The Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act (LHWCA) was enacted in 1927 with the intention providing parity in protection for maritime-based workers not subject to workplace injury compensation protections offered by land-based jurisdictions. To this day, the applicability of the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act is restricted to any maritime employee sustaining injury during the course or furtherance of employment predicated on or near a maritime vessel in navigable waters. In this sense, a maritime employee covered under protections found in the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act does not necessarily have to be a formally employed member of a given vessel, but rather, is viewed as a separate legal category of employment with residence of worker being an onshore location but work found primarily offshore, who by extension, is viewed as a distinct or different legal entity by the federal circuit courts.
The Act is a no-fault remedy that provides compensation and medical care to injured or disabled maritime employees such as longshoremen, harbor workers, shipbuilders, shipbreakers and shipbreakers. Though the act remains fairly inclusive when it comes to what is considered a maritime worker, generally the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act still excludes a number of maritime related support occupations, including those individuals employed as contractors by the federal government, any individual in the armed forces, office employees, or administrative staff. These particular individuals are excluded as their injury claims are usually covered under one of the following federal admiralty Acts, including:
To file a claim under the LHWCA, an employee must first meet this particular act’s definition of a maritime worker, which is known as the Status test. The Status test refers to the nature of work that the employee performs for the employer. In order to be eligible for benefits under the LHWCA, maritime duties must be a substantial part of the injured employee’s job responsibilities for the employer.
The other legal test that must be met before an injured maritime worker can credibly bring admiralty claims is known as the Situs test. The Situs test deals with the location of where the employee generally works with only maritime employees who work on adjacent or near navigable waters are covered. In essence, the Situs test seeks to ascertain whether a maritime worker does the majority of his or her job responsibilities more than a mile away from either the water, border of the shipyard, or terminal. If found outside of range per the Situs test, the maritime employee might not be eligible for compensation under the LHWCA.
Under the LHWCA, a qualified and injured maritime worker is entitled to such monetary benefits as temporary total or partial disability or permanent total or partial disability pending the nature of his or her injuries, as well as in light of his or her future occupational capacity. In addition to these maritime injury workplace disability or pension payments, LHWCA claimants also can obtain payment for all reasonable and necessary medical expenses, which generally includes mileage as well as other reasonable transportation expenses to and from treatment. Moreover, if it becomes evident that a maritime worker will be unable to return to work even after treatment and physical therapy, the LHWCA also requires that the insurance companies to offer vocational rehabilitation benefits to the disabled longshore or harbor worker.
To file a claim under LHWCA, all injured maritime workers must follow the specific procedures set forth in the act. Within 30 days of the injury in question, an injured maritime worker must report a work-related injury to his or her employer as well as to the federal Office of Workers’ Compensation Programs. In the event that the symptoms of the work-related injury do not present themselves immediately then the injury must be reported within 30 days of discovery—become aware or reasonably should have become aware. Moreover, if the injury is an occupational disease, the injured maritime worker has up to one (1) year to file a claim upon discovery. When filing your claim it is also important to keep in mind that the statute of limitations for a longshore claim is one (1) year from the date of injury. Ultimately, it is highly recommended that injured maritime workers speak with a maritime or admiralty law attorney to not only help navigate the numerous procedures set forth in the act but also to provide assistance with an Informal Conference if your insurance company refuses to pay your benefit.