Jones Act seamen are entitled to maintenance and cure (M&C) benefits if they get hurt or sick while working at sea. But what if your employer refuses to pay what it owes you? See how the law addresses such cases in the interest of the injured seaman.
Maintenance and Cure Limitations
If you decide to file an M&C claim, it is a good rule of thumb to do so within three years of the accident. Do not delay in order to avoid being time-barred.
One tactic that your employer may use against you is called the McCorpen defense in an attempt to avoid its obligations owed to you. You should disclose your pre-existing medical conditions, so you don’t allow them to preclude your recovery.
The good news is that your vessel employer owes you M&C benefits regardless of whose fault caused the accident. However, the payments may last only until the point of what is called maximum medical improvement.
Punitive Damages Following Maintenance and Cure Claims
Critically, if your employer mishandles your claim for M&C benefits, then you may be able to seek punitive damages and attorney’s fees. For example, if your employer denies your claim for maintenance and cure without conducting an adequate investigation, then you may be entitled to punitive damages and attorney’s fees. This component of damages is designed to punish your employer for its actions and is complementary to your M&C claim.
Seamen may not realize that M&C is a separate claim from the one for punitive damages. Moreover, they can file different types of claims under the Jones Act and general maritime law. Learn more from the recap on the Jones Act.