Top 7 Things You Need to Know About the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act

It is always a good idea to have a “cheat sheet” close by when you need quick access to information.  This blog is going to try to be that Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act cheat sheet for you.

As you go through this Top 7 list, you may be surprised about some of the seeming quirky rules that are contained in the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act. But if you are a longshoreman or harbor worker, it is good to know upfront where the potential pitfalls under the Act might be.

Of course, if you have a present issue involving the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act, and you need specific information about your current circumstances, we invite you to call us at Doolittle & Tucker at 904-396-1734.

Unlike many law firms in the Jacksonville, FL area, we specialize in Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act claims.  With our attorneys’ vast experience handling claims under the Act, we can ensure that you are fully informed about the best option to pursue your Longshore Act claim, and the way for you to get the most compensation available. Call us today to find out more.  Now on to the Top 7 list.

#1 – Longshoreman Benefits Require Both “Status” and “Situs”

Those terms refer to the two requirements of the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act.  Specifically, the Act only provides coverage if two things are true:

  1. Your job is on, or near, navigable water.  That includes the high seas; and
  2. You are called upon to do work that is integral to traditional longshore work, and you are doing that work when you are injured or injured on navigable waters.

Both situs and status need to exist for you to be covered under the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act. There is, of course, some ambiguity surrounding the phrase “integral to traditional longshore work,” and even “on, or near, navigable water.”  That ambiguity is something you will want to discuss with your Longshore Act attorney.  But knowledge of the two terms above gets you most of the way to understanding the Act.

#2 – The AWW is Based on 52 Weeks of Earnings

A very important number when you make a claim under the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act is the “average weekly wage,” or AWW.  In computing the AWW, you do not go by any particular week of salary.  Rather, the Act requires the calculation to be an average of your weekly pay over a 52-week period.  If you have not worked a full year at a job before becoming injured, then other rules under the Act will apply to calculate your AWW.

#3 – Work Being the Cause of Your Injury is Presumed

There is an important protection that the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act provides – an injured worker is automatically given “the benefit of the doubt.”  In other words, if a worker claims that he or she was injured on the job, the injury is considered work-related unless your employer successfully shows otherwise. In short, you as a worker under the Longshore Act enjoy a presumption that your injury was work related.  If your employer does not challenge that presumption, then you are entitled to benefits.

#4 – A Permanent Injury to Your Back, Neck, Or Shoulder Could Result in Lifetime Wage-Loss Benefits

Under the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act, there are scheduled and non-scheduled benefits.  Scheduled benefits attach a dollar value to each particular injury, and a worker with a scheduled injury is only limited to that dollar value.  Non-scheduled benefits, however, are benefits that are calculated, essentially, on a case-by-case basis.  When it comes to back, neck, or shoulder injuries, those could lead to a lifetime of lost wage benefits if the injuries are deemed to be permanent.

#5 – Intoxication Must Be the Sole Cause of Injury for An Employer to Avoid Paying Benefits

As noted above, your claim is presumed to be valid unless the employer presents evidence that an injury was not truly work-related.  There are cases in which an employer will challenge a Longshore Act claim based on the fact that an employee was intoxicated at the time of the injury.  The Act, however, does not make it that easy for the employer.  The employer must show that intoxication was the sole cause of a worker’s injury before it can avoid paying workers’ compensation benefits under the Act.

#6 – Cost of Living Increases Apply to Benefits

Under the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act, death benefits and awards for permanent disability are subject to increases based on cost of living, or COLA.  That is a very important feature of the Act, given that inflation could make an award seem smaller 10 years after the injury.

#7 – Don’t Procrastinate:  Failure to Timely File Important Forms Could Lead to Penalties

The Department of Labor administers the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act.  As with any governmental agency, there will be a number of forms to fill out.  Not only do you need to alert your employer in writing, right away, when you have been injured, but you also need to file forms with the Department of Labor.  Failure to file those forms can lead to penalties, and you may even lose the ability to pursue a claim for benefits.  That said, you can avoid a penalty if you provide a timely and compelling explanation for the delay or missed deadline.

In that regard, you need to make sure that you are getting the help of an experienced attorney so that you do not miss any deadlines. We at Doolittle & Tucker have “seen it all” with regard to the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act.  We have assisted hundreds and hundreds of injured workers in obtaining the kind of compensation they deserve.

Because there are so many specific rules and important deadlines to successfully pursue a Longshore Act claim, it is vital that you have the benefit of Doolittle’s experienced legal staff helping you through the process.  Especially when you should be focused primarily on healing, it is marvelous peace of mind to have a Doolittle attorney taking care of the details of your claim.  Call us today at 904-396-1734.