As an employer in Virginia, you no doubt carry state workers' compensation coverage in the event one of your employees is injured while working within the course and scope of his or her employment. But did you know that you could also be subject to the Longshore and Harbor Workers' Compensation Act ("LHWCA")?

LHWCA is a federal Act designed to provide compensation and medical care to employees disabled from injuries that occur on the navigable waters of the United States, and certain areas adjoining the water customarily used in the maritime industry. In addition, the LHWCA covers a variety of other employees through several extensions to the law.

Longshore claims can have a higher benefits schedule and more severe penalties for noncompliance; thus, this law can have extreme ramifications for companies who are not considered traditional "maritime" employers, but nevertheless have incidental LHWCA exposure. Failure to secure coverage carries serious consequences, including fines, imprisonment, and personal liability for executives, as well as the opportunity for the employee to maintain an action at law or in admiralty.

LHWCA insurance coverage can be expensive - generally two to three times the cost of state workers' compensation coverage. However, not having it could turn out to be more expensive than merely paying the insurance premiums. Therefore, if your business operations take your employees on or near the water, you are well-advised to consult with an experienced attorney to determine if you may be subject to the LHWCA, and if so, to secure proper LHWCA insurance coverage.