If a seaman or a crewmember of a vessel contracts the novel Coronavirus (“COVID-19”), or other illness or injury. while working aboard or assigned to a vessel, the seaman’s employer is legally obligated to provide the seaman with both Maintenance and Cure benefits until he is no longer ill and needs no further medical care. (There may be other duties owed, or breaches of such duties, too.).
Generally speaking, there are three requirements that must be met in determining whether a person is a “seaman” under the Jones Act, and if all three requirements are met, the person is considered a “seaman: and then entitled to Maintenance and Cure benefits.
Requirements to be considered a “seaman” under the Jones Act, and thus entitled to Maintenance and Cure, include:
- The vessel (or identifiable fleet of vessels) to which the seaman is assigned must be “in navigation”;
- The injured or ill person has an employment connection to the vessel (or fleet) that is substantial, both in terms of duration and its nature; and
- The injured or ill person’s employment contributes to the work of the vessel (or fleet).
What is Maintenance?
“Maintenance” refers to payments that provide for the basic daily living expenses of a seaman, such as rent/mortgage payments, food, and utilities. Maintenance payments typically are calculated to provide a daily dollar figure. Maintenance payments typically range from approximately $12 to $60 per day, but sometimes can be much higher, depending on the actual living expenses of each seaman. Maintenance rates vary from case to case and are dependent on each seaman’s particular circumstances.
What is Cure?
“Cure” refers to the medical care (and associated expenses) that a seaman needs and incurs to treat the subject injury or illness. If the seaman is injured or becomes ill while in the service of the vessel, the seaman’s employer is required to provide the seaman with all necessary medical care. This may include emergency medical care, any hospitalization, various doctors’ visits, surgeries, physical therapy, and medications, as well as other needed medical care.
Benefits due Regardless of Fault.
Maintenance and Cure is “no-fault” compensation. This means that an injured or ill seaman is not required to prove that his or her injury was caused by the vessel’s fault or the employer’s negligence. If you are a seaman, your employer is legally required to voluntarily provide you with the Maintenance and Cure benefits you need.
Although most seamen’s employers ultimately will agree to provide these benefits, it is not uncommon for them to try to deny or postpone the benefits, try to get the seaman’s own health insurance to cover it, delay payments, or attempt to pay a lower Maintenance rate than the seaman deserves.
Contact your Maritime Law Experts for Help!
If you believe you are eligible for Maintenance and Cure benefits and are experiencing any trouble receiving the benefits that you are legally entitled to, you need to speak with a knowledgeable maritime attorney who represents and advises crewmembers on such claims.