The Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act is a federal statute found at 33 U.S.C. 901 et. seq. that applies to any workers who are engaged in maritime work on or near navigable waterways. The Longshore Act (also known as the LHWCA) is very often considered in connection with the Jones Act which is also a federal statute that applies to maritime workers, Situs PKV but only those that qualify as “seamen” under the definition contained in the Jones Act. In other words, typically an injured maritime worker will have to determine if his case falls under either the Longshore Act or the Jones Act.
It should be noted at the outset that most injured workers would prefer to have their claims fall under the Jones Act rather than the LHWCA. Typically an injured maritime worker will collect more from his claim if it falls under the Jones Act. Therefore most injured maritime workers will first seek application of the Jones Act in regard to their claim. Only if their claim cannot qualify under the Jones Act will the injured worker then turn to the LHWCA in order to determine their rights of recovery.
Technically, the Longshore Act applies to injured maritime workers who meet both the “status” and “situs” requirement of the Act. These individuals must be engaged in maritime work and they also must be located on or near navigable waterways. These two requirements are defined as situs and status under the Longshore Act.
If an injured maritime worker’s claim falls under the Longshore Act, he will be entitled to only two forms of recovery: Compensation benefits and medical benefits. The Longshore Act does not allow the injured employee to recover pain and suffering or through “lost wages”. These items are recoverable under the Jones Act which is one main reason that most employees will recover more money under the Jones Act than under the LHWCA.
Compensation benefits under the Longshore Act depend upon two main factors. First, all compensation benefits are based upon what is defined as the employee’s “average weekly wage” at the time of his injury. Typically this will be the average weekly wage the employee earned during the 52 weeks of employment immediately prior to his injury. However, there are other formulas used which can sometimes be more beneficial to the employee. Next, compensation benefits are significantly effective based upon the type of injury sustained by the employee. The Longshore Act provides for both “scheduled” injuries as well as “non scheduled injuries”. An employee generally will collect significantly more compensation benefits if he has sustained an injury to a “non scheduled” part of his body such as neck, back or shoulder as opposed to a “scheduled” part of his body such as a foot, leg, hand or arm.
An injured worker is also entitled to recover medical benefits under the LHWCA. These benefits are generally to be paid to a doctor chosen by the injured employee for any medical treatment that is reasonable and necessary. The Longshore employer does have the right to obtain second opinions from company-chosen doctors in regard to any recommended medical treatment. Also, the amount that the Longshore employer must pay for medical expenses is limited under the LHWCA to a schedule of charges.
If you are an injured maritime worker and your employer has told you that the Longshore Act applies to your claim, it is very important that you carefully review the facts of your claim to confirm that the Longshore Act does apply to your claim. Many employers understand that the Longshore Act generally limits recovery to the injured employee rather than provides for significant recovery as the Jones Act often does. In other words, most employers seek to have the Longshore Act apply to your claim rather than other laws which may provide more recovery to you.