While the Jones Act and the Longshore and Harbor Workers' Compensation Act (LHWCA) provide wage loss and medical benefits to injured workers, these payments do not last forever. In most cases, benefits are terminated when the employee reaches maximum medical improvement (MMI), the point where the injury has stabilized and is no longer expected to improve regardless of further treatment.
It is important to note that reaching maximum medical improvement does not necessarily mean that you have recovered from the accident. In fact, for many workers, there is a big difference between recovery and MMI. For example, a person may be considered to have reached MMI if he:
- Is fully recovered and able to return to work
- Is disabled
- Will benefit from palliative treatment only (such as pain management or hospice care)
How Maximum Medical Improvement Affects Your Maritime Injury Claim
When a seaman or dockworker is declared to have reached a point of maximum medical improvement, the employer can terminate benefits, leaving the employee responsible for all future medical bills and daily living costs. For this reason, employers often try to establish MMI as quickly as possible after an employee is injured.
If your maintenance and cure benefits were suspended due to MMI, you may be able to get additional injury compensation through:
- Punitive damages. Federal maritime laws recognize how important is it for injured employers to receive the maintenance and cure benefits they are due. If your employer unfairly denied or terminated your benefits, you may be owed any unpaid maintenance and cure as well as punitive damages for the inconvenience.
- Jones Act negligence. If your injury was caused by an act of negligence by your employer, you may receive compensation by filing a negligence lawsuit. If successful, you may collect payment for your pain and suffering, lost wages, and lost earning capacity.
- An unseaworthiness claim. If you were injured due to faulty equipment or a defect in your vessel, you may be eligible to make an unseaworthiness claim against the owner of the vessel. While your past medical bills may have been paid by maintenance and cure, an unseaworthiness claim may pay for medical costs incurred since your benefits were terminated and any treatment you may need in the future.
If you are struggling after an injury at sea or while working on the harbor, we can investigate your claim and get you the compensation you are owed under the law. Fill out our quick online contact form or call us directly at 212.465.8840 to speak with a maritime injury lawyer at Hofmann & Schweitzer as soon as possible.