Longshore benefits are available to workers injured on recreational yachts over 65 feet and to those working on towboats or tugboats of any size per 33 USC 902 which is the Longshore statute. When the injury occurs on such a maritime vehicle, the questions are 1. what benefits are available and 2. what caused the injury. Let’s discuss the benefits that are available first.
Now under the Longshore statute, the injured worker will receive 2/3rd of the injured worker’s gross 52 week average of pay up to a maximum of $1,471.78 per week in 2018. If the accident caused death, then the family will receive $3,000 in funeral expenses PLUS compensation pursuant to 33 USC Section 906-909. This means the wife will receive 50% of the average wage of the decedent up to the maximum (presently $1,471.81 per week.) If there is one or more children an additional 16 2/3% will be paid again up to the maximum weekly compensation rate. The definition of children includes adopted children, stepchildren, an acknowledged child born out of wedlock, or a child born after the death of the injured worker. The widow’s benefits will terminate with her remarriage except for a two year stipend of compensation that will be paid in a lump sum. In the case of remarriage, the remaining children would then receive additional compensation. If one child then that child would receive 50% of the worker’s average wage and if there are additional children then all together the children will receive benefits equal to 66 2/3 % of the worker’s average weekly pay. Now the benefits paid to a minor child do not continue forever as they end when the child turns 18 or if the child is a student pursuing full time school their weekly benefits can be paid up to age 23.
If the deceased worker leaves no surviving spouse or child, then benefits will be paid to those DEPENDENT relatives including grandchildren, brothers or sisters or parents or any other person satisfying the definition of dependent under 26 USC 152. These people must prove the injured worker contributed to their living expense in some way, ie rent, cash, payment of bills, place to live, or the like.
Now often when we represent the widow and child, they choose a lump sum settlement instead of periodic payments. Now for the second question, what caused the injury. Generally with an explosion the fire department or a fire expert will make a causation determination. Depending on that determination, there can be a third party claim against the boat owner or a third party company provided those entities are not the employer which is paying the Longshore benefits. I have other blogs that go into greater detail on that topic as that interrelationship is key to handling both cases successfully. Third party claims can be brought for the injured worker’s family to recover both for the other 1/3 of his wage that they are out of pocket plus loss of support and love of the deceased worker. These third party claims can be maintained when the death results from an unsafe working condition or defect in the vessel. Again these third party claims can be brought against at fault entities other than the employer. These terrible accidents should not occur if proper safety requirements are followed.