Maritime workers injured on the job are entitled to receive several types of benefits. These benefits – maintenance, cure, unearned wages, and transportation costs – are available to injured seamen, regardless of fault for the injury.
These benefits are essentially the maritime version of state workers’ compensation benefits. If you were injured in the course of your maritime job, it’s important to know what each of these benefits entails.
The term “maintenance” refers to the small daily allowance that seamen can receive after their injury until they are able to return to work or until they’ve reached the maximum medical cure.
The maintenance benefits help meet seamen’s living expenses while they are incapacitated. Unfortunately, maintenance benefits have been historically low. The methods of calculating maintenance payments have long been arguable, as well.
In the 2001 Hall v. Noble Drilling Services case, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals sketched out new standards for maintenance benefits. They determined that maintenance benefits should take the following expenses into consideration:
“Cure” benefits refer to seamen’s medical expenses related to the work injury. Vessel owners are responsible for paying their employees’ reasonable and necessary medical expenses should they become ill or suffer an injury while on the job.
Injured seamen are entitled to cure until they can return to work or their doctors have declared they have reached “maximum medical cure,” which means that further treatment will not improve their condition.
Cure benefits will cover most medical expenses including:
When seamen are injured while at sea, all transportation costs to shore and to their medical-related appointments are also covered including:
Workers are also entitled to unearned contractual wages. These are the wages the seaman would have earned on the voyage had he or she not been injured and was able to finish the trip. The terms for unearned wages and what constitutes that particular ships “voyage,” is written out in the seaman’s employment contract and varies for each company.
Employers often try to minimize liability and therefore shorten the period of unearned wages in their employee contracts. For instance, sometimes fishing vessel owners will shorten a contract to only a partial fishing season and then ask the fisherman to renew their contact several times throughout the season. Should the worker suffer injury, the ship owners will only be liable until the pre-determined contract period ends.
In many cases, the above benefits are simply not enough to sustain seamen and their families should they sustain serious injuries.
Fortunately, injured workers have the right to pursue compensation if their injuries can be attributed to their employer’s negligence, like:
We encourage all injured seamen to look into all possible forms of recompense after a work injury. Contact us at The Young firm for a free consultation, and let us see how we might be able to assist you in securing additional benefits. Call 504-680-4100 today.
More Maintenance and Cure Resources: