How injured dockworkers and shipbuilders get compensated in Georgia under the LHWCA
Employees working on the docks or harbors along Georgia’s many coastal and inland waterways are often exposed to a high risk of a work-related injury. The injuries suffered by harbor workers and longshoremen (a person hired by a port to unload and load ships) may cause temporary unemployment or have life-long effects.
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Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act
The Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act (LHWCA) compensates workers or their families when a disabling injury or fatality occurs while employed on the United States navigational waters.
According to the U.S. Department of Labor:
The LHWCA covers employees in traditional maritime occupations such as longshore workers, ship-repairers, shipbuilders or ship-breakers, and harbor construction workers. The injuries must occur on the navigable waters of the United States or in the adjoining areas, including piers, docks, terminals, wharves, and those areas used in loading and unloading vessels. Non-maritime employees may also be covered if they perform their work on navigable water and their injuries occur there.
A wide range of common injuries incurred by dockworkers is covered under the act, including:
- Asbestos-related injuries
- Crush injuries
- Bone fractures and breaks
- Repetitive use injuries
- Respiratory conditions
Longshoreman compensation vs. Georgia workers’ comp
Injured longshore employees may be inclined to file a claim for Georgia workers’ compensation since they are similar in a number of ways. For example, both Georgia workers’ compensation and the LHWCA generally pay injured employees approximately two-thirds of their weekly salary if they are deemed to be temporarily disabled.
However, the longshoreman compensation program has its distinct advantages.
For starters, longshoreman and harbor workers are eligible for additional benefits which are not generally available to injured workers under the state’s workers’ compensation program.
On the flip side, Georgia’s workers’ compensation program typically processes claims within a shorter length of time, which enables injured employees to start receiving benefits sooner. When the LHWCA claim hearing occurs, and the claim is approved, employees receive benefits minus the amount paid by the state.
Types of available LHWCA benefits
Under the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act, injured maritime workers are entitled to:
- Temporary partial disability (TPD)
- Temporary total disability (TTD)
- Permanent partial disability (PPD)
- Permanent total disability (PTD)
Additionally, the LHWCA may provide compensation to employees for injury-related medical expenses and transportation to and from medical or rehabilitation appointments. If the injury or injuries sustained prevent a maritime employee from returning to their occupation, the program provides vocational rehabilitation benefits.
How to calculate LHWCA benefits
The Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act determines injured mariner benefits based on the individual’s average weekly wage at the time of the accident. The simple method involves using the worker’s average annual earnings and dividing the amount by 52 weeks.
For temporary partial disability claims, the benefits paid are 66 percent of the difference between the employee’s wages before the accident and what they are able to earn after suffering the injury. For example, if a worker was paid $1,000 per week but their current wage is $500, the benefits received would be $330. An employee filing a temporary total disability claim receives 66 percent of their annual wage. Temporary benefits are paid for the duration of the disability (not to exceed 5 years).
Workers filing a scheduled permanent partial disability receive compensation for a designated number of weeks according to the schedule specifying the impairment suffered. Those deemed to have an unscheduled permanent partial disability receive benefits for an impairment not listed in the schedule. The determination is made in the same manner as temporary partial disability benefits or 66 percent of the difference between the former wage and the current earning capability.
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How to file for LHWCA compensation
A chronic condition may occur secondary to asbestos or chemical exposure. Under these circumstances, the employee may not develop symptoms for months or years after the fact. If the employee’s claim involves hearing loss, respiratory illness or other disease processes caused by the occupation, the worker must file a claim within 2 years of receiving the diagnosis.
By law, employers must file the report within 10 days after they became aware of the injury. If the employer does not immediately file an LS 202 Employer’s First Report of Injury with the Department of Labor’s Office of Workers’ Compensation Programs, injured workers have 12 months from the date the employer files the document to submit a claim.
Another exception involves an employer paying an injured worker voluntarily prior to a claim being filed. In this instance, a claim must be filed by the worker within 1 year after the day of the last payment.
In the event that a mariner accident resulted in the death of an employee, the worker’s survivors or their legal representatives must file the Form LS-262 Claim for Death Benefits within 1 year after the date of death.
Other necessary documentation required often includes a marriage certificate, birth certificate of eligible dependents, medical records and death certificate of the deceased. In order for the family to receive funeral expense benefits, a completed Form LS-265 must be submitted.
When to consult a Georgia workers’ comp attorney
If you were injured while working as a longshoreman, port employee or dock worker, then Georgia’s workers’ compensation process may seem complicated. Your claim may even be initially denied. Consulting with an experienced Georgia workers’ compensation attorney who is well-versed in the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act and maritime injury claims such as yours increases the likelihood that you will receive the maximum benefits to which you are entitled.