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Loss of consortium and the Longshore Act

Those in Manhattan who work in the maritime industry likely understand that the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act offers them financial assistance if and when they are injured on the job. Yet exactly how far do those benefits extend. Oftentimes, a maritime accident affects not only the accident victim, but their families as well. The effect of an injury may make it impossible for one to enjoy the same type of relationship with family members again (particularly with their spouses). In such a case, are there benefits made available to a maritime worker’s spouse. 

The loss of emotional companionship and physical affection is (according to the Cornell Law School) referred to as “loss of consortium.” Such compensation is typically referred to as “non-pecuniary damages,” in that their value cannot be easily quantified. For example, an exact monetary value can be assigned to how much one owes in medical bills or lost wages. However, how much one’s relationship with their spouse is worth may be open to interpretation. Many tort cases allow for the awarding of non-pecuniary damages. Claims made under the Longshore Act, however, typically do not. 

That does not necessarily mean that a spouse cannot be awarded damages for loss of companionship. The U.S. Department of Labor shows that Section 905(b) of the Longshore Act allows third-party claims to be made against a vessel when negligence on the part of its owners and operators (and not necessarily a maritime worker’s employer) is responsible for an accident. In a case like this, the injured party (and their family) can be awarded non-pecuniary damages, including (but not limited to) compensation due to loss of consortium. 

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