Longshore Harbor Workers Compensation Act

Maritime Law Overview


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Disability Compensation
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Longshoremen and On-The-Job Injury

Whether the economy is failing or thriving, longshoremen are an essential link in the cargo transportation network of the United States. The majority of longshoremen move cargo from ships to railroad cars using winches and trucks; other workers keep the equipment in good order. A person who wants to be a longshoreman starts out as a casual harbor worker, where they receive on-the-job training and the chance to accumulate enough hours to register with a union. Unions usually require about 2500 hours before they will allow someone to register, and they only allow new members as the industry needs more workers. However, longshoremen work can be very lucrative ($20 or more an hour), and for many people it is worth the trouble.

Longshoremen are not usually regular employees, they are hired on an hourly or daily basis when work becomes available. Because of this, it is more difficult for employers to evaluate the level of expertise a given longshoreman may have; though union registration helps with this, job injury rates are still high. Longshoremen can be accidentally run over by an inexperienced truck driver, catch a hand in moving machinery, or be pinned under shifting cargo.

If a longshoreman is injured on the job, there are federal regulations in place to insure that medical treatment is covered and that the employee is given compensation in the event of temporary or permanent disability. Compensation is awarded in proportion to the extent of the disability. For example, someone who loses an eye (or the use of it) will receive compensation for 160 weeks, while someone who loses an arm will receive compensation for 312 weeks. A longshoreman will only continue to receive compensation in the event of total disability--that is, if they lose the use of both eyes, or both arms, or both legs, or a combination of the above.

While the Longshore and Harbor Workers' Compensation Act makes the employer (or the employer's insurance) liable for an employee's medical expenses in the event of an on-the-job injury, there are restrictions on what doctors a longshoreman can go to and time limits on filing claims. To insure that their medical expenses are properly taken care of, an injured longshoreman would do well to consult a lawyer as soon as possible. If the employer was negligent, a lawyer may also be able to secure additional compensation for the longshoreman.

Longshore & Harbor Workers Compensation Act (LHWCA)

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