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Jones Act maintenance and cure facts | Jones Act maritime law

Jones Act maintenance and cure facts | Jones Act maritime law

Brian Beckcom

Brian Beckcom


After an offshore vessel or drilling rig injury, workers often aren’t sure where to turn or how to proceed. Injured workers are already dealing with medical appointments, lost wages, and anxiety, among other things. More than likely, neither the insurance company nor your employer will be helpful in explaining your options to you.  Fortunately, VB Attorneys is experienced in Jones Act maritime law and Jones Act maintenance and cure laws.  We are here to help you understand what “maintenance and cure” means for your case.

Understanding maintenance and cure in Jones Act maritime law

One phrase you may keep hearing, but may not fully understand is “maintenance and cure.” Jones Act maintenance and cure refers to benefits most maritime workers receive if they get sick or injured. Maintenance refers to income supplement.  Meaning, payments that help you pay your normal living expenses. Cure describes the legitimate medical expenses related to your accident or illness such. This can include emergency care after the accident, follow up surgery, or therapy.

1. Pre-existing conditions do not bar you from maintenance and cure benefits

Having a pre-existing condition in itself does not bar maritime workers from receiving maintenance and cure benefits. Even if the work conducted on the ship aggravated a pre-existing condition, seaman may still be eligible for maintenance and cure benefits. However, this may not apply if at the time of hiring, a seaman misrepresented their preexisting conditions impacting the employers decision to hire them. Unreported injuries on the job also fall under this category. Learn more about how VB Attorneys helped a twice-injured deckhand settle his Jones Act case with Kirby Marine.

2. Maintenance and cure benefits are separate from Jones Act maritime law benefits

Most injured maritime workers don’t realize that maintenance and cure benefits are separate from their Jones Act claims. Maintenance and cure benefits apply to both land-based and at-sea injuries or illnesses as long as the worker was in the service of the vessel at the time. This applies whether the company is at fault for the injury or illness. Pursuing Jones Act negligence claims are separate under federal statutes for pain and suffering, lost wages, and other medical expenses. Read more about paying your medical bills and expenses after a maritime injury.

3. Maintenance and cure ends when you reach maximum medical improvement

When an injured seamen reaches maximum medical improvement, maintenance and cure benefits will end.  This doesn’t indicate full recovery from your injuries or illness. Reaching maximum medical improvement simply means that a treating physician is determining they do not believe your condition will get any better. Injured workers may still be disabled or could be unable to return to full work duty. A release by the doctor simply means that Jones Act maintenance and cure benefits are ending. Find out how maximum medical improvement is the key to winning your Jones Act case.

4. Injured seamen have a right to unearned wages

Injured maritime workers may not realize they could also have a claim for “unearned wages.” This refers to the the wages he/she would have received if they were able to continue working throughout the remainder of the voyage. However, the amount varies based on the length of the seaman’s voyage and the employment contract.  Determining the length of voyage using other factors is often necessary when no employment contract exists. Learn the formula for Jones Act settlements.

5. Jones Act maintenance and cure law provide for punitive damages if an employer refuses medical treatment

Awarding punitive damages is an attempt to deter defendants (and others) from choosing to engage in similar conduct to which a lawsuit is based upon. An employer who willfully fails to provide proper maintenance and cure may be subject to paying punitive damages.  If an employer refuses to authorize necessary medical treatment or to pay proper maintenance for monthly living expenses a punitive damage claim may succeed. In order to pursue a claim for punitive damages, we recommend collecting all written communications regarding their refusal for use in court. Find out how maritime attorneys win your Jones Act lawsuit.

Consult a Maritime attorney with experience handling Jones Act maintenance and cure cases

VB Attorneys is considered one of the best Jones Act maritime law firms in the country. We understand that you may have additional questions regarding your Jones Act case. Let us walk you through the entire legal process, answer every question, and help you make the best decision for your future. Give us a call toll free at (800) 724-7800 or fill out our contact form to schedule your free and confidential consultation with our maritime lawyers.

Topics: Jones Act