The Longshore and Harbor Workers' Compensation Act and Occupational Diseases

Sometimes, workers at ports or other marine terminals suffer injuries during the course of their work. Depending on their circumstances, such a worker may be eligible for benefits under the Longshore and Harbor Workers' Compensation Act for their injuries.

Now, injuries are not the only type of harm maritime workers could end up suffering in connection to their job. For example, sometimes, exposure to hazards at work (such as chemical hazards) lead to a maritime worker developing an occupational disease. Occupational illnesses can come in a wide range of varieties, including auto-immune diseases, respiratory conditions, pulmonary diseases and skin diseases.

Now, one thing a maritime worker may wonder is: are LHWCA benefits just for standard injuries, or can a worker get such benefits for an occupational disease? Occupational diseases are included within the LHWCA's definition of injury, so an occupational disease can qualify an eligible maritime worker for LHWCA benefits.

One of the unique aspects of occupational diseases involves the timing of their development. Workplace injuries often show themselves right after exposure to the responsible hazard. Occupational diseases, on the other hand, may not develop to the point they can be detected until well after the exposure to the triggering hazards occurred. In fact, the disease might not show until after a worker has left their job or retired.

Given this, a LHWCA occupational disease benefits case can end up coming up well after a triggering workplace exposure occurred. This can create some unique challenges and issues when it comes to pursuing a claim for LHWCA benefits in relation to occupational illnesses. Experienced maritime lawyers can help individuals who are bringing a claim for LHWCA benefits for an occupational disease with addressing the unique issues of their particular claim.

Source: U.S. Department of Labor, "Division of Longshore and Harbor Workers' Compensation (DLHWC) - Longshore and Harbor Workers' Compensation Act Frequently Asked Questions," Accessed June 30, 2016