Serious accidents and injuries occur on ships and vessels every day. When a seaman is injured while working on a ship, offshore rig or platform, jack-up rig, a drill barge or other type of maritime vessel, the seaman is entitled to seek compensation from his or her employer. The Jones Act is a federal statute that gives injured seamen important legal rights, including the right to receive maintenance and cure benefits from their employers. A Jones Act maintenance and cure lawyer understands what’s at stake and protects your rights.
Willis Law Firm has over three decades of experience helping injured seaman obtain the compensation and benefits that they are legally entitled to receive. We know the ins and outs of maritime injury law and we are well aware of the tactics many employers use to avoid paying maintenance and cure benefits.
We also know that depending upon the circumstances of your case, you may be able to recover additional damages from your employer and other parties responsible for your injuries under general maritime laws and other legal theories and remedies. When you work with our firm, our legal team will carefully analyze every angle of your case and help you recover the maximum amount of compensation that you are entitled to.
What Do I Need to Know About Jones Act Maintenance and Cure Maritime Law?
No Fault Remedy. Maintenance and cure benefits are available to injured seamen regardless of who is at fault for the accident or injuries. If you are a seaman and you are injured on a ship or vessel or in a maritime accident or become ill while in the service of a vessel, your employer is required to provide these benefits to you no matter who is at fault.
Maintenance. Maintenance is the money that your employer is required to pay you while you are recovering from your injury or illness. These benefits are meant to compensate you for your daily costs of living on land in the same manner that you lived offshore. Unfortunately most employers will try to keep these payments as low as possible, typically $15 to $40 per day. Our firm may be able to help you obtain a bigger maintenance payment than what your employer is offering and in some cases we may be able to assist you in getting additional money through an advance on your case.
Cure. If you are a seaman who has been injured in the course of your employment, your employer is required to provide you the medical care and services you need to treat your injury or illness. It is very important for you to know that you can select your own doctor for your medical treatment. While your employer may try to convince you to see a company doctor, you have the legal right to seek medical care from your own physician.
Maximum Medical Cure. It is important to know that your maintenance and cure benefits will not last forever. You are only entitled to receive these benefits until you have reached “maximum medical cure.” Maximum medical cure is the point at which your illness or injury will no longer improve even if you receive additional medical treatment. This means that even if you are still suffering from your illness or injuries, once you reach maximum medical cure, your employer will not be obligated to pay for any further medical treatments. It is extremely important that you speak to an attorney about attending any scheduled medical exam in which the company’s doctors are going to determine whether you have reached your maximum medical cure (MMC).
Jones Act Maintenance and Cure: A Lawyer Explains How to Obtain Worker’s Compensation
Under the Jones Act & General Maritime Law some basic rights exists for a seaman injured in the course and scope of his or her employment. Maintenance and Cure are both ancient maritime remedies for seamen who are injured while in the service of a ship or vessel and are owed to them under the law.
Often however, the employer may refuse to pay the maintenance or delay the weekly maintenance checks creating financial difficulties and hardship on the injured seaman and his family. This tactic forces many workers to accept a much lower settlement than what their case may have been worth, sometimes while the seaman is still being treated by doctors and a full prognosis of his injury is not even known.
- Cure — you’re entitled to this no matter who was at fault in getting you hurt. The most basic of your rights is the right to medical care. Under the general maritime law (which applies to Jones Act Seamen), the employer is obligated to pay for reasonable medical care related to all medical conditions which manifest while you are in service to the vessel until the time your reach maximum medical cure.
- Maintenance — you’re also entitled to this no matter who was at fault. In addition to cure, you are entitled to receive “maintenance” during the time you are under medical care (before you reach maximum medical cure). The amount of maintenance is generally between $15->$40 per day. The rule is that the employer must pay you what it would cost for you to live on land in the same manner you lived offshore on the vessel. If however you were injured due to the negligence of your employer, the ship or vessel owners or other Jones Act or Maritime defendant, then you may have a right to file a separate Jones Act lawsuit or cause of action to recover potentially $100,000’s and much more. There have been thousands of maritime workers who didn’t hire a lawyer and just accepted the $15->$40 a day and never collected a red penny of their potential Jones Act cause of action. The employer many times will be your best friend and promise you the moon, until after the Statute of Limitations expires and then they are out of harm’s way. Remember there are Statute of Limitations that apply in every case. If you wait too long then you waive the right to ever collect.
- Settlement or Lawsuit under the Jones Act — In order to maintain a Jones Act claim or lawsuit, you have to prove fault on the employer. In addition to maintenance and cure, your employer may owe you damages for the things you have lost because of your injuries. To recover you must prove fault on the fault of the employer or unseaworthiness of the vessel. If you can prove liability, you are entitled to recover damages designed to make you whole under the law. These Jones Act damages include the seaman’s right to recover past and future lost wages or economic damages, pain and suffering, mental anguish, disfigurement and medical expenses.
- Third (3rd) Party Lawsuit against Negligent Contractors, Suppliers and Other Legal Entities — there are many situations in which other parties may have been negligent in causing your injuries other than your employer’s own negligence or the unseaworthiness of the vessel. In those situations a separate 3rd party lawsuit may be filed. This may be filed with the Jones Act cause of action or independent of it.
Some Employers Will Try to Avoid Making These Payments
While most companies will act honestly and try to do the right thing, there are employers out there who will use different tactics to avoid their financial responsibilities. In some cases an employer may attempt to pay a maintenance rate that is far lower than what is needed to cover your living expenses. In other instances, your employer may take actions to delay your payments. If this occurs, it is very important to contact our firm immediately. We will stand up to your employer and fight for your right to receive the full benefits you are legally entitled to.
Employers may also try to limit your cure payments. For example, your employer may try to force you to receive your care from the company’s doctor rather than sending you to a specialist who has the medical training and expertise necessary to properly treat your condition or the employer may not agree to pay for more extensive testing needed to medically diagnosis your condition. It is important to know you have the right to select your own medical provider. If you are being bullied by your employer, our Jones Act law firm will step in and make certain you get the care you need to recover from your illness or injuries.
What Should I Do if my Employer Refuses to Pay My Benefits?
Even though your employer has an absolute legal requirement to provide maintenance and cure benefits when you are injured, some employers will try to avoid their legal obligations. In some cases an employer will pay you less than it should and in other situations the employer may refuse to provide you with any benefits at all.
If you have been injured in a maritime accident you need to get legal advice from a Jones Act maintenance and cure lawyer as soon as possible. You should not blindly trust that your employer, or the insurance adjuster, to provide you with the financial compensation and medical care you need to recover from your injuries. Your employer and its insurance company will be looking out for their own best interests, which often means that they will do everything they can to end your medical treatments and limit any payments to you.
Contact Us to Speak with a Jones Act Maintenance and Cure Lawyer – Punitive Damages May Be Available
If your employer fails to pay the maintenance and cure benefits that you are legally entitled to, we may be able to file a lawsuit against your employer to collect the full benefits you are due along with certain damages.
In these types of cases, if a court finds there was no justification for your employer’s failure to pay your maintenance and cure benefits, your employer may be held liable for punitive damages as well as attorney’s fees. If you are a seaman and have been injured on a ship or vessel and your employer is not paying your medical bills, refusing to send you to a medical specialist or not paying your maintenance, then contact a Jones Act maintenance and cure lawyer for a Free Confidential Consultation at 1-800-468-4878.