Summary of Longshore and Harbor Workers Compensation Act, 33 USC § 90, LHWCA

The Longshore Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act is a federally administered program providing wage compensation and medical benefits to individuals who sustained injury or contracted an occupational disease while employed on a navigable waterway or the adjoining areas that are primarily involved in the loading, unloading, repairing or building of a vessel. In the event of death, the LHWCA provides for compensation benefits to be paid to the employee’s dependents.


longshore coverage lawThe LHWCA covers individuals employed in traditional maritime activities such occupations include: longshoring operations, harbor work, stevedoring, loading and offloading of vessels or products transported by vessels, ship repair, ship construction, general maritime construction. Certain categories of workers are specifically excluded among these are: the master or member of a crew of any vessel; persons involved in the loading/unloading/repair of any small vessel under eighteen tons net; U.S. government employees; clerical, secretarial, security, data processing staff; marina employees not engaged in construction or expansion of the marine; and persons temporarily working on the premises of a maritime employer who are not engaged in work normally covered under the act.


Individuals covered under the LHWCA are entitled to reasonable and necessary medical treatment, supplies and services related to the injury and reimbursement of travel costs related to the treatment. A covered individual has a right to a physician of his choice, including a chiropractor. However, a chiropractor may not serve as a primary treating doctor and treatment will be limited to manual manipulation of the spine intended to correct vertebrae that are displaced. Before choosing a physician, injured workers should request a list of the physicians not authorized to render medical care under the Act from their local Department of Labor, Office of Workers’ Compensation Programs. An injured employee covered under the Act may also be eligible for vocational rehabilitation services.


In a longshore claim, disability means an inability to earn pre-injury wages. Injured workers may receive compensation in four categories of disabilities. These are permanent total disability, temporary total disability, permanent partial disability, and temporary partial disability. Benefits are paid every two weeks and are based on a percentage of the injured employee’s pre-injury average weekly wage. The 2006 minimum weekly compensation is $278.61; the maximum weekly compensation is $1114.44. The weekly payment amounts are adjusted annually on October 1st, based on the national average weekly wage.

Benefits for permanent and temporary total disability are calculated at two-thirds of the pre-injury average weekly wage. An injured employee’s average weekly wage is an average of the earnings over the past 52 weeks. Therefore, individuals with long periods of unemployment or underemployment will have a substantially lower average than they may believe is appropriate based on their recent earnings.

Benefits for temporary partial disability is paid at a rate of two-thirds the weekly wage loss, based on loss of earning capacity. Permanent partial disability payments are intended to compensate the injured employee for the permanent loss of a body part or bodily function. The compensation for such a loss is based on a pay out schedule specified in the Longshore Act. The schedule assigns a certain number of weeks of compensation the injured employee may receive for the compensable loss.


longshore death claimsSurviving spouse benefits are paid at a rate of 50% of the average weekly wage either for the lifetime of the spouse or until he or she remarries. If dependent children also survive the employee, additional compensation may be paid to bring the death benefits to two-thirds of the employee’s average weekly wage.

Surviving dependants’ benefits are paid on behalf of one child at a rate of 50% of the average weekly wage. If more than one dependent child, the maximum benefit amount of two-thirds of the employee’s average weekly wage is paid and shared equally among the children. Benefits generally stop on the child’s 18th birthday. However, in certain circumstances they may continue beyond this time.

Other relatives may be eligible for death benefits upon showing financial dependence on the deceased employee.

Reasonable funeral expenses up to a maximum of $3000 may be paid under the Act.


  1. Notify your employer immediately and seek medical treatment.
  2. Consult a Lawyer about your rights.
  3. Provide written notice of your injury to your employer within 30 days.
  4. File a written claim for compensation with the Department of Labor, Office of Workers’ Compensation Programs within one year from the date of injury or death, or last payment of compensation for the injury.

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No matter where you live, the lawyers and attorneys at the Ogletree Abbott Law Firm can help you get the help you need. If you would like, a lawyer or an attorney can contact you to answer your questions. There is no obligation and the initial phone call is always free of charge. Call toll free 1-800-JonesAct (1-800-566-3722), or send us an email. Call today and let us help you with your Longshore Act claim.