Maintenance & Cure: How It Differs From Workers’ Compensation

Maintenance and cure, a right that seamen have under general maritime law, is a daily living amount that is paid to the injured employee along with their medical expenses. But how does maintenance and cure differ from a workers’ compensation scheme?

Similar, yet different

Workers’ Compensation is a statutory right; it is a fixed amount by statute. It is a formula that you can figure out by looking at the law and is generally state based. Maintenance and Cure is maritime or water based. It’s for employees working over or on the water.

Tim Young, an attorney from New Orleans, Louisiana whose firm’s practice focuses on maritime injury cases, explained how benefits from maintenance and cure differ from workers’ compensation. According to Young:

Generally the benefits are better for Workers’ Compensation in the short term. Workers’ Compensation statutes generally pay the employee higher weekly benefits because it is based on 2/3 of their salary. The daily benefits paid to an injured maritime worker under Maintenance and Cure are typically anywhere from $15 to $30 a day.

Very importantly, though, the injured maritime worker generally has much, much better remedies available to them in the long run. We tell our potential clients right away that it’s actually a good thing if they're being paid Maintenance and Cure – even though it may be a lower amount to pay day to day bills.

It also allows them to bring a lawsuit and is an indication that they may have Jones Act claims, or certainly general maritime claims, available to them. If a client comes in who is receiving Workers’ Compensation that is state based, nine times out of ten that client will not have any other recovery other than that Workers’ Compensation. Unfortunately, when the company no longer has to pay that, there’s very little, if anything, that we can do to help them.

The company’s choice of compensation plans is not binding

We asked Young who decides whether an injured worker should receive Maintenance and Cure or Workers’ Compensation. He explained, “Companies initially decide what form of payment they’re going to make to the employee. However, what the company decides is in no way determinative or binding on the employee. Employees can file suits to collect Maintenance and Cure rather than Workers' Compensation. Just because an employee is getting Workers' Compensation does not mean that they do not have potential Jones Act or general maritime claims.”

“In fact, it’s very common for companies to initially pay Workers' Compensation benefits in the hope that the employee does not speak to an attorney. Most hope that the employee simply accepts the compensation benefits and doesn’t understand that they may have other rights. We’ve been successful in getting people maritime damages and Jones Act damages many times, even though they were initially paid Workers' Compensation.”

When in doubt – contact an expert

Injured maritime workers should contact an expert if they feel they’re not receiving the right kind of compensation. Young says, “Sometimes they simply accept what they are paid. They should at least call and make sure it’s the correct amount. In our office, there’s no charge to speak with an attorney. We like to educate potential clients first and then they can decide what action, if any, they want to take. Many times, we’ll speak with potential clients and there’s simply nothing we can do to help them at that stage, and we tell them that.”

“Those questions come up a lot. When they’re receiving benefits, they want to know how long they will continue, how much they should be getting and if the company if doing everything correctly. We take the time to explain that to them.”

If you have been injured in an accident on or near the water, contact an attorney whose practice focuses on maritime issues. To contact an experienced maritime attorney, please click here.

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