The Right to Maintenance and Cure is One of the Most Basic Rights For Jones Act Seamen.
To be eligible for maintenance and cure, an injured seaman does not have to prove that his or her injury was caused by employer’s negligence.
Maintenance and cure is “no-fault” compensation, unlike a negligence claim under the Jones Act or an unseaworthiness claim under the General Maritime Law. If a seaman is injured or becomes ill while “in the service of the vessel,” his or her employer and the vessel owner are legally required to provide Maintenance and Cure.
A Seamen’s Right To Maintenance
Maintenance payments provide for the basic daily living expenses of a seaman such as rent, food or groceries and utilities. Maritime law does not specify a specific dollar amount for maintenance. However, many union collective bargaining agreements do. Maintenance rates vary from case to case, depending on the seaman’s circumstances and the provisions of any applicable union contract. Maintenance rates typically range from approximately $12 a day on the low side to $50 per day.
A Seamen’s Right To Cure
Cure refers to medical care for an injured or ill seaman. When a seaman is injured or becomes ill while in the service of the vessel, his employer and the ship owner are required to provide the seaman with all necessary medical care. This includes emergency medical care, hospitalization, surgeries, physical therapy, medications and, in some circumstances, transportation costs to and from doctors offices.
Maintenance and Cure Limitations
A seaman’s right to maintenance and cure begins immediately, at the time on injury. However, the obligation to provide Maintenance and Cure ends when the seaman’s condition reaches “maximum medical improvement” (MMI). MMI usually means the point at which a seaman is of permanent character, or will not improve with additional medical treatment. The determination of when a seaman’s condition has reached maximum medical improvement is usually left to the treating physician.
Some employers and ship owners, however, will try to terminate Maintenance and Cure early by using a company doctor they will call an “independent medical examiner.” This can be particularly devastating in cases of catastrophic injuries and illness, including paralysis, head trauma and brain injuries, asbestos and cancer.
For example, if a seamen suffered an injury that rendered him or her a paraplegic, maintenance and cure payments would only last until the seamen reached MMI. This could be a few months to a few years, even though the seamen will never return to duty and the injury will require life-long medical care.
Contact the Seamen Injury Hotline
Because Maintenance and Cure does not require that you prove any fault for your injury, your employer is required to voluntarily pay for your M&C expenses. While most employers do, it’s not uncommon for employers to try to deny or delay payments, or try to lower the daily maintenance stipend.
If you feel that you are eligible for Maintenance and Cure benefits and are experiencing any trouble collecting your compensation, you need to speak with a maritime attorney.
Call the Seamen Injury Hotline today at 888-732-6368, or complete our confidential form and we will follow up with you directly. We know the laws that protect every Jones Act Seaman and all maritime workers. We can help you understand your rights and how to protect them.