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Paying medical bills and other expenses after an Injury at sea

Brian Beckcom

Brian Beckcom


If you were hurt while working on a boat or offshore drilling rig, you may be worrying about paying medical bills and the other expenses that pile up. If the Jones Act applies to your claim (and it will, if your job required you to work on a vessel or offshore floating rig), then you should know that your employer has a legal obligation to pay all the medical bills related to your injury.

In fact, you can even pick your own doctor, and your company must pay your own doctor for caring for you. But what can you do when you’re hurt, off work, and your employer hasn’t offered to pay your bills?

How do I pay my medical bills After I’ve been hurt working on a vessel, tugboat, or drilling rig?

Don’t skip getting the medical care you need. If you receive medical bills, send them to your employer. Your employer should pay them. If your employer refuses to pay the medical bills related to your injury, it may be time to consult with an attorney who handles Jones Act cases.

Our attorneys are often called on to help injured seamen enforce their employer’s obligations under the “cure” provisions of the Jones Act.  Often, once the company sees that our law firm is involved, they pay the medical bills—as well as some other costs—to fulfill their “maintenance and cure” obligations. Your company must continue paying your doctor’s bills until you have reached something called “maximum medical improvement” (“MMI” for short). You reach MMI when your condition is such that you have improved as much as you ever will, and no further medical treatment can improve your condition.

Do you also have a claim for compensation under the Jones Act?

However, your rights as a Jones Act seaman go beyond “maintenance and cure.” If you got hurt because your employer failed to keep you safe, the company can be held further liable for your medical bills and other costs under the law. For example, this might include situations where an accident or injury happened because an employer:

  • Failed to screen or train employees
  • Failed to address potentially dangerous issues
  • Didn’t give adequate time to rest between shifts
  • Otherwise ignored the wellbeing of the crew

If you are unsure if your employer played a part in a serious injury or accident, don’t be afraid to ask for a case review with our attorneys. It’s important to investigate your right to file a claim for Jones Act benefits. If you have an eligible claim, these benefits are paid in addition to “maintenance and cure,” and cover both the medical and non-medical costs of your injury.

How do I pay my bills while I wait for a Jones Act claim to settle?

If you have already filed a claim under the Jones Act, it may be months or even years before your case is settled. Like you, many seamen struggle paying medical bills and providing for their families while they wait, making it a very tough time. The good news is that you have a lot of options to get short-term money advances to take care of your family while your case is ongoing.

  • Advances: in some instances, employers are willing to provide their injured employees with “advances” throughout the litigation process. These advances may be credited against your final settlement amount. However, an attorney experienced in Jones Act cases and settlements will increase your chances of getting these advances and keeping them from negatively affecting your final total settlement amount.
  • Disability under an insurance plan: short-term disability is a type of insurance that pays a percentage of your usual salary for a specified amount of time. Coverage and benefits vary with the terms of the insurance plan you are seeking disability under. You can apply for short- or long-term disability on an insurance plan.
  • Settlement loans: settlement loans provide a way for injured workers to get money while they wait for their Jones Act settlement funds to become available. There are many different settlement loan companies, and each offer different loan options. Again, you should talk to an attorney to determine which loan company is best for your case.

How long is it going to take for my settlement funds to become available?

There is no definitive answer to that question. Settlements can take up to 60 days to get funded. Sometimes, payments may take even longer due to circumstances surrounding the insurance company’s approval of the injured seaman’s settlement. While each case is different, having the right attorney can always help speed up this process. 

Offshore employers and their insurance companies (the people responsible for funding your settlement once it has been reached) are more inclined to work quickly when they know you have an experienced attorney working for you. The more experienced the attorney, the more likely he or she has dealt with these same companies and insurers on previous cases.

How do I know that I have gotten a fair settlement?

The Jones Act is very complex, but it is very favorable to the injured seaman. This is why it is especially important to find an attorney with experience handling Jones Act and offshore injury cases. To make sure that you receive the compensation to which you are entitled, contact VB Attorneys today at 877-724-7800 with your questions.

If we choose to take your case, you will automatically be eligible to apply for our Client Financial Assistance Program. This program will help ensure that your bills are paid during the time it takes to settle your Jones Act claim.