A longshoreman is a worker who loads and unloads cargo onto ships. They
are also known as “stevedores.” Longshoremen are an integral
part of the shipping and receiving industry. They work long hours in all
weather conditions to move cargo containers. Generally, the more senior
workers receive high pay, an extensive benefits package, and a flexible
schedule. Longshoremen are nearly always employed as part of a labor union,
and gaining membership in this union is the crucial step in order to become
The Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act (LHWCA or Longshore
Act) is a comprehensive federal workers’ compensation program administered
by the U.S. Department of Labor, Office of Workers’ Compensation
Programs (OWCP). The act is codified in 33 U.S.C. §§901 et.
seq., and provides for compensation and medical care to employees disabled
from injuries that occur on the navigable waters of the United States,
or in adjoining areas used in loading, unloading, repairing, or building
certain vessels. The Act also provides benefits to specific survivors
and dependents if the injury causes the employee's death. The term
"injury" includes occupational disease arising out of employment.
According to 33 U.S.C. §902(3), “employees” for purposes
of coverage, includes all workers employed in maritime occupations, including
longshore workers or other persons in longshore operations, and any harbor
workers, including ship repairers, shipbuilders, and shipbreakers. The
Act excludes certain workers, however, even if they are injured on navigable
waters or an area adjoining those waters.
E.g. 33 U.S.C. §902(3)(G). These excluded workers include masters or members
of a crew of a vessel and any officer or employee of the United States
or of any state or foreign government. Specifically, the distinction between
a “seaman” and a “maritime worker” is integral
to the discussion of coverage under the act. A seaman is not entitled
to coverage under LHWCA, but is entitled to bring other actions under the
Jones Act and general maritime law. On the other hand, a maritime worker can obtain
coverage under LHWCA, but that is his or her
exclusive remedy. Therefore, a
maritime worker (longshoreman or harbor worker) cannot maintain an action under the Jones Act or general maritime law.
The available remedies are mutually exclusive. In contrast to a “maritime
worker,” status as a “seaman” is premised on employment
in connection with the performance of work on vessels
in navigation. Certain other individuals may also be excluded from coverage under LHWCA,
only if they are covered by a state workers’ compensation law.
Generally, a worker covered under LHWCA is entitled to wage (also called
indemnity) benefits and medical benefits. Additionally, a longshoreman
or harbor worker’s family may be entitled to death benefits if the
work injury results in death. The benefit of LHWCA is that the employee
and/or his family can start receiving benefits much quicker (relatively
speaking), and negligence does not need to be proven.
There are arguably more cons for workers covered under LHWCA. For one,
the benefits paid are minimal compared to the actual damages that may
be suffered. Additionally, the methods for calculating your wage benefits
can be quite confusing, and result in lower benefits being paid if not
properly calculated. Additionally, the carrier will attempt to control
your treatment by sending you to specific medical providers who are quick
to find you at Maximum Medical Improvement and reduce or cut off your
benefits. Further, because a claim under the LHWCA is administered by
OWCP, there are also several administrative regulations which govern the
processing of a claim, and this can sometimes be a bureaucratic nightmare.
See 20 C.F.R. §§701-704 & 801-802, and 29 C.F.R. Part 18. For
these reasons, many longshoremen and harbor workers want to avoid coverage
under LHWCA. However, if you meet the definition of the “employee”
under LHWCA, there is very little likelihood you will succeed getting
out from under the umbrella of LHWCA coverage.
LHWCA cases are full of nuances and traps which require specialized knowledge
to properly navigate claims and if you are under LHWCA coverage, you want
to make sure you are receiving the maximum compensation allowed under
the law. If you are a seaman and have been injured on in the scope of
your work, you need a knowledgeable and competent attorney to guide you
through your claim and fight for you. At Cassidy & Black, P.A., our team of
Miami maritime lawyers has more than 50 years of combined experience in maritime law and are
ready to help you seek damages for your situation. We can be contacted
by phone at (305) 964-8792.
Please get in touch with us today to schedule your