As mentioned above, there is a federal workers’ compensation act known as the United States Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act. This federal workers’ compensation system applies to workers who are injured on a dock while loading or building docks to bridge builders, and to individuals who are only transiently employed on ships and barges. For example, an injured worker employed to go onto a vessel temporarily in order to perform electrical repairs would be covered by the Longshore Act, since his accident happened on navigable waters. Likewise, a dock worker who is employed to load and unload barges at a dock but who has no permanent connection to the vessels will be covered by the same law.
Another major classification of employees covered under the Longshore Act are workers on oil and gas platforms performing services on the Outer Continental Shelf. Under OCSLA, which is described above, all workers performing work on oil and gas platforms and upon other structures and on navigable waters on the Outer Continental Shelf are covered by the Act if they are not members of the crew of a vessel. In other words, all workers in the oil and gas industry performing work on the Outer Continental Shelf except those qualifying under the Jones Act are covered by the provisions of the Longshore Act.
The Longshore Act is administered by the United States Department of Labor/Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Division. Initially, a claim will be filed with the Longshore office, and a claims examiner will be appointed. The claims examiner attempts to resolve disputes between a claimant and an insurance adjuster and will make a recommendation on a disputed point concerning compensation benefits or medical payments. In the case of conflicting physicians’ opinions, as described above, a third doctor is appointed to “break the tie.” Formal disputes over claims are resolved by an administrative law judge employed by the United States Department of Labor. Any appeals of ruling of such a judge will be made to the Benefits Review Board in Washington, D.C. A party dissatisfied with any decision of the Benefits Review Board can appeal to the United States Fifth Circuit Court of Appeal.
An injured employee typically will enjoy slightly more generous benefits under the Longshore Act, as opposed to the Louisiana Workers’ Compensation Act. The maximum weekly benefits under the Longshore Act is approximately $1,200, as of August 2013. Additionally, no limit exists on compensation for a partial disability. Benefits paid to employees declared totally and permanently disabled must be paid for the employee’s life.