Longshore Harbor Workers Compensation Act

Longshore Harbor Workers Compensation Act

The Longshore Harbor Workers Compensation Act (LHWCA) provides protection to workers who are injured or contract occupational diseases on the navigable waters of the United States, or in adjoining shoreside areas that are used in loading, unloading, repairing, or building a vessel. Some other groups of workers, such as contractors working on defense bases outside of the U.S. and employees of operations on the outer continental shelf of the U.S., are also covered by extensions of the LHWCA.

Who is Eligible for Benefits under the LHWCA?

Under the law, maritime workers, including shipbuilders, dockworkers, harbor employees, and other employees who work in shoreside occupations are eligible for compensation in case of a work-related injury or illness. Injuries that result from accidents during shipbuilding, loading and unloading equipment or cargo, operating machinery or work vehicles, carrying out construction, and many other activities are all covered. In addition, workers who become ill as a result of their work, including through exposure to hazardous substances, are also eligible for compensation under the Longshore Harbor Workers Compensation Act .

To be covered, an employee must be engaged in work on, near, or adjacent to navigable water. If you usually work more than about a mile or so away from either the water or the border of the shipyard or terminal, it is likely that you would not be covered by the LHWCA, and would instead qualify for state workers’ compensation.

Both full-time and part-time maritime workers are eligible for compensation.

However, there are some exceptions to LHWCA coverage:

  • Individuals who are eligible to be covered by Mississippi’s workers’ compensation law are not covered. This includes employees who perform clerical, secretarial, security, or data processing work; or who work for recreational operations such as restaurants, museums, or retail outlets; most marina workers; employees of suppliers, transporters, or vendors; aquaculture workers; workers who build, repair, or dismantle recreational vessels (under sixty-five feet in length); and employees who load, unload or repair any small vessel (under eighteen tons net).
  • Masters or members of a crew of any vessel.
  • Employees of the United States government or of any state or foreign government.

The difference between the LHWCA and state workers’ compensation

The Longshore Harbor Workers Compensation Act is a federal law that mandates insurance coverage for maritime workers. It serves a similar purpose as the state workers’ compensation laws, but covers a different set of workers, those employed in maritime occupations.

Although the LHWCA does not prohibit workers from receiving benefits under both the LHWCA and the state Workers’ Compensation Act at the same time, both Mississippi and Louisiana have chosen not to cover maritime workers. Therefore, Louisiana and Mississippi workers can only qualify to receive benefits under either the federal law or the state law, but not both at the same time.

Overview of Benefits

Under the LHWCA, injured workers are eligible to receive medical care to treat their injuries or illnesses, as well as disability payments to make up for lost wages.

Medical Benefits

The LHWCA covers any medical, surgical and hospital services and supplies that are needed to treat your injury. The cost of travel to receive medical care is also included, so you can be reimbursed for your transportation expenses.

You are allowed to choose your own healthcare professional, so long as they are authorized by the Secretary of Labor. The list of physicians who are not authorized is available from the Office of Workers’ Compensation Programs (OWCP) district office in Jacksonville. In general, you can choose any medical doctor, surgeon, podiatrist, dentist, clinical psychologist, optometrist, or osteopathic practitioner to treat your injury or illness. Chiropractors are also covered for certain services.

Disability Payments

Injured workers are eligible to receive compensation for their disability at the rate of 66.67% of the employee’s weekly salary prior to their injury, for as long as the injury prevents them from working or from earning as much as they did before the injury. Payments are made every two weeks.

Minimum and maximum benefits, based on the national average wages, will also impact the amount that an injured worker is owed. The minimum compensation is 50 percent of the national average weekly wage, or the employee’s full wage if they earned less than the average. The maximum compensation is 200 percent of the national average weekly wage. The national average is calculated by the Secretary of Labor, and can be viewed at the OWCP National Average Weekly Wages website.

The amount of compensation that you are owed will vary depending on the nature of your injury and its impact on your ability to work. For impairments of different durations and degrees, the benefit amounts are as follows:

  • Permanent Total Disability: You will receive two-thirds of your average weekly wage
  • Temporary Total Disability: You will receive two-thirds of your average weekly wage
  • Permanent Partial Disability: If you suffer the loss of certain parts or functions of the body, you are owed compensation for a specific number of weeks, specified in the law. For the time periods of benefits, see the LHWCA’s list of specifications.
  • Temporary Partial Disability: You will receive two-thirds of your lost earnings, comparing your weekly wage before and after your injury


In addition to payment for lost wages, injured employees are also eligible for vocational rehabilitation services. This can include evaluation, testing, counseling, selective placement, and retraining for a different job, if the injured employee cannot return to their former job.

Benefits in Case of Death

If an injury causes a worker’s death, benefits will be paid to the surviving spouse and dependents. The surviving spouse is eligible to receive 50% of the average weekly wage of the deceased employee for the rest of their life, or until they remarry.

If the worker has one surviving child, this child will also be covered by the 50% owed to the surviving spouse. For more than one surviving child, 16.67% of the deceased parent’s weekly wages are provided, for a total benefit of 66.67%. Benefits are provided for children until they reach age 18, and can be extended until age 23 if the child is a student, or indefinitely if the child needs ongoing support due to mental or physical disabilities. Other family members, including parents, siblings, grandparents, and grandchildren who depend on the worker are also eligible to receive benefits in case of the worker’s death.

Funeral expenses are also covered, amounting to up to $3,000.

Waiting Period for Receiving Benefits

There is a three-day waiting period for temporary disability lasting less than 14 days. If your inability to work extends for longer than 14 days, this waiting period does not apply, and you will receive benefits for every day that you missed work, including the first three days.

Your employer is responsible for purchasing insurance to cover your disability compensation and medical benefits in case you get injured on the job. Your employer is required under law to either purchase insurance from a private insurance carrier, or to self-insure themselves with permission from the Department of Labor. Although it is a federal law that requires coverage for employees, benefits under this program are paid for by employers, not the federal government.

Overview of Claims and Appeals under the Longshore Harbor Workers Compensation Act

If you are injured at work, you should seek medical treatment immediately. Then, it is important to notify your employer of your injury as soon as possible. You should ask them to provide you with the Department of Labor’s Form LS-1, which authorizes you to receive treatment by the doctor you choose. Not only must you tell your employer about your injury, you must also notify them in writing within 30 days, using Form LS-201. Notice of death must also be given within 30 days, in order to begin the process of securing benefits. For certain occupation-related diseases and hearing loss injuries, you may be allowed additional time to notify your employer.

After you have officially notified your employer, you should file a written claim for compensation with the Office of Workers’ Compensation Programs, using Form LS-203.

This needs to be done within one year of your injury. Survivor benefits claim must be filed within one year, and claims for certain occupational diseases must be made within two years.

Getting Your Full Workers’ Compensation Entitlements

After you file a claim for compensation, you will be notified by the Office of Workers’ Compensation Programs (OWCP) of the amount of benefits that you will be awarded. If you disagree with the recommended benefits amount, you may request a formal hearing before an administrative law judge.

If you disagree with the judge’s decision, you may make an appeal to the Benefits Review Board. Further disagreement may be considered by the U.S. Court of Appeals.

The process of getting the benefits that you are owed following your injury or illness can be complicated and frustrating. An experienced workers’ compensation attorney will be able to offer guidance to make sure that you receive your full entitlements.

Sending us information about your potential case does not mean we will automatically represent you – you are telling us about your situation in order for us to evaluate whether we believe you have a case which we may choose to handle on your behalf. We will review your circumstances and let you know as soon as possible whether we can discuss your potential case with you further. The information you give us is confidential and can’t be shared with anyone outside of our office.