The Longshoreman and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Claim Act (LHWCA) protects maritime workers injured in onshore accidents. Unlike the Jones Act, the LHWCA protects employees that work on dry-docked ships and in shipyards. The LHWCA is similar to a traditional workers’ compensation claim because it covers medical expenses and offers disability benefits. However, LHWCA claims are generally more advantageous to workers’ than regular claims. As do all claims, though, they entail certain procedures to initiate and file.
Time Frame for Filing a LHWCA Report
The LHWCA requires workers report an injury to both the employer and the Office of Workers’ Comp Programs within 30 days of the injury. There are only two exceptions:
- If the injury does not immediately lead to a disability, the claim can be filed later. In this case, the claim should be filed within 30 days of when the disability is discovered. Basically, this means you should report the injury as soon as you are made aware that it has caused lost time from work.
- If the injury is considered an occupational disease, you will have additional time to file a claim. Occupational diseases often take a long time to manifest as a disability. As soon as you have been made aware that the disease has caused disability or lost work, you have 30 days to report it.
Aside from these two exceptions, you should always initiate a report as soon as you are injured. In general, LHWCA judges and insurers are more apt to believe claims when the injury was reported immediately. The longer you wait, the harder it will be to justify your case. The statute of limitations in LHWCA claims is one year from the date of the injury.
Filing a Claim When the Insurer Will not Pay
In some cases, the insurer will agree to pay your medical expenses and the amount will be sufficient. However, this is not usually the case. It is the insurer’s job to pay you as little as possible, so he or she will often refuse to pay altogether or only offer meager amounts. In those situations, you will need to file a claim.
This means filling out Longshore claim paperwork and requesting an informal conference. You should send the claim to the federal Office of Workers’ Compensation Programs, along with any medical records you have. Your medical records should support your claim for disability benefits. They should state that you suffered an injury on the specified date and that you have been disabled in some capacity since then. During the conference, a claims adjuster will either recommend that you start receiving benefits or not. He or she does not have the legal authority to enforce payment of your benefits, but the conference is a required step to request a hearing.
Requesting a Hearing
After the conference, you will need to request a hearing. Your longshoreman rights lawyer will send a form to the federal Office of Workers’ Compensation Programs. After the hearing request, both sides will undergo a pre-hearing investigation. During this time, both sides will exchange information about the accident and what happened afterwards. You will have to deliver a deposition for your side of the case. If your case isn’t settled, you will have a hearing held in front of a LHWCA judge. Your maritime lawyer will represent the severity of your injuries to get you as many benefits as possible.
Help With LHWCA Claims in Texas and the Gulf Coast
Lapeze & Johns PLLC are experienced trial attorneys in maritime and offshore injury laws. We are based in Texas and serve clients on the Gulf Coast and other maritime workers throughout the United States. We have over 30 years of experience delivering exceptional results to our clients and obtaining maximum compensation for their injuries. Contact us today if you need help filing an LHWCA claim.