Frustrated may not begin to describe how you feel when your maritime employer delays or denies paying you maintenance and cure benefits after a maritime accident. As an injured seaman, your right to maintenance and cure payments begins as soon as you are injured. However, not every employer protects your rights. Instead, some choose to try to save some money by denying you all or part of the payments to which you are legally entitled.
As an injured maritime employee, you have a right to workers’ compensation that includes a daily living stipend and the cost of medical bills. However, it is important to know which maritime law guarantees you the right to these benefits, since each one has different requirements and limitations on the amount of compensation available.
What Is Maintenance and Cure?
Maintenance and cure is the legal term for the injury payments maritime employees collect after they suffer an accident at work. These benefits may be given to seamen serving as crew members on a vessel at sea, but also to stevedores, dock workers, and other employees who work on or near the water.
Workers’ compensation benefits for harbor workers and seamen include:
Maintenance is compensation for an employee’s regular living expenses after an injury. Since a seaman would normally receive room and board while he is stationed on his vessel, maintenance is paid to offset the costs of housing an employee must pay to receive treatment off the ship. Maintenance can be used to reimburse an employee for his meals, rent, mortgage, homeowner’s insurance, property taxes, and water and power bills. However, some utilities (such as telephone or internet service) are typically not covered by maintenance.
Cure is the term used for any reasonable and necessary medical expenses associated with the injury. Since seamen are owed medical compensation for a work-related injury until they reach a point of maximum medical improvement, these payments may terminate when the employee is fully recovered. If an employee suffers a disability as a result of the accident, he may qualify for permanent disability payments.
Workers Who May Collect Maintenance and Cure Under Maritime Law
Like state workers’ compensation systems, maritime laws provide payment for a worker’s injury or illness regardless of who was at fault. However, most state workers’ compensation systems do not allow a worker to sue employers for negligence, while maritime law does allow these claims. In many cases, maritime employees need only to show that the employer or ship owner was one percent at fault for the accident in order to file a negligence lawsuit.
If your job requires you to work near water and you were injured in the scope of your employment, there is a good chance you will qualify for compensation under:
- The Longshore and Harbor Workers' Compensation Act (LHWCA). The LHWCA is a workers’ compensation system created specifically for employees in the maritime industry, such as longshoremen, harbor workers, and dockworkers. The LHWCA covers workers who are injured on navigable waters or adjoining areas, including those who load, unload, build, or repair vessels. The LHWCA also allows covered employees to collect temporary total disability benefits at 66 2/3 percent of the employee’s average weekly wage, and provides permanent partial disability payments to eligible workers.
- The Jones Act. Seamen covered by the Jones Act are owed benefits for injuries that occur at sea. To qualify, the employee must meet the definition of seaman and be injured in the course of his or her duties. If a faulty condition of the vessel (such as broken equipment or untrained crew members) caused the seaman’s injury, the Jones Act allows seamen to file unseaworthiness claims against an employer. The Jones Act also gives survivors the right to file a lawsuit when a shipowner's negligence causes a seaman’s death.
- General maritime law. If you do not meet the specific requirements of the Jones Act or LHWCA, you may still be entitled to benefits under general maritime law. General maritime law, also called admiralty law, provides payment for injuries that occur offshore, including maintenance and cure for workers who perform their duties on or near water.
If you are a maritime worker but are not sure which laws apply to you, we can examine the facts of your case and work to get you proper compensation for your injury. Fill out our quick online contact form or call (800) 362-9329 to speak with a maritime injury lawyer at Hofmann & Schweitzer as soon as possible.
What If My Maritime Injury Was Partly My Fault?
There are few situations in life where it doesn't matter whether you are the one at fault. Collecting maintenance and cure benefits after a maritime accident is, fortunately, one time where it doesn't matter if you caused your own injury.
The maritime doctrine of maintenance and cure is meant to provide an injured seaman with reasonable living expenses while the seaman can't be on his vessel, and with money to pay medical expenses up to the maximum medical cure so that he can recover from his injuries.
Unlike other maritime laws, a seaman may be able to recover damages even if he caused his own injury. Yet, some maritime employers may not be willing to share that information, or payments, with injured maritime workers.
If you have been hurt in any kind of maritime accident, then it is important to contact an experienced maritime accident attorney. A lawyer understands how the law applies to your situation, will explain your rights to you, and will fight hard to get you the just recovery that you deserve.
Can I Receive Punitive Damages For a Maritime Injury?
Without the help of a maritime attorney, it can be hard to recover the damages to which you are entitled. However, with the help of a maritime injury lawyer, you may be able to recover not only the maintenance and cure benefits which should have been provided to you but also punitive damages.
When Punitive Damages May Be Ordered
In 2009, the United States Supreme Court issued an important maritime ruling. The Court's decision in Atlantic Sounding v Townsend found that an injured seaman could recover punitive damages from an employer who willfully withheld maintenance and cure damages. As part of its reasoning, the Court emphasized that punitive damages have historically been allowed at common law for willful, wanton or outrageous conduct.
Our Maritime Injury Lawyers Can Help if Rightful Maintenance and Cure Benefits Has Been Denied
The primary goal of a maritime lawyer is to help you get what is legally yours. Your lawyer works for you and will fight for not only the maintenance and cure payments which have been wrongfully denied to you but also for any punitive damages to which you may be legally entitled.
For more information about your rights and your potential legal recovery, please call an experienced and compassionate maritime injury lawyer at 1-800-3-MAY-DAY. We look forward to helping you get the recovery that you deserve!