Longshore cases

A Worker’s Guide to Navigating Longshore and Maritime Workers’ Compensation Law

by Krista DeSmyter | November 7th, 2018

Thousands of men and women are injured at work every day. Different state and federal laws can apply to the rights of these injured workers depending on several factors. Factors that determine which set of laws applies to a work injury include the place of injury, the location of the employer, the nature of the work, where the contract for employment was made and what government entity has an interest in protecting the health and sustainability of a particular work force. The overarching purpose of each state or government having workers’ compensation laws should be the same (See this post). However, there can be major differences in each state’s laws. This is because each state is sovereign, meaning it has its own laws that apply within its borders, and there can be significant differences in the laws as they apply to each work injury depending on how the legislature writes the laws. There are some groups of workers who fall under the jurisdiction of federal laws, the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act, where the United States has a specific, Constitution-based interest in protecting the class of workers. No matter what state or country the worker is from, workers covered under the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act are entitled to uniformly applied federal law under the oversight of the United States Department of Labor.

Explosions, fires, equipment failures, falls and other mental and physical traumas are just a few common accidents that cause serious injuries on the job. Even the most minor injury suffered on the water or on a military base can quickly lead to a devastating and lasting condition. Many times, these conditions are not covered by state workers’ compensation laws. Sometimes, such injuries can be covered under state law as well as under federal law. If you are injured in a work accident, how do you know where to file your claim and what jurisdiction’s laws best support your family and protect your family’s future? This blog will teach you basic procedures of some federal workers’ compensation claims and will advise individuals navigating their rights to seek an attorney who will help best protect an injured workers’ rights no matter what law applies to their case.

What laws protect longshore and maritime workers?

Federally mandated laws established to protect workers injured while working on waterways, overseas or on military bases include:

  • The Jones Act ­– Protects workers injured on ships or vessels due to the negligence of a ship owner, captain or fellow employee. Under the law, injured workers can recover medical care and cost of living expenses.
  • The Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act – Protects land-based maritime workers, such as vessel repairmen or cargo loaders, who suffer injuries or illnesses related to their work. The Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act will cover workers injured while loading, unloading, repairing or making maritime vessels. The United States government has a basis in the Constitution to oversee admiralty injuries and to uniformly protect the work force that is so important to the national economy through commerce and defense. See United States Constitution, Article III, Section2 and Article 1, Section 8. The Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act provides compensation for medical care and wage loss/disability benefits.
  • The Defense Base Act – Provides protection to employees working outside the United States on United States military bases or under a contract with the United States government for public works or for national defense. Examples of such workers are linguists, security/police forces, cultural advisors, translators, construction workers, truck drivers, engineers, and project managers. The United States government has an interest in protecting this unique work force who are protecting the interests of the United States overseas. The Defense Base Act is an extension of the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act and applies the same provisions to the workers it protects. The Defense Base Act provides compensation for medical care and wage loss/disability benefits.
  • The Non-Appropriated Funds and Instrumentalities Act – Protects civilian employees providing services to the U.S. Armed Forces, including those who work for Army and Air Force Exchange Services, Army and Air Force Motion Picture Services, on-shore Navy Ship Stores, Navy Exchanges, Marine Corps Exchanges, Coast Guard Exchanges and other agencies of the United States under the jurisdiction of the Armed Forces conducted for the comfort, pleasure, contentment and mental and physical improvement of personnel of the Armed Forces. See https://www.dol.gov/owcp/dlhwc/nfia.htm. The Non-Appropriated Funds and Instrumentalities Act is an extension of the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act and applies the same provisions to the workers it protects. The Non-Appropriated Funds and Instrumentalities Act provides compensation for medical care and wage/loss disability benefits. 

Is there a time restriction for making a claim?

Yes. In general, the time you have to file a legal claim after a work injury is limited. You must notify your employer of the work injury as soon as possible, preferably in writing, after a work injury. The time for filing an actual claim within the jurisdiction under which an injury is covered is limited. Also known as the statute of limitations, the time limitation to file a claim can be as short as one to three years from the date of injury. Specifically, under the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act and the extensions of the Act described above, the time for filing a claim is within one year after sustaining a work injury or from the last day of payment of benefits, whichever is later. This statute can vary depending on the nature of your case. If you wait to file a legal claim until the statute of limitations has expired, you may lose your rights to compensation. That’s why it’s important to seek legal help as soon as you can after a work injury. An attorney at ChasenBoscolo is ready to help you protect your rights and meet any time requirements for making a claim under the laws of whatever jurisdiction best protects your rights.

Why do you need an attorney?

 Without the help of an experienced attorney, you may not receive the full amount of compensation you are entitled to under the law. Insurance companies may think they can take advantage of you and offer you less money than you deserve for your injuries and lost wages. Insurance companies try to save money by steering an injured worked toward a jurisdiction with less injured worker protections. This is wrong. An experienced attorney knows how to preserve your claim for workers’ compensation benefits in a timely manner in the jurisdictions that cover your claim, and they can pursue your claim under the laws most favorable to sustaining and protecting your and your family’s present and future. Like much of life, the answers to these questions usually are not crystal clear. An attorney at ChasenBoscolo is ready to help. We will take the time to talk with you about your goals, find out how we may be able to fight for you and put your best interests first in determining how to advance your case. Whether you were injured on an unseaworthy vessel or while loading cargo onshore, if you are a seaman, longshoreman, harbor worker or military contractor and were injured on the job or due to someone else’s negligence, you will benefit from experienced legal help.