Expert Longshore Injury Attorneys: Navigating LHWCA Claims Across the U.S.
As a maritime worker employed on or near U.S. waters, you may be entitled to receive medical and wage benefits beyond your state’s workers’ compensation program. The United States Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act (LHWCA) offers various forms of support to assist you in recovering from work-related injuries. While access to LHWCA benefits and medical care depends on the specifics of your case, this comprehensive guide will help you understand the basics, determine your eligibility, and know when to seek assistance from a trusted accident law firm.
Eligibility: Who is Covered by the U.S. Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Act?
The LHWCA generally applies to individuals working on navigable waters within the United States, as well as those employed in nearby areas used for maritime activities such as loading and repairing watercraft. Workers eligible for LHWCA benefits include:
- Harbor construction workers
- Longshore workers
However, LHWCA benefits do not apply if you sustained an injury while working on navigable waters or at a closely related area, such as a dock, terminal, wharf, or loading area. Additionally, crewmembers of watercraft, workers who were intoxicated at the time of injury, those who intended to cause injury, and government employees are not eligible for LHWCA benefits. Certain employees receiving workers’ compensation benefits through state programs may also be ineligible for LHWCA benefits.
Understanding Longshoreman and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act Benefits
Maritime workers face numerous potential hazards in their line of work. The LHWCA provides protection by requiring employers to offer medical benefits, wage loss benefits, and vocational rehabilitation benefits when appropriate. The Office of Workers’ Compensation Programs and the Division of Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation (DLHWC) oversee LHWCA benefits administration.
Following a maritime work injury covered by the LHWCA, you are entitled to receive reasonable and necessary medical care related to your injuries. Unlike many state systems, you can choose your own doctor after suffering a maritime work injury. However, you cannot change your doctor without permission from your employer, their insurance, or the Office of Workers’ Compensation Programs (OWCP).
Wage Loss Benefits
If your work injury prevents you from performing your regular duties and earning the same wage, this is considered a “disability” under the LHWCA. You may be eligible for compensation for work-related disabilities. LHWCA wage loss compensation benefits include:
- Temporary total disability (TTD) – partially replaces wages while you recover and are unable to work
- Temporary partial disability (TPD) – compensates for the wage difference while you recover and work reduced hours
- Permanent partial disability (PPD) – compensates for permanent impairment caused by your work injury, allowing you to continue working
- Permanent total disability (PTD) – compensates for permanent impairment preventing you from working at all
You receive PPD or PTD after reaching maximum medical improvement (MMI), meaning that further medical treatment is unlikely to improve your condition. All disability benefits are based on your average weekly wage (AWW) at the time of injury.
Vocational Rehabilitation Benefits
Vocational rehabilitation benefits under the LHWCA help injured workers find new jobs or adjust their existing jobs with the aim of earning wages comparable to their pre-injury income. These benefits can include:
- Job development
- Job modification
- Job placement
- Skills testing
If you wish to return to work after a debilitating injury but cannot find hope in your previous position, an experienced longshore and harbor worker attorney can help you request vocational rehabilitation benefits.
Filing a Longshoremen and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act Claim
After sustaining a maritime work injury, it’s crucial to seek immediate medical care for any urgent needs. Once your emergency medical needs are addressed, promptly notify your employer and the OWCP about your injuries.
Reporting Your Injuries to Your Employer
The LHWCA requires you to report work-related injuries in writing to your employer within 30 days. Failure to report within this time frame may result in not receiving all the necessary benefits.
Requesting Compensation Benefits
If your workplace injury prevents you from earning your full wages, file an Employee’s Claim for Compensation with the OWCP. Acute workplace injuries allow one year to file a claim, while occupational injuries or diseases (e.g., carpal tunnel syndrome) provide two years to file. Even if you miss the deadline to request compensation benefits, you may still be eligible for medical benefits.
Contesting Benefit Denials
Maritime employers and their insurance companies may not always accept claims for LHWCA benefits. If your employer denies your benefits, you can attend a conference with an examiner at your OWCP suboffice. However, recommendations from OWCP suboffices are not binding on your employer or their insurance. If non-compliance with an OWCP recommendation occurs, you can attend a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ), whose determinations are binding.
Secure a Fair Recovery with the Assistance of a Skilled Longshore Attorney
Navigating workers’ compensation benefits for maritime workers can be complex and challenging. At Grossman Attorneys at Law, we are well-versed in maritime injury law and dedicated to alleviating the burdens of injured workers. As tenacious and empathetic advocates, we strive to ensure your voice is heard in our offices, at the negotiation table, and in the courtroom.
If you have sustained a work-related injury as a maritime worker, it’s essential to seek legal counsel from a knowledgeable maritime injury attorney. The team at Grossman Attorneys at Law is ready to assist you in securing the compensation you need to recover and move forward. Contact us today for a free consultation.
Frequently Asked Questions About LHWCA Claims
What if my family member died due to a maritime work injury?
Eligible survivors can file for death benefits (or survivor benefits), which include funeral expenses and regular payments based on the deceased worker’s average weekly wage.
What information do I need to provide when filing a claim?
To receive proper benefits, provide medical records, wage records, and proof of payment for injury-related expenses. For survivor benefits, additional records proving your relationship to the maritime worker and their funeral costs are necessary.
How do I send my paperwork when filing a claim?
For new claims, send your paperwork via fax, the online SEAPortal, or mail to the DLHWC office in Jacksonville, Florida.
What if I discover a work-related occupational injury or disease after I retire?
You can still file a claim for permanent partial disability benefits, based on your level of permanent impairment.
Do I have to pay taxes on my benefits?
LHWCA benefits are not taxable but must be reported on your tax returns.
What if my employer or their insurance company doesn’t have the money to pay for my benefits?
Maritime workers whose employers cannot afford LHWCA benefits may access benefits from the federal Special Fund.
I already filed for workers’ compensation through a state agency; do I have access to benefits under the Longshore Act?
Many state workers’ compensation recipients still have access to LHWCA benefits. However, LHWCA benefits are reduced by the amount of state benefits received.
How can I ensure I receive the appropriate benefits under the LHWCA?
To maximize your chances of receiving the appropriate benefits, follow the proper reporting and filing procedures. Keep accurate and organized records of your medical treatment, wage history, and any injury-related expenses. Additionally, seeking the assistance of an experienced maritime injury attorney can help you navigate the complexities of the LHWCA and advocate for your rights.
Can I appeal a decision if my claim is denied or if I receive insufficient benefits?
Yes, if your claim is denied or if you believe you received insufficient benefits, you can appeal the decision. An appeal process typically involves multiple steps, starting with an informal conference at your local OWCP suboffice. If the informal conference does not result in a satisfactory resolution, you can request a formal hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ). If you are still not satisfied with the ALJ’s decision, you can appeal to the Benefits Review Board and, ultimately, to the federal courts.
Can I choose my own doctor under the LHWCA?
Yes, under the LHWCA, you have the right to select your own doctor to treat your work-related injury. However, you must obtain permission from your employer, your employer’s insurance, or the OWCP before changing your treating doctor.
Can I receive benefits if I am injured outside the United States?
The LHWCA generally covers maritime workers injured on or near U.S. waters. However, certain exceptions may apply depending on the specific circumstances of your case. Consult a maritime injury attorney for guidance on your eligibility for benefits if you are injured outside the United States.
How can a maritime injury attorney help me with my LHWCA claim?
An experienced maritime injury attorney can provide valuable assistance in several ways, including:
Guiding you through the complex LHWCA claim process
Ensuring you meet all filing and reporting deadlines
Gathering and organizing necessary documentation and evidence to support your claim
Representing you in negotiations, conferences, and hearings
Helping you obtain appropriate medical care and vocational rehabilitation services
Advocating for your rights and fighting for the benefits you deserve