The Jones Act contains provisions that protect commercial fishermen and merchant seamen while they perform their duties aboard maritime vessels. Jones Act maintenance and cure are two legal entitlements seafarers can use to help recover if injured at sea.
Maintenance and cure place a legal responsibility on ship owners and employers to provide compensation for the living expenses and medical expenses of seamen who are injured on their vessels. Understanding the basics of maintenance and cure is essential to protecting your rights if you are a seaman.
Generally, employers are obligated to provide seamen room and board while working on the employer’s ship. Maintenance extends this obligation in instances where an injured seaman is recovering from an injury or illness sustained at sea. In other words, maintenance requires the employers of seamen to pay for living expenses while an injured seaman recovers ashore.
Expenses such as rent, mortgage payments, homeowner’s insurance, utilities, property taxes, and food should generally be covered by Jones Act maintenance.
Other costs the law deems unnecessary, such as internet, cable, and car payments, do not fall under Jones Act maintenance. When a seaman is recovering from injury or illness, their employers should pay them compensation for the costs associated with covered expenses.
Cure is the equivalent of worker’s compensation for people who work at sea. If a seaman is injured at sea, their employer is responsible for reasonable medical expenses, just as if a land-based employee is injured on the job.
Cure compensation should also include the cost of transportation to and from medical services. Employers have the option to either compensate a seaman for their medical expenses or to pay the seaman’s medical providers directly.
Maintenance and Cure Benefits
All injured seamen are entitled to maintenance and cure benefits. These entitlements apply regardless of who is at fault for the underlying injury.
Injured seamen are entitled to these benefits until they reach maximum medical improvement. Basically, maximum medical improvement is the point at which a doctor determines that their patient is not expected to improve any further. Unfortunately, this does not always put an injured seaman in the same health condition as before they suffered the injury.
Maintenance compensation should be in an amount that covers a seaman’s actual household expenses while they recover. Cure should compensate the injured seaman for all reasonable and necessary medical fees and associated transportation costs.
Only people considered seamen under the law are eligible for maintenance and cure benefits. The term seaman is not defined in the Jones Act, but maintenance and cure are generally available to anyone who spends 30% or more of their working time aboard a sea vessel.
Johns Law Group, PLLC, Can Help
Unfortunately, some employers try to shortchange seamen when it comes to maintenance and cure responsibilities. If you suffered an injury while working at sea, Johns Law Group, PLLC can help. Our skilled attorneys have experience in maritime law and can help injured seamen recover the compensation they need. Contact us today and schedule a consultation.