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What Is the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act?

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Two male dockers in discussion in front of a large industrial harbor

The Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act (LHWCA) is a law instated by the federal government. This law allows for the payment of compensation, vocational rehab, and medical care to longshore and harbor workers who have sustained disability from work-related injuries. Specifically, workers in this industry may experience on-the-job injuries while loading, unloading, building, or repairing vessels. Additionally, the LHWCA covers survivor benefit payment to a worker’s dependents if the work-related accident causes or contributes to the worker’s death.

Two male dockers in discussion in front of a large industrial harbor

Who Qualifies for the LHWCA?

The LHWCA provides workers’ compensation coverage to employees in certain maritime occupations, which include shipbuilders, ship maintenance workers, longshore workers, and harbor construction workers, among others. 

The injuries that these workers sustain need to take place on the U.S.’s navigable waters or in connecting areas. Adjoining areas may include docks, piers, wharves, terminals, and spaces used for loading and unloading vessels. In some cases, non-maritime employees may also qualify for coverage under the LHWCA if they sustain injuries while working on the country’s navigable waters.

Who Doesn’t Qualify?

While many maritime employees can receive coverage through the LHWCA, the Act excludes some workers. The excluded parties include:

  • Government employees working for the U.S. or any state or foreign government
  • Seamen, including masters or members of a vessel’s crew
  • Employees who sustain injuries because of the willful intent to cause harm to themselves or other individuals
  • Employees whose injuries result solely from their intoxication

In addition, the LHWCA excludes a variety of employees who already receive coverage under another workers’ compensation law. For example, the law excludes employees who work at marinas and aren’t involved in the construction, expansion, or replacement of those marinas beyond routine maintenance.

Extensions for the LHWCA

The LHWCA excludes certain employees, but Congress issued a few extensions to the law that allow coverage for other types of workers. Employees who fall under these extensions will be able to receive the same benefits as employees under the LHWCA, and the claims process will be the same. These extensions include:

Defense Base Act (DBA)

The DBA covers a variety of employment activities, including work for certain private employers on American military bases or on lands that the military uses outside of the U.S., including lands such as U.S. Territories or possessions. This extension also covers work on U.S. government public works contracts, which could include service and construction contracts for activities conducted outside of the U.S. The U.S. Department of Labor website details other types of activities that qualify for this extension.

Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act (OCSLA)

This extension covers workers who perform tasks on the country’s Outer Continental Shelf in an attempt to develop and explore natural resources. For instance, employees on off-shore oil drilling rigs qualify for this extension.

Non-Appropriated Fund Instrumentalities Act (NAFIA)

The NAFIA extension provides coverage for civilian employees who work for non-appropriated fund instrumentalities of the U.S. Armed Forces. These workers could include employees who work at on-base exchanges, along with other types of facilities.

How Is the LHWCA Different from the Jones Act?

The LHWCA offers coverage for certain types of maritime employees, while the Jones Act covers others. The LHWCA excludes seamen, including masters and members of a vessel’s crew. However, these employees can receive coverage under the Jones Act. The Jones Act defines a seaman as someone who contributes to the function of a vessel or helps it to achieve a mission, meaning that qualifying employees don’t necessarily need to provide navigation aid or help transport the vessel.

If an employee who qualifies for the LHWCA sustains an injury on the job, there are certain steps they should take. The first is to notify their supervisor or employer representative as soon as possible if they can. Employees should also seek immediate treatment for their injury if needed. 

Workers may be able to select a physician of their choice for diagnosis and treatment. Employers should provide the necessary Form LS-1, which is a Request for Examination and/or Treatment. During emergencies, employees may be able to request the following treatment.

Employees must provide their employers with written notice of the injury within 30 days of the injury occurring or within 30 days of becoming aware of the injury or disability. Employees can provide written notice by completing Form LS-201. It’s important to report the injury and seek compensation as soon as possible, as employees may not qualify for compensation benefits if they fail to report within the 30-day period.

Like other workers’ compensation programs, the LHWCA provides protection for specialized workers who are often at risk of work-related accidents and injuries. In the event of an injury on the job, workers may be able to recover compensation for their injuries under this Act.

About the Author

Kurt D. Lloyd is a plaintiff’s trial lawyer who focuses on medical malpractice and other catastrophic injury cases. He lives in Chicago and represents injured clients throughout Illinois. He is also the founder of Lloyd Miller Law, Ltd.

Years of Experience: Approx. 20 years
Minnesota Registration Status: Active
Bar & Court Admissions: Illinois State Bar Association U.S. District Court, Northern District of Illinois

Kurt D. Lloyd is a plaintiff’s trial lawyer who focuses on medical malpractice and other catastrophic injury cases. He lives in Chicago and represents injured clients throughout Illinois. He is also the founder of Lloyd Miller Law, Ltd.

Years of Experience: Over 35 years
Illinois Registration Status: Active
Bar Admissions: Illinois State Bar