A serious maritime accident may keep you out of work for weeks—even months—as you recover from your injuries. During this time, you may lose out on income that’s necessary for you to keep up with you and your family’s daily needs. Like all of our clients, you may be worried about how you are going to pay your bills now, and into the unknown future. Here are some important options to consider that may help you and your family survive, so you can properly handle your injuryand make the best of your future.
There are three (3) main types of employment-related payments a typical injured maritime worker may receive to help pay their expenses, while unable to work on the water:
In Louisiana, attorneys are allowed to loan money to their clients to cover their ‘necessary circumstances’ each month. This basically means that your monthly living expenses can be paid for by your attorney as a final step to paying your monthly bills. We always recommend obtaining the most maintenance possible from your company and being sure to apply for, and collect short or long-term disability first. However, loans from your attorney can also help each month, so you have time to properly handle your recovery to a good conclusion for you and your family.
Yes, that’s right. Under U.S. maritime law, the amount of ‘maintenance’ your company should be paying you is technically supposed to be equal to the amount of your monthly bills on land (with a few exceptions for certain expenses). We strongly suggest you download our maintenance and cure booklet and worksheet, which will help calculate your proper rate of maintenance. This will enable you (or your lawyer) to make a request to your company to increase the amount you are being paid.
Injured mariners are entitled to receive medical treatment until your condition can no longer improve. And your employer is required to pay for your medical treatment. The treatment being provided by your physician must result in the betterment of your condition. Otherwise, your maritime employer will not be required to pay for such treatment under the law of maintenance and cure. For example, the definition of “cure” does not include treatment simply to relieve your pain. However, medical expenses, including treatment for pain, are recoverable under your Jones Act claim.
Next, if you have a short or long term disability policy through your company, you should absolutely apply for such benefits. Many companies will suggest you don’t do this, and they will simply keep paying you what they call ‘advances’ each month, but now you know your company will want those ‘advances’ repaid to it later. This is why it is very important to apply for, and get benefits from, your short and long-term disability company. Having you owe your company money in payment advances gives them leverage over you. Receiving benefits from your short or long term disability company helps free you from this obligation, so you decide what is best to protect your future.
But what about the ‘advances’ your company may be paying you each month? Your maintenance check should be enough for you to pay your bills on land while you are recovering. However, most companies pay a small amount of maintenance and then add to it another check that they call an ‘advance’. This usually refers to an ‘advance’ on any settlement you ultimately receive from the company.
Here’s the problem—under the law, your company must pay you maintenance and it cannot get re-paid that maintenance at trial if the jury awards you money for lost wages, since you were out of work. Here is where it gets sneaky, if your company categorizes most of the money it gives you as ‘advances’, they can try to get ‘re-paid’ that money out of any settlement or amount a jury may award you at trial. While your company may claim it’s helping you by giving you ‘advances’, they are simply taking advantage of you in an effort to take back their money. Don’t let your company call the money you need to live on each month ‘advances’, when it is legally ‘maintenance’. If you notice your checks are labeled ‘advances,’ insist that your company pay you the ‘maintenance’ you’re legally entitled to.
At The Young Firm, all we do is stand up to companies in support of maritime workers rights. We’ve seen companies do everything imaginable to protect the business and themselves, instead of fulfilling their legal obligations to the injured party. The company will try to exploit any weakness to their advantage.
For example, we see companies regularly take advantage of both blue and brown water employees’ financial situations and lack of maritime law knowledge. They want to settle out of court with you unrepresented, so they may offer what seems like a handsome monetary settlement. However, that settlement may not be inclusive of the employee-related payments an injured maritime worker is entitled to receive, as discussed above.
If you are unable to return to work or need further medical care, your long-term financial needs won’t be met. It’s terribly unfortunate, but these things happen without proper legal support on your side.
Don’t take our word for it, read an actual letter from an injured tug boat captain named Ray, who learned a heartbreaking lesson. Unfortunately, it was too late for us to help Ray, but he wanted to share his story in the hopes it would inspire others to demand fairness from their company, with experience from The Young Firm on their side.
If you aren’t sure of your next steps, don’t wait, reach out to The Young Firm today and get answers or give us a call at 504-680-4100. We’ve also compiled helpful information for seamen in our Maritime Toolkit. Click here to get access to our digital library, or get the hard copies mailed to you for free.
What’s Included in the Maritime Injury Toolkit?
This personal injury toolkit includes several books, pamphlets, and brochures that break down Maritime Injury Law in easy-to-understand concepts. When you fill out the form, you’ll first receive instant access to our Maritime Injury Library which will give you the PDF versions of all of these materials. Within a few days, you’ll receive the hard copy of your materials via FedEx.
“The information is very helpful. I was very impressed with the level of material presented.”
“Easy to understand, direct, informative. I was a little overwhelmed by just exactly how much control companies have over our lives. Even though they are aware of the environment we work in.”