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Longshore workers’ compensation covers diagnosed PTSD

On Behalf of | Apr 7, 2020 | Maritime Law |

The law is clear that PTSD is covered under the LHWCA system, which covers longshore workers, harbor construction crews, those who repair, build or break ships and other some other workers too.

Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) can be a serious medical problem. The Longshore and Harbor Workers Compensation Act (LHWCA) covers it very much in the way and with the same kinds of requirements that it covers physical injuries and bodily illnesses.

A company tries to deny a longshoreman’s PTSD claim

A three-judge panel once again confirmed it when they ruled on a tragic accident that, it should be said, is not easy to think about.

In 2011 on a pier in a Virginia port, a longshoreman on a forklift was moving barrels full of equipment. He turned sharply to avoid colliding with a truck that was moving a shipping container.

But His forklift struck another worker walking the floor. She was pinned underneath and it took another forklift to try to free her. Her injuries were grisly, and the longshoreman stayed close as first responders tried unsuccessfully to save her life.

He spent the rest of the day repeating his memory of the event to one authority after another. The next day, he sought medical help from his primary care doctor. His PTSD was so obvious that she diagnosed it during the appointment.

Each doctor he saw over the next approximately 18 months agreed with the diagnosis, except the one hired by his employer who took legal action to deny his PTSD claim.

Panel says the law is clear and PTSD is covered

The company argued that the longshore worker did not cover the longshoreman for several reasons.

For PTSD coverage, they said, the worker had to either be in a “zone of special danger” or that his injury had to be both physical and psychological, or that he had to have been in immediate physical danger.

None of these conditions applied to his injury, but the law does not require them, the panel unanimously agreed. The panel wrote, “The LHWCA plainly does not encompass such a limitation … To be sure, Congress could have easily written the statute to contain such a requirement, but it did not.”