Our office is often asked by potential clients as well as our current clients “how much should my maintenance really be under the Jones Act?”
Well, the first thing to understand is that your maintenance and cure claim actually falls under general maritime laws. We like to educate our clients that they have two rights and remedies: (1) their right to file a claim under a federal statute called the Jones Act, and(2) their right to file a claim for maintenance and cure as well as unseaworthiness under what is known as general maritime law.
There is no truly set rate of maintenance that your employer should pay you when you suffer an injury under maritime law or the Jones Act. General maritime law actually says that your employer is required to pay all reasonable and necessary living expenses for you while you are on land recovering from your injury which occurred on the vessel or oil rig. This will typically include only your expenses and not those of your family members. Unfortunately, over the years companies have gotten away with paying a fixed rate of approximately $15.00 to $30.00 per day depending upon the company and industry. In our experience oil rig companies typically pay $25.00 to $30.00 per day for maintenance while smaller vessel companies may pay as little as $8.00 per day if the rate has previously been agreed to through a union contract. Otherwise, smaller vessel companies pay $15.00 per day on average. These rates have been falsely created by the vessel and drilling industry and, in our opinion, have absolutely no basis in law.
The short answer is your company is legally required to pay for your reasonable expenses for you to live on land in a similar fashion that you enjoyed while living on the vessel or oil rig. This typically includes your rent or mortgage payment, your electricity, your groceries, your water bill and other necessities which had previously been provided to you while you lived on the vessel or oil rig.
Is there a limit to the amount that your Jones Act employer can pay you to live on each month under maintenance and cure law?
A lot of our clients will struggle because the company will only pay $15.00 or $20.00 a day and sometimes companies even lie to employees and say that under the law $15.00 or $20.00 a day is the most that the company is allowed to pay.
I will tell you that is absolutely not true. There is no law that prevents your employer from paying any amount that they want to you for you to live on each month. After a maritime injury, the only law that applies to your company is maintenance and cure law in terms of how much they can pay you.
Under maintenance and cure law your company is legally supposed to pay you how much your bills are each month. We believe the minimum, the absolute least that you should receive each month, should be the amount that your monthly bills are. What you should do is send a list of your monthly bills to your employer, let them know how much it costs for you to pay these bills each month and we believe the minimum they should pay you is that amount each month for you to live on. However, your company is not limited to just paying that amount.
Your company can absolutely pay you any amount they want each month including extra money if you need it to survive during your injury. Call us if you have any questions at all about maritime law, the Jones Act or your rights, choices and options under such law.
What Maintenance and Cure Benefits Include
Maintenance only includes the food and shelter that the seaman would have received on board the ship had he or she been able to work.
Cure fully pays for:
However, an injured seaman may be barred from receiving these benefits if the condition is pre-existing and the employer was not made aware of it upon the employee’s hiring.
More Maintenance and Cure Resources: