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Injured While Doing Harbor Work? Here's How to Obtain Benefits Longshore & Harbor Workers Compensation Act - LHWCA - Status & Situs

Situs & Status

The Longshore and Harbor Workers' Compensation Act (LHWCA) is a Federal law that requires maritime employers to provide workers’ compensation insurance coverage for employment-injury and occupational-disease for workers who are injured or contract occupational diseases occurring on the navigable waters of the United States, or in adjoining areas, and for certain other classes of workers covered by extensions of this Act.

In most cases in California, maritime workers whose work-injuries are covered under the LHWCA also qualify for coverage under State law at the same time.  Although the benefits structure is similar between the two systems, in some cases, the amount of workers’ compensation benefits under the LHWCA is greater than that under the State system and injured workers are allowed to choose the larger benefit.  

While duplicate benefits are not allowed, injured workers are allowed to pick and choose the greater benefit from either the Federal system or the State system when both jurisdictions apply to a single workers’ compensation claim.  This dual jurisdiction can be used to great advantage for the injured worker.

In order for a work-injury to qualify for coverage under the LHWCA the injury must have happened at a covered job, you must be a covered employee, and the employer must be a covered maritime employer.

A job site covered by the LHWCA must meet the definition of “situs.”  This includes:

  • Navigable waters of the United States;
  • Adjoining pier;
  • Wharf;
  • Dry dock;
  • Terminal;
  • Building way;
  • Marine railway; or
  • Other adjoining area customarily used by an employer in loading, unloading, repairing, dismantling or building a vessel.

A covered employee must meet the definition of “status.”  This includes:

  • Longshoremen or anyone engaged in longshoring operations;
  • Stevedores;
  • Winch operators;
  • Hold men;
  • Clerks and checkers;
  • Dock men;
  • Forklift operators;
  • Warehousemen performing any tasks related to longshoring operations;
  • Harbor workers;
  • Ship repairmen;
  • Shipbuilders;
  • Ship-breakers;
  • Pile-drivers and any workers constructing piers, wharves, sewer outfalls, or any facility used as an aid to navigation or maritime commerce.

A qualifying maritime employer is one that falls under the broad definition of any employer whose employees are employed in maritime employment.

The LHWCA also specifically excludes certain workers from coverage.  These include:

  • An officer or employee of the United States or any of its agencies;
  • An employee of any State;
  • An employee of any municipality;
  • An agent of any foreign government;
  • An employee whose injury is caused solely by his own intoxication;
  • An employee whose injury occurs solely as a result of his attempt to injure or kill himself or another;
  • Office clerical workers covered under State law;
  • Personnel for a club, camp, recreational operation, restaurant, museum, or retail outlet covered under State law;
  • Marina personnel covered under State law;
  • Personnel for suppliers, transporters, or vendors temporarily doing business on the premises of the maritime employer who do not normally do the type of work performed by the employees of the maritime employer and are covered under State law;
  • Aquaculture workers involved in commercial cultivation and harvest of aquatic plants and animals covered under State law;
  • Personnel involved in the construction, repair, or dismantling of any recreational vessel under sixty-five feet in length who are covered under State law;
  • A master or member of a crew of any vessel;
  • Anyone engaged by a master to load, unload, or repair any small vessel under eighteen tons net.


William Turley
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