Maritime workers are not eligible for workers’ compensation for work-related injuries such as regular employees are under state or federal law. Instead they are covered by a special federal provision called The Longshore and Harbor Workers Compensation Act (LHWCA) which was originally enacted in 1927 to cover dock workers and longshoremen. It was only in 1972 that the LHWCA was expanded to include maritime workers that are not covered under The Merchant Marine Act of 1920, also known as the Jones Act, as well as civilians working on all US military bases as provided for by the Defense Base Act.
The LHWCA is generally more generous in terms of benefits than those accorded to employees covered by state-mandated workers’ compensation. The LHWCA, for instance, provides permanent partial disability payments while state workers’ compensation does not. Another difference is that the total temporary disability is equivalent to 67% of the maritime worker’s weekly wage while regular workers are paid just 60% of their average weekly wages under the workers’ compensation insurance. One thing they have in common is both are no-fault coverage as long as the injury or illness is work-related.
With these advantages, it is understandable that an injured worker would rather be covered under LHWCA than state workers’ compensation insurance, but the LHWCA only covers employees that spend a significant portion of the working day doing maritime or water transport-related work in an area that is on or near navigable waters. This excludes employees employed in the maritime industry but the nature of the work is exclusively secretarial or office work.
Other maritime industry employees excluded from the LHWCA are:
- Builders and their employees of ships less than 65 feet long
- Marina employees not engaged in replacement, construction, or expansion of the marina save for those in maintenance
- Recreational boat mechanics and repairmen
- Fish and related farming employees
- Employees covered under the Jones Act
If you satisfy the requirements for coverage under LHWCA and you sustain a work-related injury or illness, you may be eligible for LHWCA benefits. Consult with a maritime lawyer to find out your rights.