Maintenance and Cure Benefits For Injured Jones Act Workers

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Employers must provide maintenance and cure benefits to a Jones Act seaman who suffers an injury or illness while in the service of the ship.  Many workers think of maintenance and cure as worker’s compensation insurance.  However, the right to payment of maintenance and cure generally covers more than workers compensation.  The obligation to pay maintenance and cure arises if the injury occurs, or if it manifests, while the seaman is in the service of the ship. 

Maintenance and Cure benefits are separate and apart from other damages that an injured Jones Act seaman may be entitled to.  While employers are not obligated under the law to immediately pay (settle) an injured workers Jones Act / Maritime law injury claim, the duty to begin paying maintenance and cure begins upon the occurrence of the injury or manifestation of the illness. 

What is Maintenence?

"Maintenance" is the seaman’s reasonable expenses of room and board while ashore, unit the seaman reaches maximum medical improvement.  Maximum medical improvement is the point at which a person has recovered as much as possible with reasonable medical treatment.  Maximum medical improvement does not mean full recovery.  Traditionally, courts have set maintenance payments quite low, and many times the amount of maintenance an injured worker is entitled to is already set by a Union contract.  The seaman must show that he has incurred expenses in order to be entitled to maintenance payments.  The seaman is not entitled to maintenance while hospitalized, since the hospital bill, and thus the daily expenses, are paid through cure.  The law is very complex in the area of maintenance, with different circuit courts considering different factors when making a determination as to whether worker with a Jones Act / Maritime law personal injury claim is entitled to maintenance and cure.

Cure and Medical Expenses

"Cure" is the reasonable and necessary medical expenses incurred by the seaman for curative treatment.  Employers also have the duty to furnish adequate medical treatment aboard the vessel after the seaman injured.   If the employer’s failure to provide prompt, reasonable medical treatment causes the seaman’s condition to worsen, the employer may be liable for compensatory damages to the injured worker, including an award for additional pain and suffering. 

The McCorpen defense

The employer is generally obligated to pay maintenance and cure benefits that manifested itself before the employer began service on the ship, then manifest again while in the service of the ship.  However, it the seaman willfully concealed that pre-existing condition to the employer upon being hired, the employer would not owe maintenance and cure.  This is sometimes referred to as the “McCorpen” defense.  If the employer requires a medical examination the seaman’s obligation is to truthfully answer those questions asked by a health care provider or in the hiring process.  If the employer does not require a physical examination, the worker would only be required to disclose conditions that he reasonably could be expected to know the employer would consider in hiring him.  Finally, even where “concealment” is found, if will not defeat the employer’s obligation to pay maintenance and cure benefits under the law unless it is the cause of the current injury or condition.

If an employer’s failure to properly pay maintenance and cure benefits if willful, persistent or callous, the seaman may also be entitled to an award of attorney’s fees. 

Get Maintenance and Cure As Soon As Possible

Many times, an experienced Jones Act lawyer will join the claim for maintenance and cure with Jones Act and unseaworthiness claims in which he asks for a jury trial.   However, it is possible to seek an early hearing in which the Jones Act plaintiff’s lawyer seeks a pre-trial determination from the court that the injured worker is entitled to immediate payment of maintenance and cure.  If the employer failed to pay maintenance and cure, and it is later determined through trial that the seaman is entitled to maintenance and cure, the court will award a lump sum payment.

Our maritime injury attorneys have years of experience handling maintenance and cure issues. If you or a loved one has been injured and need maintenance and cure benefits, call an experienced maritime law and admiralty law at White Flood, PLLC today toll free 1 (866) 500-4394.  For more information, you can visit our website at www.Maritime-Injury-Lawyer.com.


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