Personal injury lawsuits typically take a long time before it gets to trial, and even then it can drag on for months, even years. As pointed out on the website of maritime law firm Ritter & Associates, unless a case is settled quickly the plaintiff will have to be responsible for any expenses associated with work-related injury or illness, including medical expenses and lost days of work.
As an employed seaman or commercial fisherman injured or becomes ill while at work, the employer is required under the Jones Act to provide maintenance and cure benefits no matter whose fault it is. This practice has its origins from the ship owner’s duty to provide an injured seaman with room and board while on a ship even if the seaman is unable to perform his duty.
When a seaman is injured or becomes ill at work although not at sea, the employer is still obliged to provide for the worker’s necessary maintenance which is typically paid on a weekly or biweekly basis, and this includes actual expenses for rent or mortgage, food, utilities, property taxes, even homeowners’ insurance. It should be noted that a seaman in certain states who is a union member may not receive full maintenance benefits if regular maintenance costs exceed what is stated in the contract covering all union members. Also, necessary maintenance does not include Internet access or car payments.
Cure, on the other hand, refers to the employer’s obligation to pay for reasonable medical and associated expenses necessary for the treatment for and recovery from the work-related injury or illness sustained by the seaman. The employer pays for these expenses directly. These obligations continue until the seaman achieves what is called maximum medical improvement (MMI) as assessed by a doctor, which means that no further improvement of the patient’s condition can be expected.
Ironically, if you contract a serious work-related injury or illness and your employer refuses to pay maintenance and cure benefits, you may have to sue. Consult with a maritime lawyer regarding your rights in a particular situation.