Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation

The Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act (LHWCA) is a federal law that provides benefits to employees who are disabled due to an injury incurred while working on the navigable waters or the adjoining areas of the United States. It was enacted in response to the gap that existed in state Workers’ Compensation systems. Prior to the passing of this law, state statutes did not address maritime workers and courts were hesitant to overstep their jurisdiction by awarding benefits to employees injured in maritime accidents.

The LHWCA generally covers employees in traditional maritime occupations; however, several LHWCA extensions provide coverage for those in other types of employment as well. Our Cape May longshore and harbor Workers’ Compensation lawyers at Freedman & Lorry, P.C. have extensive experience handling LHWCA claims and are committed to helping injured workers or their dependents collect compensation for injuries or deaths occurring on the navigable waters of the U.S.

Workers may wonder what can be done if they were not injured on the navigable waters of the U.S. The Defense Base Act, Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act, and Non-Appropriated Funds Instrumentalities Act may also be helpful to workers.

Who is Covered Under the LHWCA?

The LHWCA covers maritime employees, such as longshore workers, ship-repairers, shipbuilders, shipbreakers, and harbor construction workers who are injured on the navigable waters of the U.S. or its adjoining areas, typically used in the loading, unloading, repairing, or building of a vessel. Non-maritime workers may also be covered if their work is performed and their injuries occurred on navigable waters.

The LHWCA excludes seamen, employees of the U.S. government, and employees whose injuries were caused by their own intoxication or by their willful intention to harm themselves or others. Also excluded are employees who are otherwise covered by state Workers’ Compensation laws, such as clerical workers, marina workers, or security personnel. Workers who are covered work on the water, near the water in a maritime business, or across the world where their lives have been put in danger by their unique work conditions.

Extensions of the LHWCA are an important part of this law because workers need to know their rights. If a worker is not covered by the LHWCA, they are likely covered by one of its extensions. If a loved one died on the job, family members may need to determine how to receive compensation. Our maritime lawyers will review each case, determine how the worker should be covered, and help workers file their claims.

What are LHWCA Extensions?

Extensions of the LHWCA have been passed over the years to add coverage for workers who are in harm’s way, work in dangerous environments, or work on or around U.S. government installations. As workers review the extensions, understand that we must prove workers are covered under one of these laws before proceeding with a case. Workers should not assume they are covered if they do not have enough information, a loved one died, or they were denied coverage by an employer. There are three extensions to the LHWCA that provide coverage to workers in other types of employment, which include the following:

Defense Base Act (DBA): Generally, the DBA covers workers who are contracted with a U.S. government agency, who were employed by the U.S. for military purposes, who worked on contracts approved and funded by the Foreign Assistance Act, or who provided welfare-related services outside the U.S. for the benefit of the Armed Services. The DBA covers any contractor who is working on or around a defense base, and these workers may be covered even if they are not on the job. The DBA has been used to cover workers who were injured on the job, killed on the job, or killed when they were off duty. The DBA also includes the Zone of Special Danger, which allows workers to be covered if they are off-duty. The DBA can be interpreted broadly, but it only applies to those who are involved with military contracts or national defense services.

Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act (OCSLA): The OCSLA provides coverage to employees working on the Outer Continental Shelf. The Outer Continental Shelf lies beyond the territorial boundaries of every state with a coastline. In most cases, the boundary lies three miles from the coast. The OCSLA covers anyone who is working on a permanent or fixed structure that is attached to the continental shelf. This means that anyone who is working on an oil rig or gas exploration rig is covered. These workers perform in extremely dangerous conditions, but they are not covered by traditional maritime law, the DBA, and or the LHWCA.

Non-Appropriated Fund Instrumentalities Act (NAFIA): The NAFIA covers civilian employees of non-appropriated fund instrumentalities of the Armed Forces. Non-appropriated fund instrumentalities of the Armed Forces are any services that pay for themselves with their own revenues. The military allocates funds for weapons, vehicles, and supplies, but soldiers and contractors often pay for meals and supplies that fall outside congressional appropriation.

Keep in mind that these workers are slightly different from those who work on behalf of something like the USO. USO workers, for example, are covered under the DBA. Our lawyers will determine which law covers the appropriate injuries, help workers file a claim, and recover the compensation they deserve.

What Benefits are Under the LHWCA?

LHWCA benefits should be paid by employers after any injury, regardless of who is at fault. An investigation is not necessary, and workers should receive the following benefits when they are hurt:

  • Medical care
  • Disability compensation
  • Vocational rehabilitation
  • Death benefits

Compensation is available for workers who suffered physical injuries, aggravation of a pre-existing injury, or an occupational disease. In the event of a fatality, the deceased worker’s dependents may also be entitled to reasonable funeral expenses and compensation payments. Some workers may have been told that they do not qualify, or they discovered their injury much later. If a worker was exposed to toxins, they cannot file a claim until they are diagnosed. We will help workers understand how to file a claim, who to communicate with, and how to recover compensation. Do not respond to any phone calls from third-party attorneys or government officials who want to close the case quietly, settle, or drop the claim. Instead, forward all letters or phone calls to our offices.

What is the Statute of Limitations?

The statute of limitations for the LHWCA and any extensions depends on the circumstances of the accident or death. Workers have 30 days to report an injury to their supervisor. However, they may not have been aware of the injury at the time. Workers can file a claim within one year of discovering the injury. If a worker has been paid before filing a claim because they were hurt on the job, they have one year to file a claim to continue those payments. Workers also have two years from the date of a diagnosis if they were exposed to toxins that caused an illness.

Workers must also keep in mind that a claim for medical benefits has no time limits and they can file a new claim for developing injuries or illnesses. When filing an immediate claim for disability, workers must abide by the one-year timeframe laid out above.

Cape May Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Lawyers at Freedman & Lorry, P.C. Help Maritime Workers Recover Compensation for Their Injuries

If you were injured while working on the navigable waters of the U.S., while working on defense contracts, or working on the continental shelf, or your loved one’s injury or illness led to their death, you may be entitled to benefits under the LHWCA or its extensions. Our experienced Cape May longshore and harbor Workers’ Compensation lawyers at Freedman & Lorry, P.C. can help you file your claim. Call us at 888-999-1962 or contact us online for a free consultation. Located in Philadelphia, Cherry Hill, and Pinehurst, North Carolina, we serve clients throughout South Jersey, including Cape May and Wildwood.