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The Longshoreman and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act

Posted in Get To Know Maritime Law on August 5, 2015

The Longshoreman and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act (LHWCA) protects maritime employees that are not out at sea. The Jones Act was made to protect seamen and other employees on “navigable” vessels because they are not otherwise protected under injury law. The LHWCA extends similar rights to employees still considered maritime workers but are not on navigable vessels.

What Is the Difference Between the LHWCA and the Jones Act?

When a seaman is injured on a moving vessel, the only way he or she can recover damages for injuries is through the Jones Act. Because seamen are not covered by traditional workers’ compensation insurance, the Jones Act allows them to seek compensation in a claim similar to a personal injury suit. However, the Jones Act does not protect maritime workers who are on shore. Therefore, dockworkers, shipyard employees, and others must file a claim under the LHWCA.

This specialized type of workers’ compensation is different from traditional workers’ compensation and actually more beneficial. The LHWCA is a federal act and generally awards much more compensation than state workers’ compensation. For example, state compensation usually only pays for up to 60% of the employee’s average weekly wage. Under the LHWCA, employees can expect to receive up to 66 2/3% of the average weekly wage. Additionally, injured maritime workers are eligible to receive permanent disability benefits under the LHWCA. State workers’ compensation usually does not allow this.

Who Is Eligible for LHWCA Benefits?

The LHWCA has a few requirements for eligibility. To be considered a maritime employee protected under this act, you must pass two tests:

  • The status test. This test identifies the type of work you perform for your employer. To be considered a maritime employee, you must complete maritime duties as a significant portion of your total work. For example, a large portion of your job duties must have something to do with water or water transport. Typically, ship loaders, repairers, builders, and ship-breakers are almost always eligible for LHWCA benefits. Occasionally, even the truck drivers, loaders, and mechanics who transport the shipment to and from the vessel are eligible. The status test strictly excludes the following types of employees:
    • Shipbuilders building a recreational vehicle less than sixty-five feet long
    • Employees of a marina who are not performing construction duties
    • Mechanics of recreational vehicles
    • Captains and crewmembers of vessels protected under the Jones Act
  • The situs test. In addition to the status test, marine workers must also pass a situs test. This test identifies whether the location of your work is eligible under the LHWCA. If you work “on, near, or adjacent to the water,” you will be considered eligible. Those who are working on dry-docked ships and in shipyards meet the criteria. Usually, the LHWCA limits the distance to about a mile away from the water. If you were injured in a shipyard within a mile of the water, you will still be considered eligible.

LHWCA Benefits and Maritime Lawyers in Texas

The LHWCA offers benefits similar to those of traditional workers’ compensation. Injured employees are entitled to temporary and long-term partial disability and temporary and long-term total disability. Employees are eligible to receive compensation for medical bills, rehabilitation, and transportation to appointments.

Contact Lapeze & Johns PLLC nationwide maritime attorneys for more information on the LHWCA and how to file a claim. Based in Texas, we serve clients along the Gulf Coast, as well as the rest of the United States. We have been practicing trial lawyers in maritime law for 30 years and understand the complexities of the LHWCA and other maritime injury laws. Our goal is to get you the most compensation possible for your injuries.