Serious injuries happen all the time to workers on ships and other maritime vessels – and the right to “maintenance and cure” is one of the most important benefits that an injured seaman can have under the Jones Act.
Generally speaking, to qualify as a seaman, 30% or more of your work activity must be carried out on a vessel that’s afloat and operational. This means that anybody from a cruise ship’s cook to a worker on an oil rig may be considered a seaman. If you’re an injured seaman or your loved one is, this is what you need to know:
Your right to maintenance and cure doesn’t depend on negligence
Unlike negligence claims against an employer under the Jones Act, maintenance and cure is no-fault compensation that is guaranteed to any seaman who is injured or sickened while in service of their vessel. With that in mind:
- “Maintenance” is, essentially, a per diem room and board payment (which can vary according to local rates and whether or not you belong to a union). It’s designed to make up for the room and board you would normally receive while working on your vessel.
- “Cure” is your right to receive any necessary medical treatment for your work injury. This can include hospitalization, visits with doctors, surgery, medication costs and physical therapy. It may even cover your transportation to and from medical visits under certain situations.
It’s important to understand that you are only eligible to receive maintenance and cure until you reach the point of “maximum medical improvement” (MMI). Your MMI date is whenever your doctors say that you have either fully recovered or reached the point where no further recovery is possible.
Naturally, employers don’t want to pay maintenance and cure any longer than they must, so they sometimes try to end maintenance and cure earlier than they should. They may also challenge your medical treatment by alleging that it is unnecessary and that you aren’t doing your part to mitigate the expenses.
If you’re struggling to get the benefits you’re rightfully due under the Jones Act, seek legal guidance quickly to protect your legal interests.