I Have a Longshore Act Claim.  Do I Need an Attorney?

Many longshore jobs are physical and dangerous.  That is why the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act (the Longshore Act) provides longshoreman comprehensive workers compensation coverage for an injury and subsequent medical treatment, compared to regular state workers’ compensation benefits.

Being a federal law, however, the Longshore Act has:

  • Many legal provisions,
  • A set claims process that must be followed,
  • A number of important deadlines for claimants, and
  • Various mathematical formulas to calculate benefits compensation, such as the calculation for average weekly wage, or scheduled injuries.

As you might expect, the federal Longshore Act can feel like the proverbial “maze of red tape” that comes with dealing with a government bureaucracy.  Given all the rules and deadlines associated with the Longshore Act, you might be inclined to get some legal advice as to how to go about your claim.  That inclination would be a good one.

Can you go through the Longshore Act claim process on your own?  Most likely, yes.  However, will you be able to maximize your overall compensation from the Longshore Act’s process by going it alone, without some legal advice?  Most likely, no.

Having an experienced Longshore Act attorney in your corner can truly be a game-changer with regard to the kind of compensation you may receive.  Moreover, having an attorney who is well-versed in the Longshore Act takes the pressure off of you in having to respond to claim requests you may not fully understand, or making phone calls to Longshore Act help lines that only get you part of the way there.

If you have been injured at work and are covered by the Longshore Act, we invite you to simply schedule a meeting with one of our top-notch Longshore Act attorneys at Doolittle & Tucker.  At no cost to you, we can discuss with you whether having professional legal representation will be the best option in your circumstances.  Call us today at 904.396.1734.  We are happy to give you the information you need to make an informed choice on handling your workers’ compensation claim.

  1. Can the government agency administering the Longshore Act give me legal advice?

No.  Even though it would be a big help to have the government agency in charge of the workers’ compensation program give you some legal advice, it is not allowed.

The Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act is handled through the U.S. Department of Labor.  Specifically, the office set up by Department of Labor to handle Longshore Act claims is called the Office of Workers’ Compensation Programs (OWCP).

While the OWCP staff tries its best to help those who contact it, the staff at OWCP cannot provide legal assistance or advice to the public with regard to individual claims.  OWCP staff, though knowledgeable about the Longshore Act, are not lawyers.  They are unfortunately not qualified to give legal advice or respond to questions that have to do with interpreting a law or regulation.  The OWCP staff can only provide basic information about benefits and the claims process.

The reason the OWCP staff cannot provide legal advice has to do with liability.  If a staff member happens to give incorrect advice that you rely on to your detriment, then you could ask for some compensation for the mistake.  The OWCP wants to avoid that situation.

  1. Can the OWCP appoint an attorney, or even recommend, an attorney?

No.  For the same reason stated above, the OWCP cannot appoint or recommend an attorney to you.  While the OWCP likely deals with many attorneys involved in Longshore Act work, it would put the OWCP in an awkward position to suggest an attorney to an individual claimant.  Moreover, the OWCP cannot be seen as playing favorites by recommending one attorney over another.

  1. Who pays my attorney’s fees if I hire someone to represent me for my claim?

It depends.  The circumstances more or less dictate the party responsible for a claimant’s attorneys fees.

  • If an employer, or the employer’s insurance company, denies your claim but you ultimately obtain greater benefits with the help of a Longshore Act attorney, then it is very possible that the employer or the insurance company will be responsible for your attorney’s fees.
  • If an attorney is not able to obtain greater workers’ compensation benefits for you, then it is possible that you may be responsible for your attorney’s fees and costs.

It is worth noting that an attorney does not collect a fee in a Longshore Act claim unless and until that fee is approved by the OWCP, the Office of Administrative Law Judges, or the courts.  So, when it comes to attorney’s fees, they go through an approval process before you are responsible for them.

  1. Is an advance or contingency fee allowed under the Longshore Act?

No.  Attorney’s fees are handled somewhat differently under the Longshore Act.  With some civil cases, attorneys will typically ask for a retainer fee, or will ask for some percentage of the money that you receive as a result of a lawsuit.

By contrast, attorney’s fees for Longshore Act claims must go through an approval process.  The Longshore Act calls for the OWCP or a judge to determine whether an attorney fee is reasonable based on:

  • The prevailing rates in your locality
  • The time spent on the claim
  • The experience level of the attorney
  • The quality and complexity of the work performed, and
  • The amount of benefits you receive.

In sum, you should rest assured that whatever fee is charged will be reviewed by the OWCP or a judge.

South Florida Longshore Act Attorneys are Here to Maximize Your Claim Benefits

Given all of the above, you likely have a better answer to the initial question:  Do I need an attorney for my Longshore Act claim?

Weighing the pros and cons, knowing that the Longshore Act is complex and has a number of important deadlines; knowing that the OWCP cannot provide you with legal advice; knowing that you may not be responsible for attorney’s fees; and knowing that even if you are responsible for the fee, it needs to be approved by the OWCP, all leads to the conclusion that you would be wise to have an experienced Longshore Act attorney help you with your claim.

The seasoned professionals at Doolittle & Tucker are ready to assist you with your Longshore Act claim.  We understand what is required for a claim, we know the important deadlines, and we can use our expertise to maximize the benefit to you.  Call us at 904.396.1734 today to find out how Doolittle & Tucker can help you.