Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act (Overview)

Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act (LHWCA) is a federal law that provides compensation, medical care, and vocational rehabilitation services to employees disabled from on-the-job injuries that occur on the navigable waters of the United States, or in adjoining areas customarily used in the loading, unloading, repairing, or building of a vessel. The law also provides survivor benefits to dependents if the work injury causes, or contributes to the employee’s death.

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 vesselsNon-maritime employees may also be covered if they perform their work on navigable water and their injuries occur there.


The term “injury” includes occupational diseases, hearing loss, and illnesses arising out of employmentThe benefits under the LHWCA are typically paid by the self-insured employer or by a private insurance company on the employer’s behalf. The LHWCA is administered by the Division of Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation (DLHWC) within the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Workers’ Compensation Programs.



Longshore Act Extensions

Congress extended the LHWCA to include other types of employment. Employees covered by these extensions are entitled to the same benefits, and their claims are handled in the same way as Longshore Act claims. The extensions are:

  • The Defense Base Act (DBA): This extension covers civilian employees working outside the United States on U.S. military bases or under a contract with the U.S. government for public works or for national defense.
  • The Nonappropriated Fund Instrumentalities Act (NFIA): This extension covers civilian employees of non-appropriated fund instrumentalities of the Armed Forces, such as military exchanges and morale, welfare, and recreation facilities.
  • The Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act (OCSLA): This extension covers employees working on the outer continental shelf of the United States in the exploration and development of natural resources, such as offshore oil rigs.
  • The District of Columbia Workmen’s Compensation Act (DCCA): This extension covers private employees working in the District of Columbia prior to July 26, 1982.

Longshore Act Benefits

The LHWCA provides four types of benefits:


This benefit covers a portion of the employee’s lost wages due to disability or death resulting from a work injury. The amount of compensation depends on the type and extent of disability (temporary total, temporary partial, permanent total, permanent partial) and the employee’s average weekly wage at the time of injury. The compensation rate is generally two-thirds of the employee’s average weekly wage, subject to minimum and maximum limits that are adjusted annually.


This benefit covers all reasonable and necessary medical expenses related to a work injury. The employee has the right to choose his or her treating physician and may change physicians once with prior approval from DLHWC or an administrative law judge. The employer or its insurance carrier is responsible for paying for authorized medical services and supplies directly to the medical provider.


Vocational Rehabilitation

This benefit provides assistance to eligible injured employees who are unable to return to their usual work due to a work injury. The goal of vocational rehabilitation is to help the employee find suitable alternative employment within his or her physical and vocational abilities. The services may include evaluation, counseling, testing, training, job placement, and follow-up. The employee may also receive additional compensation during vocational rehabilitation.


This benefit provides compensation to eligible dependents if a work injury causes or contributes to an employee’s death. The amount of survivor benefits depends on the relationship and dependency status of the survivors. The compensation rate is generally 50% of the employee’s average weekly wage for one survivor, or 66 2/3% for two or more survivors, subject to minimum and maximum limits. The LHWCA also provides for reasonable funeral expenses up to a certain amount.

Longshore Act Claims

The LHWCA establishes a procedure for filing and adjudicating claims for benefits. The procedure involves the following steps:

Reporting a New Injury

The employee must report any work injury to the employer as soon as possible, but no later than 30 days after the injury or after the employee becomes aware of the injury. The employer must report any work injury that causes the loss of one or more shifts of work to DLHWC within 10 days of having knowledge of the injury. The employer must also provide the employee with a form to claim compensation (Form LS-203) within 10 days of having knowledge of the injury.

Filing a Claim

The employee must file a claim for compensation with DLHWC within one year of the injury or the last payment of compensation, whichever is later. The claim must be filed on Form LS-203 and must include information such as the employee’s name, address, date of birth, social security number, date and place of injury, nature and extent of injury, average weekly wage, and compensation claimed. The claim must be signed by the employee or his or her representative and mailed or delivered to the DLHWC district office that has jurisdiction over the claim.

Informal Dispute Resolution

After receiving a claim, DLHWC will assign a claims examiner to review the claim and contact the parties to gather information and evidence. The claims examiner will attempt to resolve any disputes between the parties informally through conferences, correspondence, or telephone calls. If an informal resolution is reached, the claims examiner will issue a memorandum of informal conference (Form LS-206) that summarizes the facts and issues of the claim and recommends an action to be taken by the parties. The parties have 14 days to object to the recommendation or request a hearing before an administrative law judge. If no objection or request is made, the recommendation becomes final and binding on the parties.

Formal Adjudication

If an informal resolution is not reached or if either party objects to the recommendation of the claims examiner, the claim will be referred to the Office of Administrative Law Judges (OALJ) for a formal hearing. The OALJ will assign an administrative law judge (ALJ) to hear and decide the claim. The ALJ will conduct a hearing where the parties can present evidence and testimony under oath and cross-examine witnesses. The ALJ will issue a decision and order (Form LS-18) that grants or denies benefits based on the facts and law of the case. The decision and order may be appealed to the Benefits Review Board (BRB) within 30 days of its issuance.


The BRB is an independent body within the Department of Labor that reviews and decides appeals from ALJ decisions. The BRB consists of five members appointed by the Secretary of Labor. The BRB will review the record of the hearing and issue a decision affirming, reversing, modifying, or remanding the ALJ’s decision. The BRB’s decision may be appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the circuit where the injury occurred within 60 days of its issuance. The Court of Appeals’ decision may be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court by writ of certiorari within 90 days of its issuance.

Frequently Asked Questions (F&Qs)

What is a longshore worker?

A longshore worker is a person who loads and unloads ships, barges, and other vessels. They also move cargo around on docks and warehouses. Longshore workers are typically employed by shipping companies, stevedoring companies, or ports.

What is CNMI workers compensation law?

The CNMI Workers’ Compensation Law is a social insurance program that provides financial protection for both employers and employees from the catastrophic effects of work-related injuries, illnesses, or deaths. It is a no-fault insurance program, solely paid for by the employer.

The law was enacted in 1989 and is administered by the Workers’ Compensation Commission (WCC). The WCC is an independent agency within the Department of Commerce.

The law covers all employers in the CNMI, regardless of the size of their business. It also covers all employees, regardless of their job title or salary.

How long do you have to report a work injury in California?

In California, you have 30 days to report a work injury to your employer. If you do not report your injury within 30 days, you may lose your right to workers’ compensation benefits.

There are a few exceptions to the 30-day rule. For example, if you were unconscious at the time of the injury, you have 30 days from the time you regained consciousness to report your injury.

What is employee compensation for?

Employee compensation is the total of all payments and benefits that an employer provides to an employee in exchange for their work. It includes salary, wages, bonuses, commissions, benefits, and any other forms of compensation.


Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act

Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act

Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act