Longshore and Harbor Workers' Compensation Act

The Longshore and Harbor Workers' Compensation Act, commonly referred to as the “longshore act” or LHWCA, provides occupational injury and disease benefits to maritime workers in certain cases where the Jones Act and state workers' compensation do not. Under this act, workers injured or who have contracted occupational diseases while employed in support of the maritime industry as shipbuilders, dock workers, longshoremen, mechanics, or maintenance workers on any canal, river, or other waterway are entitled to compensation.

The Jones Act only covers seamen, and state workers' compensation schemes do not cover workers on navigable waters. The LHWCA fills this gap by providing benefits for maritime workers who are not seamen, but who are injured on navigable waters or adjoining areas in the United States. “Adjoining areas” include all areas that are used in loading, unloading, repairing, or building a vessel, including docks, piers, terminals, and dry dock facilities.

With the Defense Base Act (DBA) Congress has extended the LHWCA to cover non-appropriated fund employees (i.e. AAFES employees), outer-continental-shelf workers, and U.S. government contractors working in foreign countries.

The LHWCA is similar to state workers' compensation schemes as it does not require that a worker's employer be found at fault for the worker's injury.

Worker's compensation benefits provided by the LHWCA include:

  • Medical benefits for occupational diseases that arise naturally out of maritime employment
  • Rehabilitation services
  • Medical and disability payments
  • Wrongful death benefits for survivors of maritime workers who die from work related injuries

It is important to note that time is of the essence when initiating a claim for benefits under the LHWCA. An injured employee must notify their employer of the maritime injury within 30 days of its occurrence. A formal claim for benefits must be filed within one year following the date of the injury.

Generally speaking, a worker covered by the LHWCA is entitled to temporary compensation benefits of 2/3 his average weekly wage while undergoing medical treatment, and then either to a scheduled award for injury to body parts or 2/3 of the workers' loss of earning capacity.

If you think you may have a LHWCA claim, please contact an experienced maritime law attorney at The Cochran Firm today.