An Introduction to Handling LHWCA Claims

Understanding how longshore claims are administered and where relief can be obtained is helpful in handling claims. The claims system for resolving disputes under the LHWCA is administered by the United States Department of Labor. Since claims are initially handled by a carrier or self-insured employer, claimant's counsel should attempt to resolve disputes without resorting to an informal conference or formal hearing. Once an impasse is reached regarding compensation or medical treatment, counsel will ordinarily deal next with a United States Department of Labor claims examiner. An informal conference will be held where the parties to the dispute can discuss the issues. If an agreement cannot be reached, the examiner will render a written recommendation after the close of the conference. (LS-280). If the employer and carrier do not accept the recommendation, form LS-18's are customarily released to counsel with instructions to file the form with the district office. Thereafter, referral of the case to the Office of Administrative Law Judges occurs and a trial eventually takes place. Once the ALJ hears the case on the merits, a decision is rendered. Appeal of the case may be taken to the Benefits Review Board. Thereafter, an appeal may be taken to a United States Court of Appeals. Lastly, a petition for a writ of certiorari may be filed with the United States Supreme Court.


A chart setting forth the stages of dispute resolution appears as follows:

Reviewing the dispute resolution chart, the bulk of counsel's work will involve (a) informal attempts to resolve disputes prior to informal conference (b) preparation for and attendance at informal conferences and (c) preparation for and trial of formal hearings. The vast majority of claims are resolved short of the Benefits Review Board, a United States Court of Appeals or the United States Supreme Court. Recognizing that fact, counsel's system should focus on the handling of cases from the time the case is opened until the post-hearing brief is filed with the Administrative Law Judge.


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