are covered by a state workers’ compensation law:
- Individuals employed exclusively to perform office clerical, secretarial, security, or data processing work;
- Individuals employed by a club, camp, recreational operation, restaurant, museum, or retail outlet;
- Individuals employed by a marina and who are not engaged in the construction, replacement, or expansion of such marina (except for routine maintenance);
- Individuals who (A) are employed by suppliers, transporters, or vendors, (B) are temporarily doing business on the premises of a maritime employer, and (C) are not engaged in work normally performed by employees of that employer covered under the Act;
- Aquaculture workers;
- Individuals employed to build any recreational vessel under sixty-five feet in length, or to repair any recreational vessel, or to dismantle any part of a recreational vessel in connection with the repair of such vessel; and
- Small vessel workers if exempt by certification of the Secretary of Labor under certain conditions.
What is the difference between the Jones Act and the LHWCA?
The Jones Act (46 U.S.C. § 30104) and the LHWCA (33 U.S.C. § 901-950) are mutually exclusive regimes providing compensation for work-related injuries suffered by different categories of maritime employees. The LHWCA excludes from its coverage a “master or member of a crew of any vessel.” Instead, crew members are covered by the Jones Act. The term “master or member of a crew” is refinement of the term “seaman” in the Jones Act. As a result, the key requirement for Jones Act coverage appears in the LHWCA. The determination turns solely on the employee’s connection to a vessel in navigation. It is not necessary that an employee aid in navigation or contribute to the transportation of the vessel in order to be “seaman” under the Jones Act, but the employee must be doing the ship’s work by contributing to the function of the vessel or the accomplishment of its mission.
What is the Office of Workers’ Compensation Programs (OWCP)?
The Office of Workers’ Compensation Programs (OWCP) is charged with oversight of four federal workers’ compensation statutes, including the LHWCA, and its extensions. Within the OWCP, the Division of Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation (DLHWC) administers the LHWCA.
7. What does OWCP/DLHWC do for injured employees?
- The OWCP/DLHWC maintains records of injuries and deaths reported under the LHWCA and its extensions and reviews claims to determine whether appropriate benefits are paid promptly and accurately in compliance with the Act’s provisions.
- Claims staff provides information and technical assistance regarding entitlement to compensation, medical benefits, and vocational rehabilitation benefits to employers, insurance carriers, and injured employees.
- Should claim disputes arise, the OWCP/DLHWC assists the parties to resolve the disputes by conducting informal conferences and making written recommendations regarding benefit entitlement. If the parties cannot resolve their differences and any party requests a formal hearing before the Office of Administrative Law Judges (OALJ), the OWCP/DLHWC refers the case for a formal hearing.
- Vocational rehabilitation services are provided to permanently disabled employees in appropriate cases. See the Vocational Rehabilitation FAQs for more detail.
- The OWCP/DLHWC also administers the “Special Fund” which pays disability compensation to injured employees or their survivors in certain circumstances.
Contact a Knowledgeable Louisiana Maritime Attorney
You need to contact an attorney quickly if you were seriously injured during a job that takes place on or near water. Schedule a consultation with the Scott Vicknair law firm today to find out how we can help protect your legal rights as a maritime worker.
Longshore and Harbor Workers Compensation Act: Qualities to Look for in an Attorney
If you are an employee covered under the Longshore And Harbor Workers Compensation Act and need to file a claim, it’s crucial to have an attorney who specializes in this area of law. Our Scott Vicknair, LLC, team will discuss the qualities you should look for when choosing an attorney to navigate the complexities of the LHWCA and ensure that you receive the compensation you deserve.
Experience in LHWCA Cases:
When choosing a lawyer to handle your Longshore And Harbor Workers Compensation Act claim, you should choose someone that possesses extensive experience in this area. The LHWCA has its own set of regulations and procedures, and an attorney who is well-versed in these matters will be better equipped to navigate the complexities of your case. Look for a lawyer who has successfully handled LHWCA claims in the past and has a thorough understanding of the nuances of maritime law.
Knowledge of Medical and Vocational Evidence:
LHWCA claims can involve complex vocational and medical evidence. Your attorney should have a solid understanding of the medical aspects related to your injury or illness and how they may impact your ability to work. They should be able to gather and present medical records, expert opinions, and vocational assessments to support your claim effectively. An attorney with experience in LHWCA cases will know what evidence is necessary to build a strong case on your behalf.
Familiarity with Insurance Companies and Employers:
The LHWCA involves interactions with insurance companies and employers who may contest your claim or try to minimize the benefits you receive. An attorney who is familiar with the tactics used by insurance companies and understands the dynamics between employees, employers, and insurers will be better equipped to handle negotiations and advocate for your rights. You should always look for an attorney with success in representing their clients and negotiating with insurance companies.
Strong Negotiation and Litigation Skills:
While negotiations are enough to resolve some LHWCA, many others require litigation. Your chosen attorney should possess strong negotiation skills to effectively represent your interests during settlement discussions. Additionally, they should have the litigation experience and resources necessary to take your case to court if a fair resolution cannot be reached. A skilled negotiator and litigator will fight for your rights and work towards obtaining the maximum compensation you deserve.
Personalized Attention and Communication:
A vital quality to look for in an attorney is their ability to provide personalized attention and effective communication throughout your LHWCA claim. You should feel comfortable discussing your concerns and have confidence that your attorney will listen attentively and address your questions promptly. Look for a lawyer who is responsive, keeps you updated on the progress of your case, and takes the time to explain legal concepts and processes in a clear and understandable manner.
Compassion and Empathy:
Dealing with a work-related injury or illness can be a stressful and challenging experience. Choosing an attorney who demonstrates compassion and empathy towards your situation can make a significant difference in your overall experience. A caring attorney will not only focus on the legal aspects of your case but also provide support and guidance throughout the process, helping you navigate the emotional challenges that may arise. You can work with a Longshore And Harbor Workers Compensation Act lawyer by reaching out to our Scott Vicknair, LLC, team today!