Who is Covered Under the LHWCA?
When an employee is injured working on a port, dock, terminal or offshore drilling platform, the employee generally falls under the protections of the Longshore Harbor & Workers’ Compensation Act (LHWCA). The LHWCA or Longshore program is a federal workers’ compensation program administered by the United States Department of Labor. It is important to understand that the LHWCA program is a no-fault program, meaning that workers are entitled to receive compensation and benefits regardless of who may have been at fault for the accident or injury.
The LHWCA was first enacted by Congress in 1927 in an effort to extend compensation and medical benefits to maritime workers who were not covered by the Jones Act. The LHWCA covers:
- Dock men
- Harbor workers
- Ship repairmen
- Ship breakers
- Forklift operators
- Winch operators
Other workers who are injured on, near or adjacent to U.S. navigable waters, including adjoining docks, piers, wharfs, terminals, and other structures and platforms customarily used by the worker’s employer for loading and unloading vessels or the constructing and repairing ships are also covered by the LHWCA.
What Compensation and Benefits are Available Under the LHWCA?
The LHWCA provides medical care and income benefits to the injured longshore worker as well as death benefits to eligible survivors of a deceased employee. When an employee is unable to work because of his or her injury, temporary disability benefits are paid on a monthly basis. Under the LHWCA, employees are entitled to receive 66 2/3% of their average weekly wage at the time of the injury. If a worker is permanently disabled he or she may be able to receive total or partial disability payments for life.
Workers covered under the LHWCA are also entitled to receive compensation for reasonable and necessary medical treatment. While an employer may try to force a worker to see a company physician, the LHWCA permits workers to choose their own doctors to treat their injuries and illnesses. If your employer is trying to restrict your ability to see your own doctor, an experienced offshore maritime injury lawyer can help you get the proper medical care that you are entitled to receive.
Can Longshoremen File an Action Against the Vessel Owner?
Injured workers often ask if they can file a legal action against other parties who may be responsible for their injuries. When an injured worker seeks to bring a negligence lawsuit against the owner of the vessel who is not the employer, the worker must proceed under section 905(b) of the LHWCA.
In Scindia Stream Navigation Co. v. De Los Santos, 451 U.S. 156 (1981), the United States Supreme Court outlined three avenues, in the form of duties owed by the vessel owner to a worker, under which a worker can pursue an action against the vessel owner. If the vessel owner breaches one or more of these three duties and the breach meets the causation requirements, the injured worker will be entitled to recover damages in the case:
- Turnover Duty. The vessel owner must exercise reasonable care to turn over the ship and all equipment in reasonably safe condition for stevedoring operations.
- Active Control Duty. Once stevedoring operations are underway, the vessel owner must use reasonable care to prevent injuries to longshore workers in areas that are within the active control of the vessel owner.
- Duty to Intervene. If a vessel owner has actual knowledge of a hazardous condition and knows that workers may potentially work in the face of the hazard, the owner has a duty to intervene to stop the work.
Protect Your Rights – Discuss Your Case with an Offshore Injury Lawyer
It is important to keep in mind that if you have been injured, there are likely to be many different parties who can be held liable for your injuries. The laws and regulations covering longshore cases are too complicated to navigate and analyze on your own. A skilled LHWCA attorney can properly review your case and make certain that you are filing the right actions, against the right parties within the legal time limits.
If you are looking to file a LHWCA claim, you must usually file your claim within one year of your injury. While there are some exceptions to this deadline, these exceptions are quite limited so it is important to meet with an attorney as soon as possible. Willis Law Firm is here to help. Schedule your free consultation today by calling 1-800-468-4878.