Your Rights Under the Longshore and Harbor Worker’s Compensation Act
The Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act (LHWCA) provides employment-injury and occupational-disease protection to approximately 500,000 workers who are injured or contract occupational diseases occurring on the navigable waters of the United States, or in adjoining areas, and for certain other classes of workers covered by extensions of this Act.
These benefits are paid directly by an authorized self-insured employer; or through an authorized insurance carrier; or, in particular circumstances, by a special fund administered directly by the Division of Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation, Office of Workers’ Compensation Programs within the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL).
Jurisdiction: The Longshore Act covers marine construction workers who are injured on or next to navigable waters (piers, docks, seawalls, etc.)
Steps to Take to Protect Your Rights
- When injured at work, notify your supervisor immediately. Take pictures and identify witnesses.
- You must carefully guard you workers’ compensation rights and avoid signing forms that you do not understand. Do not assume that the company will voluntarily take care of you after you are injured.
- You have a right to an initial free choice of physician under the Longshore Act. The employer cannot pick the doctor for you.
- Your right to temporary total disability payments while you are out of work is determined by your treating physician, not by the company doctor.
- Section 48 of the Longshore Act gives you the right to reinstatement and back wages if you are terminated for filing a claim or seeking benefits under the Longshore Act.
- In addition to medical expenses and temporary disability payments, the employer must also pay for any permanent partial disability resulting from your injury.
- If you are unable to work following an injury, the employer must pay you temporary disability payments equal to 2/3 of your average weekly wage for the 52 weeks prior to your disability.
- A claim for Longshore compensation must be filed with the Department of Labor and your employer within one year of the date of injury or last payment of compensation.
- You cannot sue your employer. You can only file a workers’ compensation claim against your employer, unless you are a member of the crew of a vessel (tug, workboat, barge, floating crane, etc.), in which case you may sue your employer directly as a seaman under the Jones Act.
- If your injury is caused by an unsafe condition aboard a vessel, a defective product, or a negligent contractor, then you may file a lawsuit against the responsible third party.
Doctors And Medical Treatment
The company has the right to have you examined by their doctor, but do not allow their consulting physician to treat you.
- Never choose a doctor recommended by the employer as your treating physician.
- You cannot change doctors without the company’s permission unless a specialist is required.
- Do not choose a chiropractor of general practitioner for an orthopedic injury.
- Arm and leg injures are scheduled under the Longshore Act and have specific dollar values according to your percentage of permanent impairment.
- Head, neck, back and hernia injuries are unscheduled under the Longshore Act and are only compensable if they result in future wage loss (loss of wage earning capacity). Such injuries entitle you to 2/3 of your weekly loss of wage earning capacity for life.
- Hearing Loss. You may file a hearing loss claim against your employer at any time, even if some of your hearing loss was caused by prior employer or prior injury.
- Cumulative Trauma. Back, knee, wrist, and other medical problems caused by repeated lifting, stair climbing, chipping, stress and strain, etc., are compensable under the Longshore Act. You need not have a specific injury or a specific date of injury.
- Aggravation of a Preexisting Condition. Any work activity which aggravates, accelerates, or combines with a prior injury of pre-existing medical condition is compensable.
- Time Limitations. If you have a work related medical condition, you should seek competent legal advice immediately. You must notify your employer within 30 days of any injury (there are some exceptions).
If you have a work related medical condition, you should seek competent legal advice immediately. Under most circumstances, you must notify your employer within 30 days of any injury (there are some exceptions). Often a shipyard will promise a light duty job to an injured worker to keep him from filing a claim. When the light duty job does not materialize and the worker contacts an attorney, quite often it is too late to do anything. Do not gamble with you health and your future.