When we think of injuries at sea, we often think of injuries to passengers due to the negligence of a cruise ship. But maritime law goes far beyond that, extending to provide employees of ships with a wide range of benefits that they wouldn’t ordinarily be entitled to under state laws.
Under state law, an employee injured on the job generally must make a claim for injury under the state’s workers’ compensation laws. In Florida, an employee who is afforded workers’ compensation is barred from bringing a standard negligence claim against their employer for anything other than the most intentional acts. But maritime law is very different, being governed by federal law, and the federal Jones act.
What Maintenance and Cure Provide
Federal law provides maritime workers and employees with a benefit called maintenance and cure. In common terms, it means that your employer must pay for your housing and your medical care while you are injured and off the job.
The idea is grounded in the theory that an employer at sea ordinarily provides for a roof over its employees’ heads. When an employee must be home due to injury, the employer does not get relieved of this obligation—it must now pay for or compensate the injured victim for the time spent on land.
The maintenance can often be the entire amount of the injured employee’s living expenses, even if they live in a more expensive area. Unfortunately, many employers try to get away with paying nominal amounts which are insufficient for the injured employee to live off of.
Cure is the obligation of an employer to pay for the medical care of the injured employee, often making payment directly to the health care provider.
How Long Benefits Last
On top of these benefits, an injured crewman retains the right to sue for negligence under the Jones act. But remember that an employee is entitled to maintenance and cure, regardless of how they were injured, even if there was no negligence involved.
Maintenance and cure will continue until you are at MMI, or Maximum Medical Improvement. As you may imagine, that’s a subjective test. In an effort to avoid paying, many employers will declare crewmembers at MMI, even before they are ready to go back to work. Many employers may also refuse to pay for needed tests, diagnostics, therapy, or medications.
The law provides for an injured crewmember to obtain punitive damages where an employer does not provide maintenance and cure, so nobody should ever tolerate allowing an employer to try shorting them of any benefits.
Those entitled to maintenance and cure go beyond just cruise ship workers. Those working on fishing boats, tour boats, casino ships, transport vessels, and commercial ships, among others, are covered under maritime law as well.
Whether you are an employee, a crewmember, or a passenger injured at sea, you want attorneys who understand the subtle differences between state and federal laws. Talk to the Florida cruise ship accident attorneys at Gerson & Schwartz, P.A. for a free consultation to discuss your case.