Longshore and Harbor Workers' Compensation Act

The Longshore and Harbor Workers' Compensation Act, 33 U.S.C. §§ 901950, commonly referred to as the "Longshore Act" or "LHWCA" is the statutory workers' compensation scheme, first enacted in 1927, that covers certain maritime workers, including most dock workers and maritime workers not otherwise covered by the Jones Act. In addition, Congress has extended the LHWCA to cover non-appropriated fund employees (i.e. AAFES employees), Outer Continental Shelf workers, and U.S. government contractors working in foreign countries.

The LHWCA is administered by the Division of Longshore and Harbor Workers' Compensation, a division of the Office of Workers' Compensation Programs of the United States Department of Labor.

Generally speaking, a worker covered by the LHWCA is entitled to temporary compensation benefits of 2/3 his average weekly wage while undergoing medical treatment, and then either to a scheduled award for injury to body parts enumerated in 33 U.S.C. § 908(c) or 2/3 of the workers' loss of earning capacity.[1] More specifically, the LHWCA entitles a worker to reasonable and necessary medical benefits and indemnity benefits. There are four categories of disability benefits: temporary total, temporary partial, permanent total, and permanent partial.[2] The difference between the types of benefits depends on whether the injured worker has achieved medical permanency, and whether the injured worker can return to work or suitable alternative employment.[3] In certain situations, permanent partial disability benefits are available for retirees. Once an injured worker has reached a state of permanency, they may request vocational rehabilitation services from the United States Department of Labor's Division of Longshore and Harbor Workers' Compensation.[4]

In 1972, the Longshore Act was amended to extend coverage landward for maritime workers. In 1980, the U.S. Supreme Court held that the Longshore Act did not supplant state workers’ compensation laws, but supplemented them (Sun Ship v. Pennsylvania, 447 U.S. 715 (1980)). In 1984, Congress amended the Longshore Act, but did not invalidate Sun Ship, so concurrent jurisdiction was preserved.


  1. "33 U.S.C. 908". 1984.
  2. "33 U.S.C. 908". 1984.
  3. "Louisiana Insurance Guarnaty Ass'n v. Abbott". United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit. 1994.
  4. "20 C.F.R. 702.501". Electronic Code of Federal Regulations - 702.501 Vocational rehabilitation; objective. U.S. Government Publishing Office.

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