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Longshore and harbor workers have rights when injured on the job

In 1927 Congress passed the Longshore and Harbor Workers Compensation Act, a comprehensive workers' compensation system for those who are injured while working near navigable waters. Lawmakers recognized that some maritime workers who were injured were falling through the cracks. They did not meet the definition of "seamen" for purposes of filing claims under the Jones Act and also did not qualify for benefits under the various states' workers' compensation systems. Those who work in the maritime industry should be aware of the benefits to which they may be entitled if injured on the job.

Qualifying for benefits under the LHWCA

Similar to other workers' compensation systems, claims under the LHWCA are not fault-based. However, there are provisions of the LHWCA that allow an employee to bring suits against those whose negligence contributed to the employee's injury. Even though a worker need not show negligence on the part of the employer, the worker must meet two tests to show that he or she qualifies for benefits under the LHWCA:

  • Status: whether the employee was engaged in maritime work at the time of the injury
  • Situs: whether the injury happened while the employee was working on navigable waters or adjacent areas traditionally used for loading and unloading vessels including piers, docks, dry docks and terminals

Professions traditionally covered by the LHWCA include vessel loaders and unloaders, ship builders and ship repairers.

The LHWCA offers compensation not only for injuries that workers sustain on the job, but also for "occupational diseases" - illnesses that "arise naturally" from the type of work a person does.

An employee must report an injury to his or her employer within 30 days of the occurrence of the injury or knowledge of the occupational disease to qualify for benefits. The employer then has 14 days to begin paying benefits or to dispute the claim. The employer must also notify the Department of Labor of the claim within one year.

Remedies available under the LHWCA

The benefits available to injured workers under the LHWCA are similar to other workers' compensation systems, including:

  • Two-thirds of the workers' average weekly wage for the duration of the injury, including interest if the payments are late
  • Compensation for permanent impairments listed in federal statutes
  • Surviving spouse benefits equal to 50 percent of the average weekly wage of the employee who died, with an additional 16.67 percent for surviving children
  • Payment of medical expenses stemming from the injury
  • Vocational rehabilitation

Talk to a lawyer

Working in the maritime industry can be dangerous. Those who are injured while working around ships should seek the assistance of an attorney knowledgeable in the provisions of the LHWCA who can help them recover all the benefits to which they are entitled.

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