The Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act (LHWCA) is a U.S. federal law that provides workers’ compensation benefits to certain maritime workers who are injured or become ill while on the job. The LHWCA covers employees who work on or near navigable waters in the United States, including longshoremen, harbor workers, and other workers who load or unload vessels or engage in other maritime activities.
If you work in the maritime industry and suffer an injury or illness, an offshore maritime injury attorney is an asset to your case. At Kherkher Garcia, LLP, our attorneys help you protect your rights and get the compensation that you deserve as seamlessly as possible.
An Overview of the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act
Under the LHWCA, eligible workers are entitled to medical treatment for their injuries or illnesses, as well as disability benefits to compensate for lost wages. The law also provides for vocational rehabilitation services to help workers return to employment, if possible.
In general, the LHWCA is intended to provide a safety net for workers in a dangerous and physically demanding industry, and to ensure that they are fairly compensated for their injuries and illnesses.
Who is Eligible for Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act Coverage?
The LHWCA covers a wide range of maritime workers who are injured or become ill while on the job. Generally, the LHWCA covers employees who work on or near navigable waters in the U.S., including:
- Longshore workers who load or unload vessels, handle cargo, or perform other related activities at ports or terminals
- Harbor workers who work in shipyards, docks, piers, wharves, or other waterfront areas
- Workers who repair or build vessels
- Workers who operate cranes, forklifts, or other equipment used in maritime activities
- Workers who transport goods or people by water, such as ferryboat operators or crew members on commercial vessels
To be covered under the LHWCA, an employee must be engaged in maritime employment and must be injured or become ill as a result of their work. The LHWCA excludes certain categories of workers. However, there are some exceptions to these exclusions, and the determination of coverage under the LHWCA can be complex.
Who is Not Covered by the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act?
Not all maritime workers are covered under LHWCA. Here are some examples of workers who are not covered:
- Seamen: Seamen, who are employees of a vessel or fleet, are generally not covered under the LHWCA. Instead, they are covered under the Jones Act, which is a separate federal law that provides similar benefits for injured seamen.
- Military Personnel: Members of the armed forces are not covered under the LHWCA. They are covered under other laws and programs, such as the Veterans Affairs (VA) program.
- Federal Government Employees: Federal government employees, including those who work for the U.S. Navy or Coast Guard, are not covered under the LHWCA. They are covered under the Federal Employees’ Compensation Act (FECA).
- Employees of Recreational Vessels: Employees who work on recreational vessels, such as pleasure boats, are generally not covered under the LHWCA.
- Independent Contractors: Independent contractors who work on or near navigable waters are generally not covered under the LHWCA. Only employees are covered under the law.
It is important to note that these are just a few examples of workers who are not covered under the LHWCA. The law has many nuances and exceptions, and whether or not a worker is covered can depend on various factors, such as the nature of their job and the location where they work.
What are the Extensions to the LHWCA?
The LHWCA has several extensions that expand the coverage of the law to certain workers who are not covered under the original act. The most significant extensions are:
Defense Base Act (DBA)
The DBA provides workers’ compensation benefits to employees of private contractors who are injured or become ill while working on military bases or under a contract with the U.S. government outside the U.S. This extension covers a wide range of workers, including security personnel, logistics workers, and construction workers.
Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act (OCSLA)
The OCSLA extends coverage to employees who work on oil rigs, platforms, and other structures on the outer continental shelf off the coast of the U.S. This extension covers workers who engage in oil and gas exploration, drilling, production, and maintenance.
Non-Appropriated Fund Instrumentalities Act (NAFIA)
The NAFIA extends coverage to civilian employees of non-appropriated fund instrumentalities of the armed forces, such as military commissaries, exchanges, and recreation facilities.
District of Columbia Workers’ Compensation Act
This extension provides workers’ compensation benefits to employees who work in the District of Columbia and who are not covered under any other federal workers’ compensation law.
These extensions are important because they ensure that workers in certain industries, or working for certain employers, receive the same benefits as workers covered under the original act.
How Does The Jones Act Differ from the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act?
The Jones Act and the LHWCA are both federal laws that provide benefits to maritime workers who are injured on the job. However, there are a few key differences between the two laws that maritime workers should be aware of:
The Jones Act covers seamen, which are defined as workers who spend a significant amount of their time on a vessel or fleet in navigation. On the other hand, the LHWCA covers a broader range of workers who work on or near navigable waters, including longshoremen, harbor workers, and other maritime employees.
Scope of Coverage
The Jones Act provides a remedy for seamen who are injured due to the negligence of their employers, coworkers, or other parties while they are working aboard a vessel. This means that seamen who are injured due to unsafe conditions or equipment on a vessel, or due to the actions of other employees on the vessel, can sue their employer for damages. The LHWCA, on the other hand, provides a no-fault compensation system for maritime workers who are injured on the job, regardless of who is at fault for the injury.
Under the Jones Act, injured seamen can seek compensation for a broader range of damages than under the LHWCA. This includes damages for pain and suffering, loss of future earnings, and loss of enjoyment of life. Under the LHWCA, injured workers are generally limited to compensation for medical expenses, lost wages, and vocational rehabilitation.
In order to bring a claim under the Jones Act, an injured seaman must file a lawsuit in federal court. Under the LHWCA, injured workers generally file a claim with the Department of Labor, which administers the compensation system.
While both laws provide benefits to maritime workers who are injured on the job, the Jones Act provides a more expansive remedy for injured seamen who can prove negligence, while the LHWCA provides a no-fault compensation system for a broader range of maritime workers.
Who Administers and Enforces the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act?
The primary agency responsible for administering the LHWCA is the United States Department of Labor (DOL), specifically the Office of Workers’ Compensation Programs (OWCP). The OWCP is responsible for processing and adjudicating claims for benefits under the LHWCA, as well as enforcing compliance with the law by employers and insurance carriers.
The OWCP also provides assistance to injured workers and their families, including medical benefits, wage replacement, and vocational rehabilitation services.
In addition to the OWCP, other government agencies also play a role in upholding the LHWCA. For example, the United States Coast Guard (USCG) is responsible for enforcing safety and health regulations on vessels and in maritime workplaces. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) also has jurisdiction over safety and health issues in some maritime workplaces.
How Do I File a Claim Under the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act?
If you suffer an injury while working in a maritime occupation, you should be aware of the steps required to file an LHWCA claim. If at any point you feel confused or overwhelmed, a maritime injury attorney can help.
Here are the general steps required to file an LHWCA claim:
- Notify your Employer: You must notify your employer of your injury as soon as possible. This notification should be in writing, and should include the date, time, and location of the injury, as well as a description of how the injury occurred.
- Get Medical Attention: You should seek medical attention for your injury as soon as possible. Your employer may provide you with a list of approved medical providers, or you may be able to choose your own doctor.
- File a Claim with the DOL: To file an LHWCA claim, you must complete and file Form LS-203 (Employee’s Claim for Compensation) with the DOL’s OWCP. You can obtain this form from your employer or from the OWCP.
- Submit Supporting Documents: Along with your LS-203 form, you should submit any supporting documents that are relevant to your claim, such as medical records, wage statements, and witness statements.
- Await Decision: After you submit your claim, the OWCP will review it and make a decision on your eligibility for benefits. If your claim is approved, you will receive benefits for your medical expenses, lost wages, and any other allowable benefits.
- Appeal (If Applicable): If your LHWCA claim is denied or seems inadequate, you may have the option of appealing the OWCP decision. To appeal, you may request a formal hearing before an administrative judge. If resolution is unsuccessful, a Benefits Review Board appeal may then proceed.
The process for filing an LHWCA claim can be complex, and there are strict deadlines that must be followed. If you have questions or need assistance with your claim, you may want to consult with an experienced attorney who specializes in maritime law. Working with an attorney can provide you with peace of mind that your rights are being protected as you pursue compensation.
Learn More about LHWCA Claims and Your Rights
If you have a maritime injury, or would like to know more about the LHWCA, claims, and your rights, call Kherkher Garcia today. Our maritime injury attorneys are well versed in maritime law, and can help you understand your rights and responsibilities, and how to get help if an injury occurs.
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