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The Longshore and Harbor Workers Compensation Act (LHWCA)

The Longshore and Harbor Workers Compensation Act (LHWCA) is a federal law allowing certain types of maritime employees to file claims against their employers to receive benefits for work-related injuries and illnesses. The LHWCA covers land-based maritime workers and specifically excludes seamen, who qualify for benefits under the Jones Act instead.

Who qualifies for LHWCA benefits?

There are two elements lawyers and judges will examine to determine if an employee qualifies to receive LHWCA benefits: the nature and location of the work. These elements are determined using a “status” and “situs” test.

The status test looks at the nature of an employee’s work, which must be directly related to water or marine transport or contribute to their employer’s maritime business. Several types of employees qualify, including longshoremen or other harbor workers responsible for loading and unloading vessels, ship repairmen, shipbuilders, and ship-breakers. Even truck drivers transporting shipping containers and the mechanics who work on these trucks may receive Longshore Act benefits.

The situs test examines the location an employee generally spends his time. Qualifying employees must work on, near, or adjacent to navigable waters, which include areas such as piers, wharves, dry docks, terminals, and other areas traditionally used for loading, unloading, or tending to vessels.

No matter the nature or location of work, there are certain workers employed by maritime businesses who are specifically excluded from receiving benefits, including:

  • Employees engaged in office or administrative work
  • Shipbuilders and repairmen of small recreational vessels
  • Marina employees not engaged in construction-related work, except for maintenance crew
  • Aquaculture or fish farming workers
  • Captains and crew members of vessels, as they are covered under the Jones Act

What types of injuries do the LHWCA benefits cover?

Longshoremen and other harbor workers often work in dangerous working conditions, as heavy machinery, towering vessels, weathered structures, and mother nature all pose potential threats. All manner of injuries and illnesses are covered under the Longshoreman Act as long as they are work-related.

Injuries covered include complete or partial amputations, hearing loss, slip or trip and falls, drowning, crushing injuries, and neck, back, and shoulder injuries. Death benefits are also available to relatives of deceased maritime workers killed in the line of work. Workers may even receive compensation for illnesses arising from work conditions, such mesothelioma, asthma, autoimmune diseases, skin diseases, and pneumonia.

Under the LHWCA, qualifying maritime workers are entitled to receive:

  • Temporary total or partial disability benefits
  • Permanent total or partial disability benefits
  • Compensation for necessary and reasonable medical treatment, including physical therapy
  • Reimbursement for transportation expenses related to medical treatment
  • Vocational rehabilitation benefits when it is apparent the injured worker is unable to return to their former role even after treatment and physical therapy

Disability payments are determined based on whether the injury is scheduled or non-scheduled and are calculated using the injured party’s average weekly wages (AWW). Scheduled injuries are disabling injuries listed with a predetermined payment amount. For example, for the total loss of use of an arm, workers are entitled to 312 weeks of their AWW. In contrast, non-scheduled injuries are generally those that are unlisted, including neck, shoulder, and back injuries. Workers suffering from non-scheduled injuries are generally entitled to two-thirds of their AWW for life.

If you or a loved one has been injured or killed while working in the maritime industry, call our attorneys at Crane Flores, LLP anytime, day or night at (805) 628-4967. Our aggressive attorneys will fight for the compensation you deserve.