What is The Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act?
(https://www.dol.gov/agencies/owcp/dlhwc/FAQ/lsfaqs) In short, the LHWCA is basically workers’ compensation insurance for those in traditionally maritime professions.
Although the benefits are required by law, the benefits are not administered by the federal government. Instead, employers generally contract with private workers’ compensation insurance companies. When an employee suffers an injury at work, they can report the injury to their supervisor and file a claim with the company’s workers’ compensation insurance provider. The insurance company will then perform an investigation to determine whether the injury qualifies for coverage. If the claim is approved then the benefits will be paid out.
When speaking with Craig Mitchell, he treats you with respect and is very approachable. He makes sure everything is done on time and properly. He is very knowledgeable, personal and professional. I walked into his office feeling scared and alone, and I walked out knowing that my case was in very capable hands. I was getting the runaround from my employer and Workers’ Comp but his knowledge and confidence allowed me to focus on my health. I highly recommend Craig Mitchell to anyone.
Who is Covered Under the Act?
All those employed in traditionally maritime professions, including longshore workers, ship builders, breakers, and repairers, and construction workers based in harbors are covered under the Act. The injury must have been work-related and have occurred in United States waters or adjoining areas (like harbors, piers, docks, wharfs, and loading and unloading areas). In some situations, a non-maritime employee can still qualify for coverage if their injury occurred in United States waters or adjoining areas such as those listed above.
Since the passage of the LHWCA, Congress has extended its reach a number of times, increasing the pool of possible claimants. One such extension, the Defense Base Act (DBA), extends coverage to individuals performing employment activities on U.S. military bases or on any land used by the U.S. for military purposes (inside or outside of the United States). This also includes employees performing work on any U.S. government contract related to national security and those providing services for the benefit of the U.S. armed forces stationed outside of the United States.
Another congressional extension, the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act (OCSLA), ensures that coverage extends to employees working on the Outer Continental Shelf. Their work should be for the benefit of natural resources in order to qualify for coverage.
Finally, the Non-Appropriated Fund Instrumentalities Act (NAFIA), also covers certain civilian employees of the armed forces.
What am I Entitled to if I’m Hurt?
If you suffer a work-related injury covered by LHWCA, you are entitled to receive medical care for your injury, as well as paid time off to recover. If your injury prevents you from returning to the same job you had previously, LHWCA also provides rehabilitative vocational training to professionally prepare you for a new role within the same business that you can perform. In the event that the work-related injury results in death, LHWCA provides compensation to dependents of the decedent-employee in the form of survivor benefits.
Additionally, if a third-party contributed to causing your injury, you also have the right to sue them to recover damages. You do not have to choose between filing an LHWCA claim and filing a lawsuit, you can pursue both avenues of compensation. The only catch is that you cannot sue your employer — in most cases, anyway. While in the majority of cases the third-party cannot not be your employer, there are exceptions. For instance, if you were injured on a boat or vessel due to negligence of the boat or vessel owner, you can sue the vessel owner as a third-party to your injury, even if the vessel is also owned by your employer. The important distinction here is that you are suing your employer in the capacity of the vessel owner; not as your employer. The claim against your employer in the capacity as your employer must be filed through LHWCA workers’ compensation.
So, why bring a lawsuit if you are already filing an LHWCA claim? Bringing a lawsuit allows you to collect compensation for damages not covered by your employers’ workers’ compensation insurance.These damages can include compensation for all expenses related to your medical treatment and recovery, and compensation for lost wages as well as decreased earning potential if you will not be able to perform the same job at the same salary as you did before your injury.
How Do I Make a Longshore Claim?
If you are a longshore or harbor worker injured on the job, it is important to notify your supervisor as soon as possible. You are legally entitled to inform your employer of your injury in writing within 30 days of the injury or when you become aware you are injured (if the dates are different). However, it is best to tell your supervisor right away so you do not delay medical treatment. The faster that you report an injury, the better your chances of having the claim approved. The more time that passes between an alleged injury and the filing of a claim, the more interim causes can be attributed for the harm as opposed to a work-related activity.
After informing your employer, seek medical care right away. You are entitled to choose a physician, you do not have to go to one selected by your company or their insurance provider. You can request Form LS-1 from your employer, which authorizes medical examination and treatment. However, if it is an emergency and you do not have time to request the form before seeking medical treatment, you can request authorization after you are treated.
In addition to notifying your employer of your injury, it is important to file a claim with the Office of Workers’ Compensation Programs (OWCP) within one year of the date of injury. If your employer has voluntarily been paying your benefits, you must still file this claim, however, you may do so within one year from the date of the last disbursement. Note that it is absolutely critical to take this step, as failing to file with the OWCP within this time period makes it possible for your employer to deny or refuse to cover your claim, even in the event that your injury leads to a disability. The best way to protect yourself is by making sure that you take all necessary steps.
Do I Have to Pay Out of Pocket for Representation?
No. In most cases, there will be no fee unless you win. If you have been injured in a maritime employment accident, contact the LHWCA lawyers at Mitchell & Associates today. Our lawyers will help you navigate the process by filing all necessary claims and forms as well as identifying potentially liable third parties and zealously representing you to make sure you get the full amount of compensation and support to which you are entitled.