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 your daily needs. Like all of our clients, you may be worried about how you are going to pay your bills now and into the future. Here are some important ideas to consider that may help you and your family survive so you can properly handle your claim and make the best of your future.
Your Monthly Bills Don’t Stop Coming Just Because You Have Suffered a Maritime Injury
There are 3 main types of employment-related payments a typical maritime worker may receive: wages, maintenance, and cure:
Yes, that’s right. Under the 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 here which will help you calculate your proper rate of maintenance and help you make a request to your company to increase the amount you are paying paid. This is a great place to start.
But what about the ‘advances’ your company may be paying you each month? Even though your maintenance check should be enough for you to pay your bills on land while you are recovering, 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. BUT, if your company categorizes most of the money it gives you as ‘advances’ then your company can try to get ‘re-paid’ that money out of any settlement or amount a jury may give you at trial. So while your company may claim it helping you and being nice by giving you ‘advances’, what it is really doing is making sure it can get repaid later on if you reach a settlement with them or win at trial. Don’t let your company call the money you need to live on each month ‘advances’ when it should really be ‘maintenance’.
Next, if you had short or long term disability 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 you now 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 a lot of money in advances gives your company leverage over you—receiving benefits from your short or long term disability company frees you from this obligation and lets you decide what you should do to protect your future.
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, but loans from your attorney can also help you get by each month so you can have the time to properly handle your claim to a good conclusion for you and your family.
Finally, many of our clients think they will take action and pursue their serious claims ‘in just a few more months’. Even after they have been told they need surgery or even had a surgery, and been told they cannot return to work on vessels or rigs, they still keep putting off the filing of their claim since they want ‘…just one more monthly check’. After a serious maritime injury, you should be thinking of your mid to long-term future—what action should you take today to protect you and your family over the next 5 or 10 or more years. Don’t make an important decision about your future based on whether you will get ‘…just one more check’ from your company.
Research more about how you can pay your bills after your maritime injury by viewing all our articles and videos about this topic or order our Maritime Toolkit for even more important information to help you.