Federal Employees and Maritime Injuries
Under federal law, maritime workers who are not sailors or seamen can seek workers’ compensation benefits under the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act (LHWCA), a federal statute passed into law in 1927. Congress initially enacted the law to cover maritime employees not covered by the Jones Act, such as dock workers. However, the LHWCA has since been extended to protect American government contractors outside of the United States, as well as non-appropriated fund employees.
The Basic Benefits under the LHWCA
The Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act provides the primary method of financial recovery for injured maritime workers. Under the LHWCA, an injured maritime employee may receive temporary and/or permanent benefits. A temporary award can be as much as 2/3 of the injured person’s average weekly wage, calculated by dividing earnings for the last calendar year by 52. If a maritime worker suffers a permanent injury, he or she may be entitled to a schedule award based on the specific body parts, or may be entitled to 2/3 of his or her lost earning capacity. There are also death benefits available to surviving family members.
The Process for Recovering Benefits under the LHWCA
To qualify for benefits, you must notify your employer of any injury within 30 days, but you don’t have to file a claim for benefits for one year. The same rule applies if you contract an occupational illness while working in a job covered under the LHWCA. Your employer may challenge the claim, or start making voluntary payments to you. If your employer disputes the claim, you can take your case to an administrative law judge, who will provide you with a hearing, listen to arguments from both sides, and make a decision on the claim.
Unlike state workers’ compensation programs, the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act is not limited to claims arising out of the negligence of your employer or co-employer. You may also seek damages from the owner of a vessel, or anyone else alleged to be negligent.
Contact Our Office
To set up an appointment to discuss your rights as a federal employee injured in a maritime accident, contact our office online or call us at 856-310-9002. We are available to meet with clients weekdays between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. We offer a free consultation for injured workers.