If you work on a commercial fishing boat and you get sick or injured on the job, you may be wondering who’s responsible for footing the bill for your medical costs. A best-case scenario is that it will actually be the boat’s captain under the “maintenance and cure” doctrine.
This is a type of coverage similar to workers’ compensation benefits. Virtually every state requires employers to maintain workers’ compensation insurance to cover medical costs for injuries that an employee may suffer on the job. That coverage generally covers some lost wages as well. An employee is only entitled to these benefits if they’re hurt while on the clock though.
Maintenance and cure are different from workers’ compensation in that it covers a wide range of workers who work in maritime-related fields. It also covers them whether their injuries occurred abroad their boat or at home on their off time. The only caveat is that they must be subject to recall. Their illness or injury doesn’t have to necessarily be job-related either.
Each day that a worker is unable to work, they’ll be owed “maintenance”. It can amount to as much a $55 per day.
One of the few reasons a maritime worker could potentially not be eligible for maintenance and cure is if their skipper had asked them to fill out a medical history before they started their job. If they were required to fill this out beforehand, then any prior injuries or illnesses listed there could go uncovered.
A worker may also be denied benefits if it can be shown that their willful misbehavior resulted in their illness or injuries.
In some cases, skippers will take out Protection and Indemnity Insurance as an additional way of protecting their financial interests if a worker on their boat gets hurt. Negotiating with an insurance company like this to get compensation for your current and future medical costs and lost wages is far more difficult than it seems as they tend to want to pay out as little as they can.
Gulf Breeze Jones Act / Unseaworthiness Claims attorney John W. Merting has more than 40 years’ experience in working with insurance companies. He can help you get the compensation you deserve.