Maintenance and Cure
Working on a vessel operating on the open water is a dangerous job. Under the law, maritime workers who sustain injuries at sea are entitled to certain remedies. One legal option an injured sailor or seaman has is the right to obtain maintenance and cure from his or her employer.
Most maritime workers have heard of the terms maintenance and cure, and are aware that they are types of compensation for maritime injuries. Few employees, however, really understand their rights with respect to receiving maintenance and cure.
Maintenance and cure are remedies under the law that allow maritime workers to collect compensation for daily living expenses when they are unable to return to work due to a severe illness or injury related to work and payment for medical bills incurred due to such injuries. Unlike a claim for damages under the Jones Act, maintenance and cure is awarded to an individual, regardless of who is at fault for the injury.
“Maintenance” refers to the payment of daily living expenses. Examples include food, housing, utilities, rent or mortgage payments, and groceries. Injured seamen may also be entitled to recover incidentals in some instances, such as transportation expenses to and from a hospital or doctor. Maintenance payments are designed to make paying bills a bit easier for the injured employee during the time when the employee is unable to work.
Maritime law does not provide a set amount that must be paid to seamen for maintenance. Maintenance rates tend to be very low, with most maritime workers only receiving approximately $20 to $40 a day. However, the law requires the employer to reimburse to the injured seaman reasonable daily living expenses, so an injured seaman may be entitled to much more than the employer is initially willing to pay for maintenance.
“Cure” refers to the vessel owner’s legal obligation to pay and provide for all reasonable and necessary medical costs associated with the employee’s injury or illness. These include coverage for initial and ongoing expenses for medical treatment, surgeries, prescriptions, medical testing, rehabilitative therapy, hospital stays, and the like.
Maintenance and cure rights begin as soon as a maritime injury occurs, and continues until the injured sailor or seaman reaches a state of MMI or maximum medical improvement.
Ideally, employers should voluntarily strive to meet every need and expense of an injured employee. Unfortunately, this is not the case. Although every seaman has the right to maintenance and cure, there are employers who avoid financial responsibility and attempt to delay payments, deny claims, or contribute a monetary amount that is lower than what an injured person needs to survive. An employer caught wrongfully withholding maintenance and cure payments may be subject to punitive damages.
It is also common for employers to offer to schedule appointments with company doctors or to offer the help of a nurse or medical consultant. This is because employers are generally eager to see an injured worker obtain maximum medical improvement as soon as possible and often prematurely in order to eliminate the need to pay additional maintenance and cure.
Recovering maintenance and cure benefits is not always easy. Injured maritime workers face an uphill battle, and it is important for an injured seamen to consult with an attorney with knowledge and experience in maritime law.
If you or your loved one has suffered a serious injury while working on a vessel at sea and need assistance with your maintenance and cure claims, call Corpus Christi Tx Jones Act and maritime lawyer Sheadyn R Rogers of Rogers Law Firm at (361) 356-6057 or fill out the law firm's online consultation request form for a free consultation concerning your case.