The LHWCA is a federal law that provides for worker compensation for persons who are injured on the job. LHWCA specifically provides for workers whose job injuries occurred on the navigable waters of the U.S. or on adjoining areas where loading, unloading, repairing or building of water vessels normally occurs.

If such a worker is killed on the job or suffers an injury that contributes to their death, survivor benefits may be available for their spouses and children. Such benefits are typically paid by the self-insured employer or a private insurance company on the employer’s behalf. The Office of Worker Compensation Programs (OWCP) provides oversight for the LHWCA.

Who is Covered by the LHWCA?

Traditionally, longshore workers, ship-repairers, shipbuilders, ship-breakers, and harbor construction workers were the only ones covered under the act. Over time, Congress has extended coverage to other workers such as:

  • Private employees and other contract workers on land used by military operations outside the U.S.;
  • Workers who are injured while exploring or developing natural resources outside the U.S.; and
  • Certain civilian employees of the Armed Services.

Who is Not Covered by the LHWCA?

Qualified workers who are injured solely as a result of their own intoxication or due to their intention to injure themselves or others are not covered. There are also other workers not covered due to being eligible for a state workers compensation program or other programs under OWCP.

How Does the LHWCA Differ from State Workers Compensation Funds?

In order to qualify under LHWCA, an injured worker must be doing a job that meets the maritime job requirements. Whereas state workers compensation funds provide coverage for a variety of jobs. In comparing the two compensation programs, LHWCA offers payments for partial disabilities and many state workers compensation funds do not.

What Types of Disabilities Does LHWCA Provide For?

Disability means the inability to earn the same wages that the person was making before they were injured. As long as the injury occurred at an eligible place and is caused by a working condition or the result of a job-related task, the type of injury or disease may be covered. Under the LHWCA, injured workers can receive benefits for four types of disabilities:

  1. Temporary Partial Disability: the worker is still recuperating from the injury and unable to return until healed and the injury does not prevent the worker from working at all, just that they cannot do the same job as before.
  2. Temporary Total Disability: the worker is still recuperating from the injury and unable to return until healed but the worker is unable to work at all for the time being.
  3. Permanent Partial Disability: the worker’s injury is stable and not likely to improve but the injury does not prevent the worker from working at all, just that they cannot do the same job as before.
  4. Permanent Total Disability: the worker’s injury is stable and not likely to improve and the worker is unable to work at all.

What Should I Do if I am Injured on the Job and Want to Receive LHWCA Compensation?

If you faced an on-the-job injury and want to receive LHWCA compensation, then you should be prepared to take the following steps:

  1. You should report any injury including a new illness or disease you believe is related to your work duties to your employer immediately and in writing; 
    • Failing to report the injury on time may prevent you from filing your claim.
  2. Get medical treatment for your injury and maintain copies of all medical records involving your injury; and
  3. You should file a claim with the OWCP within 1 year of the injury.

When Do I Get Compensation Under LHWCA?

After 3 days of an injury that has prevented you from working, payments should begin within 14 days that your employer has knowledge of your lost wages due to the injury. After the initial payment, you should begin receiving benefits bi-weekly.

How Much Compensation Will I Receive Under the LHWCA Guidelines?

Compensation under the LHWCA is calculated using the Average Weekly Wage (AWW) of the worker before the injury incurred. Total disabilities are paid at two-thirds of the worker’s AWW.

Partial disability compensation sometimes uses a schedule based on the percentage of the ability of the worker or based on the body part that is now disabled. Some amounts of compensation are subject to a minimum and maximum benefit amount that is determined and published each year.

After Filing My Claim, I Received a “Notice of Controversion,” What Does that Mean?

A Notice of Controversion is required to be filed with OWCP if the employer or their insurance carrier is denying your claim. If your claim is denied, you should gather your documentation of work history with the employer and medical documentation of your injury and contact the OWCP. The OWCP may then make a recommendation.

If you are still denied by the employer, you may request a hearing with an Administrative Law Judge who can hear the case and decide whether benefits should be granted to you.

Can My Employer Retaliate Against Me for Filing a Claim Under LHWCA?

No, it is illegal for your employer to retaliate against you based solely on your filing of a workers compensation claim.

Should I Consult a Lawyer About My LHWCA Claim?

Yes, a local employment lawyer can be helpful in explaining your rights and responsibilities in seeking compensation under LHWCA. If your claim has been denied, a lawyer can help prepare your case for review with the OWCP and a hearing with an Administrative Law Judge.