Maintenance and cure benefits are two types of compensation that an injured seaman can receive after being hurt on the job under the Merchant Marine Act of 1920, which is more commonly known as the Jones Act. This body of law was passed to protect maritime workers who are injured during the course and scope of their job duties.
Maintenance and cure benefits are available for injuries and illnesses that were contracted as part of a person’s job duties. There are a few key differences between maintenance and cure benefits that are important to understand before you begin pursuing your compensation claim.
What Are Maintenance Benefits?
If you are awarded maintenance benefits, this category of damages is designed to compensate you for the cost of room and board while you are required to recover from your injuries at home. This category comes from the employer’s historical obligation to ensure that a seaman has room and board while they are working on a vessel.
Some of the expenses that fall under this category include:
- Rent or mortgage
- Homeowner’s insurance
- Property taxes
A few items of expenses are excluded, however, such as internet and telephone expenses. These are not deemed related to the running of a household. If you have questions about what qualifies as a maintenance expense, you can speak to a lawyer about your situation.
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What Are Cure Benefits?
If you are awarded cure benefits, this category of damages is designed to provide you with compensation for reasonable and necessary medical treatment. This can also include the cost of transportation to and from medical appointments. Some examples of medical costs that you may have incurred or will incur in the future include:
- Emergency transportation costs
- Physical therapy
- MRIs and CT scans
- Medical equipment (e.g., wheelchairs)
- Doctor’s appointments
If you are not sure whether something qualifies as a cure expense, it is a good idea to keep a record of it until you can speak with a lawyer. This includes receipts, explanation of benefits, invoices, and any other document reflecting charges for medical treatment.
Pursuing Your Right to Maintenance and Cure Benefits
If you are awarded maintenance and cure damages, you will receive them until you reach a status called maximum medical improvement (MMI). This is the point at which a doctor determines that you have reached the maximum level of physical recovery possible with ongoing medical treatment. In other words, it means your injuries are not going to get any better past this point.
When a doctor declares that you have reached MMI, they typically discharge you from their care and allow you to return to work. They may impose some restrictions on your work duties and indicate that you can only perform light-duty tasks. In other situations, they may clear you for all activities.
Maintenance and cure benefits are typically paid on a weekly or biweekly schedule until the employer’s duty to pay you is discharged. The Jones Act provides a method for calculating the compensation amount of maintenance and cure payments that someone is eligible to receive.
Your maintenance payments will be based on your household expenses, while cure payments will be based on your actual medical expenses. This is why it is important to keep diligent records of your costs so that you can establish them efficiently during the claims process.
It is also important to note that in some situations, your status as a member of a union may impact the number of benefits that you receive. You may be entitled to a predetermined amount of maintenance benefits if you are part of a union, regardless of your actual household expenses.
Holding Your Employer Accountable
Unfortunately, even when an employee has clear injuries and expenses that arose from their job duties, some employers attempt to fight the claim or stop paying expenses as soon as they can.
If a worker has been incapacitated for several months due to their injuries, their employer may try to demand that the worker undergo an independent medical exam to determine whether the worker is healthy enough to return to work.
This can be a jarring and unexpected situation, especially if you are nowhere near recovered. Many times, doctors are unaware of the realities of performing work as a seaman and the serious physical demands involved.
If you undergo an independent medical exam that concludes you should return to work, and you think it is incorrect, you can seek a second opinion. Having a maritime injury lawyer on your side can help you protect your health and your legal right to continue receiving benefits.
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Call an Attorney Today for Help
If you have more questions about what maintenance and cure benefits are for and your potential right to receive them, Laborde Earles Injury Lawyers can help. During your free consultation, you can ask questions about the process and learn more about how these laws apply to your unique situation. To get started, call now at (377) 777-7777 to speak with a lawyer in our Lafayette office.