The Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act (LHWCA) is an important safety net, providing compensation and medical benefits to maritime workers injured on the job, ensuring they are supported during recovery. This Act offers injured maritime workers a path to get necessary financial and medical assistance without proving employer negligence.

A skilled Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act lawyer plays a meaningful role in this process, helping victims obtain all the benefits they deserve under the law.

We’ll go over the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act, including eligibility criteria, possible types of financial compensation, and the assistance a lawyer provides throughout the claim process in the following article.

Attorney for LHWCA Claims

If you have a longshore claim under the LHWCA, you should seek the service of a qualified and experienced attorney. The attorneys at BoatLaw, LLP share a love of the sea and a passion for protecting the rights of members of the maritime community.

Our maritime lawyers at BoatLaw, LLP fight longshore and harbor worker claims. We have represented clients from all over, with offices in Bellingham and Seattle, Washington, Portland, Oregon, and San Francisco, California. Each member of our legal team understands how complex longshore claims can be. Our attorneys are experienced in longshore claims cases and will fight to help you achieve the best possible outcome for your case.

We Get Paid When You Do

Keep in mind that under 33 U.S.C. § 928, your attorney can collect a fee only if successful in prosecuting the longshore case. In other words, the attorney only gets a fee when the Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) awards one.

To discuss your case, call 1-800-262-8529 today.

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What Is LHWCA?

The Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act was enacted in 1927 to provide compensation and medical care to maritime workers injured on the navigable waters of the United States or in adjoining areas used for loading, unloading, repairing, or building a vessel.

Prior to LHWCA, maritime workers who did not qualify as seamen under other laws faced a significant gap in workers’ compensation coverage. The Act filled this gap, ensuring that dockworkers, longshoremen, and other maritime workers receive protection similar to that provided to seamen and employees on land.

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What Types of Injuries or Accidents Are Covered Under LHWCA?

LHWCA covers a wide range of injuries and accidents occurring in maritime employment settings, including traumatic injuries, occupational diseases, hearing loss, and conditions developed over time because of repetitive motion or exposure to hazardous substances. It applies to accidents happening on navigable waters of the U.S. or in adjoining areas like piers, docks, terminals, and shipyards.

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Who Can File a Claim Under LHWCA?

A claim under LHWCA can be filed by maritime workers who are not classified as seamen and do not work on navigable vessels. This includes dock workers, shipyard workers, harbor construction workers, and other individuals involved in maritime employment on or near navigable waters and adjoining areas like piers, docks, and loading terminals. These workers are eligible for compensation and medical benefits for injuries or illnesses related to their employment.

LLHWCA also includes wrongful death claims, providing benefits to the dependents of workers who die as a result of their employment-related injuries or diseases. This coverage ensures that workers and their families receive financial support and medical care following work-related incidents.

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Who Could Be Liable to a Victim for an Injury Under LHWCA?

Under LHWCA, liability for a worker’s injury or illness generally falls on the employer and their workers’ compensation insurance. The Act operates on a no-fault basis, meaning workers get benefits regardless of who was at fault for the injury.

This system ensures that injured workers receive timely assistance without the need for litigation to prove employer negligence. Employers are required to provide compensation and medical benefits for work-related injuries and illnesses.

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Situs and Status

In order to qualify for an LHWCA case, you must prove both “situs” and “status.” These two terms refer to location and occupation.
Situs: The location where the injury took place. Did the injury take place in a dockyard, out on navigable waters, or somewhere else? LHWCA cases must take place while in a location specific to the worker’s status.
Status: The worker’s occupation. The employee’s work must contribute to maritime commerce. This includes ship workers, ship cleaners, and so on.

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What Is the Legal Process for Longshore Claims?

The legal process for filing a claim under LHWCA involves several steps. When a longshore worker is injured on the job, the initial step is to notify the employer within 30 days and seek medical treatment authorized by Form LS-1. The claim process involves filing Form LS-201 with the employer and a compensation claim using Form LS-203 within the time frames. Claims are filed at the Office of Workers Compensation Programs (OWCP) and managed by district offices.

If a claim under LHWCA is denied, the victim can request an informal conference with the District Director of the OWCP to attempt resolution. If unresolved, the claim can be referred for a formal hearing before an ALJ. Decisions by the judge can be appealed to the Benefits Review Board and, if necessary, to the U.S. Court of Appeals.

What Happens to Appeals to the Benefits Review Board?

Within 30 days of the filing of the decision, the parties can file an appeal as explained in 20 C.F.R. § 702.393. The instructions for filing an appeal are on a notice accompanying the copy of the decision that both parties receive from OWCP.

If any party files a Motion for Reconsideration, the time for filing an appeal with the Board is delayed until the ALJ issues an Order on Reconsideration.

Once the Board dockets an appeal, it issues a Notice setting out the briefing schedule and procedural requirements. The Board may affirm, reverse or modify the ALJ’s decision. Additionally, it may remand the case for further proceedings before the ALJ. After the Board issues its decision, any further proceedings go to the federal circuit courts of appeal. This excludes some Defense Base Act cases which are appealed to federal district court.

The Benefits Review Board exercises the appellate review authority executed by the United States District Courts prior to 1973. The decisions of the Benefits Review Board may be appealed to the United States Courts of Appeals, and from there on to the United States Supreme Court.

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What happens in a Longshore Claim Hearing?

At the hearing on the longshore claim, the parties will be given the opportunity to call witnesses to testify and present evidence as provided in 20 C.F.R. § 702.338 et seq. A court reporter will create the official record of the proceeding.

The ALJ’s decision and order will be prepared within 20 days of the completion of the hearing. Compensation must be paid within 10 days after it becomes due. Both parties will be mailed a copy of the decision within 24 hours of the day of filing. Any party can request a reconsideration of the decision. However, the Motion for Reconsideration must be filed within 10 days of the filing of the decision as required by 20 C.F.R. § 802.206.

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Who Has Jurisdiction Over LHWCA in Injury Cases?

Jurisdiction over cases involving LHWCA primarily lies with the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Administrative Law Judges (ALJs). These administrative law judges are responsible for conducting hearings and issuing decisions on disputes related to claims under LHWCA. It’s a specialized process distinct from traditional court systems, designed to address the specific needs of maritime workers and their employers.

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Where are Longshore Claims Filed?

All longshore claims are filed at the Office of Workers Compensation Programs (OWCP), Division of Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation (DLHWC) and assigned to a district office.

The following are all locations for the Longshore District Offices:

The Seattle Longshore District Office for claims in

  • Alaska,
  • Oregon,
  • Washington,
  • Colorado,
  • Idaho,
  • Montana,
  • North Dakota,
  • South Dakota,
  • Utah, and
  • Wyoming;

The San Francisco Longshore District Office for claims in
California (north of the northern boundaries of the counties of San Luis, Obispo, Kern, and San Bernardino),

  • Arizona,
  • Nevada; and

The Long Beach Longshore District Office for claims in

  • California (south of the northern boundaries of the counties of San Luis, Obispo, Kern, and San Bernardino).

The parties to the claim including the claimant, employer, and insurance carrier are permitted to request an “informal conference” with the District Director or Claims Examiner. After the informal conference, the Claims Examiner issues a recommendation.

Any of the parties can request a formal hearing from the Office of the Chief Administrative Law Judges (OALJ) as provided in 20 C.F.R. § 702.331 et seq. Additionally, the parties can request the case be referred to OALJ without an informal conference.

Longshore Claims Transferred to OALJ

After a request for the case to be transferred to the Office of Administrative Law Judges (OALJ), the OALJ will assign a docket number to the claim. The OALJ will then send it to the appropriate office to be included in an administrative law judge’s (ALJ) case docket.

The ALJ will then schedule the hearing. The ALJ will provide a Notice of Hearing to set a time and place for the hearing. Prior to the hearing, the parties will engage in the discovery process by taking depositions or serving interrogatories. The parties can request that the OALJ issue a subpoena if documents are needed.

If the parties reach a settlement prior to the hearing, the parties can request that a “Settlement Judge.” A Settlement Judge can set up a meeting in order to discuss settling the claim.

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How Does a Victim’s Rights Under LHWCA Affect Their Rights Under State Law?

A victim’s rights under LHWCA provide federal benefits for workplace injuries, which generally preempt similar state workers’ compensation claims for maritime workers. This means it limits their ability to pursue additional compensation through state workers’ compensation systems. However, in certain circumstances, injured workers may be able to seek other remedies under both federal and state laws, depending on the specifics of their employment and their injuries.

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Are There Any Exclusions or Limitations to Filing a Claim Under LHWCA?

Yes, there are exclusions and limitations to filing a claim under LHWCA. The Act specifically excludes certain workers, like office employees, government employees, marina workers not involved in construction, repair, or dismantling of vessels, small vessel workers if their injuries are covered by state workers’ compensation laws, and employees who can seek recovery through the Jones Act. Notably, seamen are covered under the Jones Act, which provides them with the right to seek damages from their employers for injuries resulting from negligence.

Additionally, there are time limitations: notices of injury must be given within 30 days, and claims for compensation must be filed within one year of the injury or last payment of voluntary compensation.

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What Are the Potential Damages for Injury and Wrongful Death Claims Under LHWCA?

Medical Expensesthis coverage is inclusive, extending beyond immediate medical treatments and hospitalizations to cover long-term rehabilitation, follow-up treatments, and any essential medical equipment needed for recovery. The goal is to ensure injured workers receive the necessary medical care for as complete a recovery as possible, without the burden of medical costs.
Lost Wages – for workers who are temporarily unable to return to their jobs due to injury, the LHWCA offers compensation for lost wages. This compensation is typically calculated at two-thirds of the worker’s average weekly earnings, providing a substantial support during the recovery period. This benefit ensures that the worker can focus on recovery without worrying about their income.
Permanent Disability Compensation – in cases where an injury leads to permanent disability, the LHWCA provides additional compensation. This is designed to reflect the loss of earning capacity, acknowledging the significant impact a permanent disability can have on a worker’s ability to earn an income. The compensation varies depending on the nature and severity of the disability.
Funeral Expenses (Wrongful Death) – recognizing the immediate financial burden that can accompany the loss of a loved one, the LHWCA covers funeral and burial expenses up to a specified limit.
Loss of Income (Wrongful Death) – compensates survivors for the loss of income resulting from their loved one’s death. This compensation is particularly important for dependents, such as spouses and children, who relied on the deceased’s earnings for their daily living and future financial security. The act ensures that these survivors receive a portion of the deceased’s average weekly wages.

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What Are Third-Party Longshore Claims?

A third-party claim under LHWCA allows injured maritime workers to seek compensation from organizations other than their employer, like ship owners, equipment manufacturers or other contractors, whose negligence contributed to their injuries. Maritime workers eligible for these claims include harbor workers, shipbuilders, and dock workers, among others.

Also, a 33 USC 905(b) claim refers to a specific provision under LHWCA that allows injured maritime workers to file negligence claims against vessel owners, distinct from the standard workers’ compensation benefits the LHWCA typically provides. Under 905(b), workers who suffer injuries due to the negligence of a vessel owner—this includes conditions of the vessel, actions of the crew, or other negligent behaviors contributing to unsafe working conditions—can pursue damages that go beyond the workers’ compensation scheme. These damages can include pain and suffering, full lost wages, and future earning capacity, which are not covered under standard workers’ compensation claims.

The claim process under 905(b) requires the injured worker to prove that the vessel owner’s negligence directly contributed to their injury. This might involve showing that the owner failed to maintain a safe working environment on the vessel, improperly secured cargo, or any action that breached their duty of care towards the workers.

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What Is the Role of Insurance Companies as It Relates to LHWCA?

Insurance companies provide the necessary workers’ compensation insurance coverage to employers. These companies assess claims, pay out benefits for medical care and wage replacement, and may be involved in disputes over the extent of a worker’s injuries or eligibility for benefits. Employers are required to have LHWCA insurance to ensure they can fulfill their obligations to injured workers under the Act.

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What Are Common Defenses Against Injury Claims Under LHWCA?

Common defenses against injury claims under LHWCA include disputing the extent of the injury or arguing that the injury did not occur within the scope of employment. Employers may also challenge the claim by demonstrating that the injury resulted from the worker’s intoxication or willful intention to harm themselves or others. Additionally, employers might claim that the individual is excluded under the LHWCA.

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How Does LHWCA Affect Workplace Safety?

LHWCA positively affects workplace safety by incentivizing employers to maintain safe working environments. Knowing that they are financially responsible for work-related injuries and occupational diseases under the Act, employers are more likely to implement safety guidelines, conduct regular training, and comply with safety regulations to minimize accidents and injuries. This not only helps reduce the occurrence of workplace injuries but also encourages a culture of safety within the maritime industry.

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Is There Any Overlap Between LHWCA and Other Maritime Laws?

The LHWCA is designed to provide protection and compensation to dockworkers, harbor employees, and other maritime workers who are injured on navigable waters or in adjoining areas such as piers, docks, terminals, and loading areas. On the other hand, the Jones Act caters specifically to seamen. A seaman, under this law, is defined as an individual who spends a significant part of their employment on a vessel or fleet that is in navigation. Workers can pursue negligence claims against their employers under the Jones Act or unseaworthiness claims against ship owners under general maritime laws for injuries suffered at sea.

There are scenarios where the lines between these laws blur, leading to potential overlap. For example, a worker who primarily performs duties on a vessel but occasionally works on docks or harbors might qualify for protection and compensation under both the LHWCA and the Jones Act, depending on the specifics of their employment and the circumstances of their injury. Determining eligibility under either or both laws can be complex and depends on an examination of the worker’s job functions, the location of their work, and where the injury occurred.

The Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act (OCSLA) extends the benefits of the LHWCA to workers on fixed platforms and other structures on the Outer Continental Shelf. This act is particularly relevant to the oil and gas industry, where workers are often stationed far from shore. The OCSLA ensures that these workers, who might not otherwise be covered by traditional maritime laws due to the unique nature of their work locations, receive the same level of protection and compensation as those working in more typical maritime settings.

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Are There Time Limits for Filing an Injury Claim Under LHWCA?

Yes, there are time limits for filing an injury claim under LHWCA. Injured workers must notify their employer of the injury within 30 days and file a claim for compensation with the Office of Workers’ Compensation Programs within one year of the injury date or the last payment of voluntary compensation.

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What Steps Should You Take Immediately After an Injury to Protect Your Rights Under LHWCA?

Report the injury to your employer as soon as possible, ideally within the same day.
Seek medical attention to document the injury and begin treatment.
Collect evidence related to the injury, including photographs of the accident scene and contact information for witnesses. Keep records of all medical treatments and expenses.
Notify the Office of Workers’ Compensation Programs (OWCP) by filing the necessary forms to initiate a claim under the Act. Taking these steps promptly can improve the chances of a successful claim.

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How Does an LHWCA Lawyer Help a Victim?

A LHWCA lawyer offers meaningful assistance to victims in filing a claim. They provide guidance on the legal process, ensuring all necessary documentation is accurately prepared and submitted within the required deadlines. These attorneys are skilled at gathering and presenting evidence to support the claim, including medical records and expert testimony that demonstrates the extent of the injury and its impact on the worker’s ability to earn a living.

Moreover, a lawyer can negotiate with insurance companies to get the best possible compensation and benefits for the victim, including medical care, rehabilitation services, and compensation for lost wages. In cases where a claim is denied or disputed, they represent the victim in hearings before the Office of Administrative Law Judges, arguing the case and challenging any unfair decisions.

Additionally, a knowledgeable lawyer can advise the victim on their rights under the LHWCA, including potential entitlements to disability benefits for long-term or permanent injuries. They also provide emotional support and reassurance to victims and their families during what can be a stressful and challenging time, ensuring they are not alone in their fight for justice and fair compensation.

Overall, a LHWCA lawyer plays a major role in advocating for the victim’s rights, handling legal hurdles, and trying to get the best outcome for the injured worker and their family.

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Additional Resources

Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act Frequently Asked Questions

This resource, provided by the Office of Workers’ Compensation Programs, clarifies common questions about coverage, claims, and benefits. OWCP explains that LHWCA provides compensation, medical care, and vocational rehabilitation services for workers disabled from injuries that occur on U.S. navigable waters or nearby areas used in unloading, loading, building, or repairing a vessel. The Act also covers occupational diseases and offers survivor benefits for dependents to the extent that the injury causes the employee’s death.

33 U.S. Code Chapter 18 – Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation

View this site for the official text of LHWCA. The law includes details on coverage, liability, compensation rates, and the process for filing claims. It’s a resource for understanding the rights and obligations of both workers and employers under federal law.

Proposed Rule on Civil Money Penalties Procedures Relating to Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act – Federal Register

This proposed rule by the OWCP suggests new regulations for imposing and reviewing civil money penalties under the LHWCA. The changes are intended to clarify procedures for challenging penalties, ensuring a transparent and fair process for all parties involved.

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Contact Information for the District Offices of the Longshore District Office

Region X — Seattle
Longshore District Office 14, Seattle
U.S. Department of Labor
300 5th Avenue, Suite 1050L
Seattle, WA 98104
Phone: (206) 504-5287
Fax: (206) 467-1073 District Director: R. Todd Bruininks
Regional Director: Christy Long
The Seattle Longshore District Office has jurisdiction over all of the following states: Washington, Oregon, Alaska, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Utah, and Wyoming. The Seattle Longshore District Office also has Defense Base Act jurisdiction over Canada, west of the 110th degree west longitude, and all areas in the Pacific Ocean north of the 45th degree north latitude.

Region IX — San Francisco
Longshore District Office 13, San Francisco
U.S. Department of Labor
90 7th Street, Suite 15100
San Francisco, CA 94103-6716
Phone: (415) 625-7669
Fax: (415) 625-7470
District Director: R. Todd Bruininks
Regional Director: Christy Long
The San Francisco Longshore District Office has jurisdiction over Northern California (the entire San Francisco Region and north of the northern boundaries of the counties of San Luis, Obispo, Kern, and San Bernardino, as well as the States of Arizona and Nevada).

Long Beach Longshore District Office
Longshore District Office 18, Long Beach
U.S. Department of Labor
501 W. Ocean Blvd., Suite 6230
Long Beach, CA 90802
Phone: (562) 980-3577
Fax: (562) 980-3587 District Director: Marco Adame
Regional Director: Christy Long
The Long Beach Longshore District Office has jurisdiction over claims in California (south of the northern boundaries of the counties of San Luis, Obispo, Kern, and San Bernardino).

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Hire a Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act Lawyer

If you have suffered applicable injuries under the LHWCA, your first step should be to contact an experienced maritime worker’s claim attorney. Fishing and boating companies are usually reluctant to provide the compensation that you deserve or admit wrongdoing.

The lawyers at BoatLaw, LLP have decades of experience fighting for worker’s claims across the Eastern Seaboard and are ready to fight aggressively for any injuries you may have experienced working as a maritime worker.

We litigate LHWCA claims from our offices in Bellingham and Seattle, Washington, Portland, Oregon, and San Francisco, California.

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