Maintenance and Cure Attorney
A person who qualifies as a ‘seaman’ under the Jones Act is entitled to collect ‘maintenance and cure’ benefits from his employer. These benefits can generally be thought of as similar to workers compensation benefits that a person injured on land can collect. The seaman is entitled to maintenance and cure by simply proving that his injury is related to his work. It does not matter if he himself caused his own injury, or if the injury occurred while he was simply performing regular safe work such as picking up a small tool, or even bending over to tie his shoe while at work. If it happened at work, it is covered under maintenance and cure. It is extremely important to remember, however, that an injured seaman may also be entitled to money for pain and suffering, lost wages, mental suffering, future medicals, loss of fringe benefits, and other damages if his employer or a co-employee was at fault in causing or contributing to the accident.
Specifically, maintenance is meant to provide an injured seaman with enough money so that he can live on land in a manner similar to how he lived offshore or on the vessel. Maintenance should be enough money for a seaman to pay his rent or mortgage, pay for his electricity, pay for his food, and pay other basic expenses that he has on land when he gets injured. Unfortunately, in reality most companies only pay maintenance rates of $15 to $35 a day with the most common rate being around $20 a day. This practice has been going on for the last 20 years and most courts will not require a company to pay any more until a full trial has occurred on the case, including the issue of how much maintenance should have been paid to the employee. If the company was arbitrary or capricious (willful and with hate) in refusing to pay maintenance or the proper rate of maintenance, then the employee may be entitled to collect attorney fees, but only those fees associated with bringing the maintenance and cure claim.
Cure means any reasonable and necessary medical expenses, from a doctor the employee chooses, that are related to the accident. Most companies will offer the services of their own chosen doctors when an employee gets hurt. While some of these doctors may be fair with the employee, many of them will not. Some of these company chosen doctors receive many referrals from the company throughout the year, and the doctors want to keep the company happy. This may mean sending you back to work before you are ready to return, or refusing to run tests that would cost the company more money. When trying to determine what constitutes cure, it is important to know that ‘palliative’ treatment is not include under cure. This means that if the medical treatment will not help you get better, or it will not result in a betterment of your condition, it is not cure. Treatment that simply relieves pain and suffering, such as pain medicine and pain management, is most often not cure. This type of treatment, however, is collectable under the ‘fault based’ claim that the injured seaman will have if the company was a fault in the accident.
We have been dealing with complicated maintenance and cure issues for years. Please call us if you have specific questions about your situation. There is no charge to talk to us.
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