Definition of “Recreational Vessel” Will Remain the Same

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Workers’ compensation laws protect the rights of workers and allow for a means of recovery in the case of injury. There was a recent legislative win in Congress regarding the national workers’ compensation law.

The National Defense Authorization Act (H.R. 2810) for fiscal year 2018 did not change the meaning of the term “recreational vessel” under the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act (LHWCA), or Longshore Act for short.

The LHWCA is a federal law establishing the rules for payment of medical care, job rehabilitation, and monetary compensation to disabled employees hurt on the job on U.S. navigable waters.  It confirms the definition of a “recreational vessel” as one that is built or used primarily for pleasure, or is rented, leased, or chartered for that person’s pleasure.

Representatives Frankel and Byrne proposed an amendment to change the term “recreational” to include the vessel’s intention to be recreational based on its construction and design. This would include those vessels being repaired as well as public vessels, as long as the construction and design points toward recreation.

These changes would have shifted workers’ compensation coverage, specifically for workers who repair luxury boats and superyachts, from the broader LHWCA to a much more limited state workers’ compensation program. These changes were opposed by both the U.S. Coast Guard and the U.S. Department of Labor.

The definition of “recreational” would have been too subjective to adequately prevent uncertainty and confusion as to how it should be applied. The reduction of benefits to maritime workers by state workers’ compensations systems would have resulted in more litigation around this lack of coverage, which would have slowed down workers’ access to benefits.

As a member of the Workers Injury Law & Advocacy Group (WILG), the Firm of Howell and Christmas is committed to assisting attorneys and non-profits in representing and advocating for American workers and their families injured in the workplace. This Congressional win for maritime workers proves our work is paying off.

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