As you may know, if you are injured while working as a harbor worker or longshoreman, you are entitled to benefits under the Longshore & Harbor Workers Compensation Act (LHWCA). By extension of that law, if you are injured overseas while working for a U.S. contractor, you are entitled to benefits under the Defense Base Act (DBA). While the definitions of which workers are eligible under each act differ dramatically, the benefits are similar.
The reason Congress adopted the LHWCA and the DBA was to provide a uniform system of workers’ compensation for such workers throughout the country, and on jobs around the world, if working for a U.S. contractor.
Different Types of Workers: LHWCA Benefits
The Longshore & Harbor Workers Compensation Act defines a covered employee as “any person engaged in maritime employment, including any longshoreman or other person engaged in longshoring operations, and any harbor-worker including a ship repairman, shipbuilder, and ship-breaker.” However, please note that such term does NOT include:
- individuals employed exclusively to perform office clerical, secretarial, security, or data processing work;
- individuals employed by a club, camp, recreational operation, restaurant, museum, or retail outlet;
- individuals employed by a marina and who are not engaged in construction, replacement, or expansion of such marina (except for routine maintenance);
- individuals who (i) are employed by suppliers, transporters, or vendors, (ii) are temporarily doing business on the premises of an employer described in paragraph (4), and (iii) are not engaged in work normally performed by employees of that employer under this Act;
- aquaculture workers;
- individuals employed to build any recreational vessel under sixty-five feet in length, or individuals employed to repair any recreational vessel, or to dismantle any part of a recreational vessel in connection with the repair of such vessel;
- a master or member of a crew of any vessel (seamen); or
- any person engaged by a master to load or unload or repair any small vessel under eighteen tons net;
(These exclusion apply if the individuals described above are subject to coverage under a State workers’ or federal workers’ compensation law – and most are)
Other Important Exclusions
- If you are an employee of the United States, any state government or other foreign government, you are not covered under this law. This is because an assumption is made that you will be covered under another workers’ compensation program.
- If the injury occurred solely as a result of your intoxication or substance use, you will not be covered.
- If the injury occurred due to your own willful intention to harm yourself or others, you will not be covered.
The Defense Base Act covers the following employment activities:
- Working for private employers on U.S. military bases or on any lands used by the U.S. for military purposes outside of the United States, including those in U.S. Territories and possessions;
- Working on public work contracts with any U.S. government agency, including construction and service contracts in connection with national defense or with war activities outside the United States;
- Working on contracts approved and funded by the U.S. under the Foreign Assistance Act (Read More), generally providing for cash sale of military equipment, materials, and services to its allies, if the contract is performed outside of the United States;
- Working for American employers providing welfare or similar services outside of the United States for the benefit of the Armed Forces, e.g. the USO.
If any one of the above criteria is met, all employees engaged in such employment, regardless of nationality, are covered under the Act.
Whether under the LHWCA or the DBA, if you are injured, or if a loved one has died as a result of a work related accident, you are entitled to compensation under these laws. For an injured worker, these benefits include reasonable and necessary medical benefits, such as surgical and hospital treatment. It also includes payment of such things as prescription medications, physical therapy, diagnostic tests, attendant care, prostheses, hearing aids and necessary medical equipment, such as walkers or oxygen concentrators, and the cost of travel for medical treatment.
The laws also provide for payment of compensation for lost wages based on the type of disability: temporary partial, temporary total, permanent partial and permanent total disability. Generally, this amount cannot exceed two-thirds of the worker’s average weekly wage, subject to minimum and maximum amounts.
Don’t try to “go it alone!”
As you can see, there are many facets to understanding these laws. (We have not even discussed the compensation due if a worker is killed, look for another blog on that topic.) It is sometimes difficult to understand whether you are even be covered under any of the laws discussed here. Sometimes, it is difficult to obtain all the compensation you deserve. This is why you should get advice and help from experienced, qualified LHWCA & DBA attorneys. They can cut through the “legalese” of the regulations and procedures and make sure you are fully compensated for the injury. When you are injured, it can be a very trying time, physically, emotionally and economically.
Experienced LHWCA & DBA attorneys can help minimize some of this by assisting you in your claim. Don’t try to go it alone – seek help!