Maritime and Offshore Injury Law: The Longshore Act and OCSLA

Injuries involving maritime employees are not handled in the same way as injuries to employees on land. On land, work related injuries in most cases lead to workers’ compensation claims. For maritime workers, there are several laws that might apply, and through which an injured employee might be able to seek compensation. These include general maritime law concepts such as unseaworthiness and maintenance and cure, and the Jones Act. For those workers who do not qualify under the Jones Act, many can look to the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act (Longshore Act). Additionally, through the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act (OCSLA), the protections provided in the Longshore Act are extended to additional types of workers.

The Longshore Act

The Longshore Act is a federal law that takes the place of state workers’ compensation laws when certain types of maritime workers are involved. The employees covered by the Longshore Act consist of those who work in shipyards, docks, or shipping terminals. Shipbuilders, shipbreakers, harbor workers, and longshoremen can seek compensation for their injuries through the Longshore Act. In determining if an employee qualifies under the Longshore Act, maritime workers must meet certain requirements, namely, the status test, and the situs test. First, under the status test, the work the employee performs must involve maritime duties, in other words, he or she must have duties related to the water or water related transport. Workers who are strictly office employees often do not qualify. Secondly, under the situs test, the employee must near, on or adjacent to navigable water.

The Longshore Act tends to offer superior benefits to injured employees over land based workers’ compensation claims. This includes higher temporary disability benefit payments and permanent partial disability payments, which are not always covered by workers’ compensation claims, depending on the state. Because of this, if an employee has a possibility of qualifying under the Longshore Act rather than filing a state based workers’ compensation claim, they should try to do so.


The OCSL defines the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) as “all seaward lands lying seaward of State coastal waters (3 miles offshore) which are under U.S. jurisdiction.” The OCSLA was signed into law in 1953 to address the question of ownership rights of offshore resources as the exploration of and drilling of offshore oil and gas was becoming more common. Within the OCSLA, Congress addressed the issue of injuries to workers conducting work related to the exploration for, removal of, and transportation of natural resources on the OCS. The OCSLA states that workers injured under these circumstances will be covered by the Longshore Act. In addition to the type of work an employee must be engaged in to qualify under the Longshore Act via the OCSLA, the employee must also be injured as a result of work that is substantially related to the work on the OCS, though the accident does not have to physically occur there.

Understanding which laws apply to an individual’s injury

While figuring out whether an employee qualifies for workers’ compensation on land is relatively simple, employees who have the possibility of qualifying under a law meant to protect maritime workers are faced with a complex set of rules and laws that have developed over many years. The upside to this is that most of the laws that exist to help maritime workers offer more benefits than state workers’ compensation claims.

All of these laws exist to address the dangerous nature of many maritime jobs, and to provide better channels in which maritime workers can seek the compensation they need. In order to understand the best course of action for you, and to benefit from these maritime laws, you should consult with an experienced maritime attorney.

Contact Stern Law, PLLC for A Free Consultation

At Stern Law, PLLC, we have compassionate and caring attorneys ready to work with you in order to find the best strategy for seeking compensation for your maritime employment related injuries. Contact Stern Law, PLLC today at (844) 808-7529 for a free consolation with an experienced attorney.

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