Benefits Available Under the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act in Charleston

The Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act, like most compensation acts, provides medical benefits past and future and weekly checks for temporary total disability or temporary partial disability.

Temporary total disability is somebody who cannot return to any work after their injury for a period of time. Temporary partial disability is somebody who temporarily can return to work, but works fewer hours for a smaller wage, or a combination of the two.

To better understand the benefits available under the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act, it is important to consult with an experienced attorney immediately. After a Charleston Longshore and Harbor Worker’s accident, it is imperative to obtain legal counsel as soon as possible.

Determining the Rate of Compensation

One of the big differences between the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Act and state workers’ compensation act is that the compensation rate allowed to be paid to the injured worker is much higher.

In any worker’s compensation act there is a maximum compensation rate. Even if the person makes $4,000 a week, under the state act, for example, depending on the year the person is injured, the compensation is somewhere in the $700 to $760 range currently. For the longshore workers, the compensation is much higher. The person could end up in the $1,200 range.

There is a maximum compensation rate but that max comp rate is hundreds of dollars higher. It does not mean the person automatically qualifies for that rate. The person must have an average weekly range where two-thirds of it would be higher. When someone has that, in most cases, these are high paying jobs close to six figures or more. The worker is at a high risk so they get a higher pay.

Compensation Benefits

Their compensation rate in most cases is likely much higher than it would be under state workers’ compensation. It is higher than a Jones Act seaman who receives maintenance secure, a stipend that covers the food and shelter that the person would have been provided on the vessel they were assigned to.

The compensation act is one of the big things the worker should check to make sure they are properly categorized. The compensation from their injuries could be double, triple, or quadruple the amount of benefit they might be entitled to under some other system.

Covered Benefits

Benefits available under the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act include the medical weekly checks in the event that somebody is out of work and payment for disability or some type of wage loss.

The typical case is the worker is doing their job, loading cars or goods on and off a vessel. The injury occurs, the worker reports the injury, the employer reports the injury to their insurance carrier, and the insurance carrier allows them to file.

Obtaining the Right Medical Expert

The injured worker should talk to an experienced Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation attorney who can look out for their best interest and get them to the right medical expert. Regarding the benefits available under the Charleston Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation act, the lawyer ensures that the injured worker has the doctor of their choosing and has the right expert to address their injury under this system.

The employer sometimes wants to send the injured worker to a general practitioner for a bad knee or a shoulder or back injury. The lawyer can push for an expert such as an orthopedic doctor, neurosurgeon, or other specialist that is best suited for the type of injury.

The lawyer also monitors the medical treatment being recommended and is the type of treatment the doctor wants. When treatment such as diagnostic imaging like MRIs and CT scans, surgery, physical therapy, medication management, and injection therapy or whatever else is needed to get the injured worker through that stage of treatment is provided, the maximum medical improvement level is reached.

It does not mean the injured worker is all better; it just means that they hit a plateau. They may get better or they may get worse; but the doctor feels they are medically about where they are going to be.

Once the person gets to the right doctor with the right expertise, the next step is to make sure that the injured worker’s weekly checks start. When someone is completely out of work, they should get temporary total disability checks right away so they can pay their bills and not get behind. Once a person gets behind, it is hard to catch up.

Ensuring Correct Pay

The other thing the lawyer addresses immediately is the injured worker’s compensation rate. Too often, the employer and the insurance carrier leave out things like container oil piece or vacation holiday pay or other types of per diem benefits or bonuses that should be included in the average weekly wage. That affects the compensation rate to be paid to the injured worker.

When the compensation issues are resolved, the lawyer monitors the medical treatment to make sure that the insurance company and assigned nurse case manager do not inappropriately urge the doctor to push the injured worker back to work too soon where further injury can occur.

At that point, the lawyer gets final opinions regarding future medical care and treatment, impairment, permanent work restrictions, and many issues that must be discussed. When the lawyer has all of the opinions and meets the legal standard required to prove the issues in the case, they move forward to get the insurance company to pay the proper benefits that remain for the injury through a settlement.

Mediation Process

When a settlement cannot be reached, the lawyer can ask for mediation. The defense, the claimant, and the lawyers for both sides meet and concentrate on the one case to try to resolve it. If a resolution is not possible, the parties move on to a merits hearing through the Department of Labor, and then on to the administrative law judge, if necessary.

This is a very complex area of the law. There are many moving parts and many things can happen. Having an experienced Longshore and Harbor Workers’ lawyer to help with the case is extremely important.

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