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Workers' compensation and medical expenses under the LHWCA

It is no secret that there are risks associated with working at Louisiana docks. In fact, some of the first worker's protests in America were carried out by shipbuilders back in the 1600s. A long history of collective efforts has led to the current formal protections under the Longshore and Harbor Workers' Compensation Act.

This progress should not lead to complacency, as courts do not always rule in favor of injured workers. A Fifth Circuit decision in 2017 overturned a previous Western District of Louisiana decision, restricting compensation available to LHWCA employees in certain cases. Qualifying employees include, but are not limited to:

  • Stevedores
  • Shipbuilding and maritime repair workers
  • Cargo handlers

The National Law Review discusses the decision, which has to do with certain medical expense compensation awards. Essentially, the court decided that an injured worker could only claim the medical expenses that were paid, rather than the total amount billed. This case might now be used as precedent when deciding the amount of certain awards.

Workers might obtain recompense for their injuries via other methods, apart from suing for medical expenses. For example, the United States Department of Labor lists many types of conditions that could qualify for compensation under the LHWCA:

  • Hearing loss
  • Limb or digit loss
  • Permanent or temporary total disability
  • Loss of life

Injured workers and their families have several avenues by which they might obtain compensation, such as those established by the DOL. However, the law is always changing. It is the duty of the attorneys who represent injured workers to maintain the current protections and enhance them appropriately in the face of tougher job markets, skyrocketing medical expenses and other changes in society.

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