The Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act (LHWCA) is a federal law that provides compensation for lost wages, medical benefits, and rehabilitation services to maritime employees who have become injured or develop a job-related occupational disease while working on the navigable waters of the United States, or in adjoining areas. (Under the LHWCA, “adjoining areas” include piers, wharves, docks, terminals, and any areas used in the loading, unloading, repairing, or building of a vessel.) Survivor benefits are also available if the work-related injury or disease results in the employee’s death.
The LHWCA provides the following types of monetary benefits to qualifying workers:
- Temporary total disability
- Temporary partial disability
- Permanent total disability
- Permanent partial disability
Who Qualifies for LHWCA Benefits?
LHWCA benefits are available to employees in traditional maritime occupations such as longshore workers, ship-repairers, shipbuilders or ship-breakers, and harbor construction workers.
To qualify for LHWCA benefits, a claimant must first pass a “status” and “situs” test. To pass the status test, the claimant must demonstrate that they were working in the capacity of a longshoreman, harbor worker, or similar qualifying occupation at the time of their accident. To pass the situs test, the claimant must show that they were working on navigable waters or adjoining areas when the injury took place.
LHWCA benefits are not available to seafarers (masters or crew members of any ship) or employees of the U.S. government or any state or foreign government. Employees whose injuries were caused solely by their intoxication or by willful intent to harm themselves or others are also not eligible.
In some instances, a maritime worker may qualify for both state worker’s compensation and federal LHWCA benefits. Unfortunately, they can’t collect both at the same time. Generally, LHWCA benefits are more advantageous to the injured worker in that they pay a higher percentage of an employee’s weekly work wage and offer permanent partial disability and other benefits not provided by state workers’ compensation acts.
Filing an LHWCA Claim
If you suffer an on-the-job injury, it’s important to notify your supervisor or employee representative immediately or as soon as possible after the incident. Seek medical treatment as soon as possible. You have a right to see a physician of your choice.
Under the law, you only have 30 days from the date of your accident to provide your employer with a written Notice of Employee’s Injury or Death form. To begin receiving LHWCA benefits you must file a written Claim for Compensation with the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Workers’ Compensation Programs (OWCP). You only have a year from the date of your injury in which to file your claim. (Eligible survivors have one year in which to file a Claim for Death Benefits.)
If your claim is approved, your employer will begin payment of benefits within 28 days of your accident. Subsequent payments will be made on a bi-weekly basis.
What If My Claim for LHWCA Benefits is Denied?
Did you file a claim for LHWCA benefits only to receive a Notice of Controversion, in which your employer denies their responsibility to provide compensation and medical benefits for your condition? This is not the end of the process. If you disagree with their denial of benefits, federal law gives you the right to appeal their decision.
Third Party Claims under the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act
In some cases, an injured maritime worker may have a claim against a third party (someone other than their employer) for their injuries. For example, if you were injured by a defective piece of equipment supplied by another company, you might have a products liability claim against the manufacturer or distributor of the equipment in addition to your LHWCA claim against your employer.
If you think you might have a third-party claim, it’s important to speak with an experienced maritime injury lawyer as soon as possible. You generally only have three years from the date of your accident in which to file a third-party claim, and the sooner you get started on building your case, the better.
The law firm of Lewis, Kullman, Sterbcow & Abramson, LLC has helped many injured maritime employees successfully pursue third party claims under the LHWCA. We are dedicated to ensuring you receive the total compensation you are due.
Why Lewis, Kullman, Sterbcow & Abramson, LLC?
If you were injured while working in the maritime industry, contact Lewis, Kullman, Sterbcow & Abramson, LLC for a free consultation about your legal rights and remedies. Our attorneys have played a critical role in many, if not most, of the important maritime cases in the last 40 years. A number of our cases have made or changed maritime law in favor of the injured as a result of our aggressive and innovative representation. Allow us to do the same for you.
You can reach the law offices of Lewis, Kullman, Sterbcow & Abramson, LLC through our website, or call us at (504) 588-1500 to schedule a free initial consultation with a knowledgeable LHWCA attorney. We are headquartered in New Orleans and serve clients all over the Gulf Coast and across the U.S.