While most Americans are familiar with the concept of workers’ compensation, there is one industry that it doesn’t cover. Seamen and other maritime workers are covered under completely different laws including the Merchant Marine Act of 1920, the Longshore and Harbor Workers Compensation Act, and the Defense Base Act.
The Merchant Marine Act of 1920
Aptly named, the Merchant Marine Act was adopted in June 1920 and formalized the rights of seamen. Specifically, it allows injured sailors to make claims and collect from their employers for the negligence of the ship owner, captain, or fellow crew members. Because of the institution of the Jones Act, section 27 of the Merchant Marine Act, only workers who spend more than 30 percent of their time in the service of vessels on navigable waters are considered eligible for protection.
The Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act
Better known as the Longshore act or LHWCA, this legislation was enacted in 1927 to cover particular maritime workers, including most dock and maritime workers who were not covered by the Jones Act. In general, a worker covered by LHWCA is entitled to temporary compensation benefits of two thirds his or her average weekly wage during medical treatment, and then to either a scheduled award for injury to body parts or two thirds of the worker’s loss of earning capacity. As of 1972, the Longshore Act was amended to extend coverage landward for maritime workers. Generally speaking, maritime claims refer to claims made by persons working offshore on oil platforms, boats, cargo ships, and other sea vessels as well as those working along docks, terminals, or riverways.LHWCA benefits are paid directly by authorized, self insured employers. Overall, the Longshore Act provides more than $747 million in monetary, medical, and vocational rehab benefits.
The Defense Base Act
An extension of the LHWCA, the Defense Base Act covers those employed at U.S. defense bases overseas. Included are those performing the following duties:
- Work for private employers on U.S. military bases or any lands used by the U.S. for military purposes outside the U.S.
- Work on public work contracts with any U.S. government agency.
- Work on contracts approved and funded by the U.S. under the Foreign Assistance Act, if the contract i performed outside of the U.S.
- Work for American employers providing welfare or similar services outside the U.S. for the benefit of the Armed Services.
Defense Base Act laywers are a critical part of the claims process, as settlements are voluntary and no one side can force the other to settle. The amount of the settlement depends on what the employer or insurer could expect to pay if a case is not settled. Defense Base Act lawyers collect to contingency fees and are paid at an hourly rate. Generally, these costs are paid after litigation or at settlement by the employer or insurer.
Because the job locations for those covered under the DBA are overseas, insurance companies have trouble confirming an accident or injury with their insured employers, and the most common initial reaction to a claim is to deny it pending investigation. Litigation also usually occurs over issues such as average weekly wage calculation, whether additional medical care is necessary, when a worker have finally reached a point in the medical care where he or she won’t continue to improve, or the ability to return back to gainful employment. Most Defense Base Act lawyers focus on LHWCA and DBA claims to ensure that injured workers are protected and are allowed to argue their cases in court. Defense base act lawyers are, above all, trial attorneys, and won’t hesitate to bring a case to court when necessary.