Understanding Longshoreman Injury Claims in Florida

If your job involves work on, or near U.S. waters, there’s a good chance you don’t have to rely on your state’s workers’ compensation laws to receive medical and wage benefits.

The Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act specifically caters to workers in Florida and across the U.S., ensuring they receive compensation for lost wages and comprehensive medical benefits. Tailored for employees who incur injuries on navigable waters or adjacent zones—like piers, terminals, docks, and boat yards—it aims to provide essential coverage and protection. Its design emphasizes both the well-being of workers and the distinctive nature of maritime-related tasks they undertake.

Your access LHWCA to benefits and medical care under this longshore act depends on the specific details of your case, but the following information can help you with the basics of determining when you need a Florida accident law firm. 

Workers Covered by the U.S. Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Act

Workers who can receive benefits under the LHWCA include:

  • Harbor construction workers,
  • Longshore workers,
  • Shipbreakers,
  • Shipbuilders, and
  • Ship-repairers.

Types of Longshoreman and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act Benefits

A recent National Security Council report found that the top three causes of work injuries that affect individuals’ work abilities are overexertion, falls, and contact with equipment.

The LHWCA provides protection for injured workers by requiring employers to pay for medical, wage loss , and vocational rehabilitation benefits when appropriate. The Office of Workers’ Compensation Programs and the Division of Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation (DLHWC) oversee the administration of LHWCA benefits. 

LHWCA Medical Benefits

Once you’ve suffered a maritime work injury covered by the LHWCA, you have the right to receive any reasonable and necessary medical care related to your work injuries. Unlike many state systems, you can choose your own doctor after suffering a maritime work injury. However, you cannot change your doctor unless you get permission from your employer, your employer’s insurance, or the Office of Workers’ Compensation Programs (OWCP).

LHWCA Wage Loss Benefits

Many individuals suffer work injuries severe enough to prevent them from fulfilling their regular work duties. Some employers can accommodate the limitations of your work injury, but some can’t. If you can’t return to your maritime employment and earn the same wage you did before your work injury, this is called a “disability” under the LHWCA. And under the LHWCA, you can receive compensation for your work-related disabilities. Potential coverages for wage loss under the LHWCA include:

  • Temporary total disability (TTD) to replace part of your wages when you’re still in recovery and your injury prevents you from doing any kind of work;
  • Temporary partial disability (TPD) to replace part of the difference in your wages when you’re still in recovery and your work injury requires you to work less than usual; 
  • Permanent partial disability (PPD) to compensate you when you can still work, but you suffer from permanent impairment caused by your work injury; 
  • Permanent total disability (PTD) to compensate you for a work-related permanent impairment that prevents you from working at all.

You receive PPD or PTD after you reach maximum medical improvement (MMI). MMI doesn’t mean that you’re cured of the effects of your work injury. Rather, MMI means that the effects of your injury are not likely to improve with further medical treatment. All disability benefits are based on the average weekly wage (AWW) you earned at the time of your injury. 

LHWCA Vocational Rehabilitation Benefits

Permanent total disability is not the answer for every maritime worker who suffers a permanently debilitating injury. Sometimes an injured worker has the right to receive vocational rehabilitation benefits under the LHWCA. Vocational rehabilitation benefits help injured workers find new jobs or adjust their old jobs. The goal is to help injured workers earn wages comparable to what they earned before their injuries. These benefits can include:

  • Counseling,
  • Job development,
  • Job modification,
  • Job placement,
  • Skills testing, and 
  • Training.

If you’re eager to return to work after a debilitating injury, but you’re not finding hope in your prior position, an experienced longshore and harbor worker attorney can request vocational rehabilitation benefits for you. 

LHWCA Benefits vs. State Workers’ Compensation Benefits

LHWCA benefits (including the defense base act) and state workers’ compensation benefits provide different forms of protection for injured civilian employees, depending on their work environment and jurisdiction.

State workers’ compensation law typically covers employees in various industries, including non-maritime sectors. These systems are governed by state laws and provide things such as coverage for medical bills, disability benefits, and disability compensation for lost wages. When you receive workers’ compensation benefits based from the state, they are calculated based on the injured employee’s average weekly wage (AWW).

The LHWCA is a federal law that specifically addresses the needs of maritime employees. It provides compensation to those who work on or near navigable waters, including docks, piers, and terminals. Similar to state workers’ compensation, the LHWCA considers the injured employee and their AWW and uses specific formulas to calculate appropriate benefits based on the type of disability and the employee’s pre-injury wage.

Making a Longshoremen and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act Claim in Florida

After suffering a maritime work injury, you should immediately seek medical care for any emergency needs.

Reporting Your Injuries to Your Employer

The LHWCA requires that you report work-related injuries, or an occupational disease related to employment, to your employer in writing within 30 days of injury.

Requesting Compensation Benefits

If your workplace injury prevents you from earning your full wages, you need to file an Employee’s Claim for Compensation with the OWCP. If you’ve suffered an acute workplace injury, you have one year to file your claim. If you’ve suffered an occupational injury or disease (e.g., carpal tunnel syndrome), you have two years to file your claim.

Fighting Benefit Denials

Maritime employers and their insurance companies don’t immediately accept all claims for LHWCA benefits. If your employer denies you benefits, you can attend a conference in front of an examiner at your OWCP suboffice. If your employer or their insurance carrier doesn’t comply with an OWCP recommendation, you can attend a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ). Determinations of an ALJ are binding. 

Fight for a Good Recovery with the Help of Our Experienced Florida Attorneys

Workers’ compensation benefits for maritime workers are tricky, complex, and necessary for many. At Grossman Attorneys at Law, we understand the intricacies of maritime injury law, and we are dedicated to relieving the plights of an injured worker. We are tenacious and compassionate advocates who want to make sure your voice is heard in our offices, at the negotiation table, and in the courtroom. Call us when you need us.

Frequently asked Questions

If you’re an eligible survivor, you can file for death benefits (or survivor benefits). These benefits include funeral expenses and regular payments based on your family member’s AWW. 

Generally, you need medical records, wage records, and proof of paying for work related injury expenses to receive proper benefits. If you are seeking survivor benefits, you also need records proving your relationship to the maritime worker and their funeral costs. 

If you’re filing a new claim, you can send your paperwork by fax, by the online SEAPortal, or by mail to the DLHWC office in Jacksonville, Florida.

You can still file a claim for permanent partial disability benefits, which are based on your level of permanent impairment.  

Many maritime workers whose employers can’t pay for their LHWCA benefits have access to benefits from the federal Special Fund

Many recipients of compensation benefits through the state still have access to LHWCA benefits. But note that LHWCA benefits are reduced by the amount of state benefit you receive. 

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