Maintenance and Cure
The Jones Act provides “maintenance and care” for an injured seaman who cannot return to their ships while recovering. “Maintenance” covers the room and board expenses incurred living ashore. A seaman is used to having room and board provided when serving on a ship. If injured, he or she cannot live aboard ship and should not have to incur extra expenses while recovering. Maintenance can include groceries, rent or mortgage payments, utilities (electricity, gas, and water), homeowner’s insurance, and property taxes. The payments will not include cable, satellite, phone bills (landline or cell phones) or internet costs. “Cure” includes payments for an injured seaman’s medical expenses and the transportation costs associated with getting medical attention. A seaman’s right to maintenance and cure is not dependent on the cause of the injury, and there is no need to prove the employer’s negligence. A seaman might not be eligible if the injury was caused by the seaman’s willful misconduct or due to alcohol or drug use on the job.
Payments begin as soon as the injury occurs (or the illness is diagnosed) and continue for the duration of the seaman’s injury or disabling illness. Either the seaman is ready to return to work or had reached a place in his or her recovery that qualifies as the maximum medical improvement (MMI). MMI is the point where a person will not get any better with further medical attention. Once discharged from medical care, maintenance and cure payments will end.
The maintenance payments are usually received from the employer or employer’s insurance company on a weekly or bi-weekly basis. The amount paid is on a case-by-case basis. Employers may offer a specific amount per day. In some cases, if a seaman belongs to a union, the union contract will include a specific maintenance amount (per day, per week or month). However, the union rules only apply in certain areas of the country. It may be best to consult with the union or an attorney before accepting an employer’s first offer. Cure payments are made directly to the medical providers.