Under maritime law, seamen who are injured or become ill while working at sea are entitled to maintenance and cure benefits from the owner of the vessel they were serving on at the time their injury or illness occurred. Unfortunately, many maritime workers aren’t well-versed in what maintenance and cure benefits are, how they work, and what qualifies a worker to receive them.
If you’re a maritime worker who was injured on the job, it’s important to understand these rights and how they can help you.
What Is Maintenance and Cure?
Maintenance is a daily payment made to injured seamen for living expenses, such as food and lodging, while they are recovering from their injuries or illness.
Cure is the reasonable and necessary medical expenses incurred due to the seaman’s injury or illness. These expenses can include doctor and hospital bills, the cost of physical therapy and medical devices, as well as transportation costs to and from the doctor.
An employer’s duty to pay maintenance and cured benefits is “virtually automatic.” An employer must pay maintenance and cure to a seaman who proves, by a preponderance of the evidence, that:
- He was employed as seaman;
- His injuries or illnesses occurred, manifested, or were aggravated while in the ship’s service;
- The wages to which he is entitled; and
- Expenditures for medicines, medical treatment, board, and lodging.
Even seamen who qualify for maintenance and cure may still require the services of Houston maintenance and cure attorney to ensure they get the total benefits they are due. If a seaman was injured because of the negligent actions of a ship owner or crew member, they may qualify for additional compensation under the Jones Act.
There are certain situations in which a ship owner is not obligated to provide maintenance and cure benefits. Examples include:
- The seaman is injured by his own willful misconduct.
- The seaman refused to accept the medical care offered by the ship owner.
- The seaman willfully concealed a pre-existing medical condition.
- The statute of limitations bars the claim.
If you’re employer claims you do not qualify because of these or other reasons, a skilled Houston maintenance and cure attorney will know the best way to address these issues to help you get the benefits you’re entitled to.
Maximum Medical Improvement
The employer remains responsible for providing maintenance and cure until the seaman reaches “maximum medical improvement.” “Maximum medical improvement” means the seaman has either been cured or his condition has been diagnosed as permanent and incurable.
Problems often arise when company physicians prematurely declare a seaman as having reached maximum medical improvement so they can terminate maintenance and cure benefits. In situations like this, it is best for a seaman to seek representation by an experienced Houston maintenance and cure attorney to protect their rights.
Get Help from a Houston Maintenance and Cure Attorney at The Ammons Law Firm
The Ammons Law Firm has an impressive track record when it comes to helping injured seamen get the maintenance and cure benefits they deserve. If you feel you have been unjustly denied maintenance and cure benefits or have been ordered to report back to work before you feel you have reached maximum medical improvement, we can also help.
Contact us today to schedule a free consultation with an experienced Houston maritime accident attorney. We’ll review the facts in your case and offer sound, professional legal advice on the best way to move forward with your Jones Act claim.