Many state and federal laws, including workers' compensation coverage, protect workers if they get hurt on the job. What about seamen and others who work in New York's navigable waters, though? If you hold one of these jobs, then you may wonder what types of protections take care of you if you suffer injuries while at work. You may qualify for maintenance and cure benefits.
If you work in the maritime industry, then you probably first heard about the concept of "maintenance and cure" when you were first training for your role. Your trainer probably instructed you that this benefit is much like what worker's compensation coverage is for those individuals who work on the land. Both protect workers who become injured or ill while on the job. Maritime workers must meet certain requirements to be entitled to receive maintenance and cure.
Maintenance and cure, like so many terms from the long history of seamanship, is exactly what it sounds like. Maintenance is the cost of living while on a ship or in recovery due to injuries suffered on a ship. Cure is the expense of medical treatment and other infirmary costs. This may be an accounted amount or a daily stipend.
Water vessels and seamen must be insured much like a vehicle and its passengers. There is general liability coverage that covers the ship itself and any tangible property that may be on it. There's also protection and indemnity coverage that vessel operators must maintain to cover any seaman's bodily injuries, though, as well. There are some basic coverage limits that all boat owners must maintain to lawfully operate here in New York's waters.
When you get hurt on a typical job site, the foreman or crew boss might send you off to a local hospital or doctor's office for treatment, maybe a few stitches. But when you get hurt on a seafaring vessel, you're a world away from access to a hospital or doctor's office
You no doubt chose to go into the maritime industry because of a love of the sea (or perhaps you have developed one after years of working in such an industry). Yet despite your affinity for sea travel, you may experience times where being out on the ocean for extended periods can be emotionally and psychologically taxing. This is understandable; while at sea, your movements on your vessel are limited. You may suffer from a want of companionship (even while in the presence of your crew members). Consecutive days of seeing nothing on the horizon can also be unsettling. All of this can lead to a deep sense of depression.
A career in the maritime industry (whether that be working at sea or in a seaport), brings with it the opportunity for many unique challenges (which is why so many in New York City are likely drawn to it). Yet with the uniqueness of this particular career path also comes certain rules and regulations that are exclusive to the industry. Among these are the guidelines governing compensation for work-related injuries. Rather than being covered by traditional workers’ compensation benefits, maritime workers who have been injured on the job are entitled to maintenance (which helps cover everyday expenses) and cure (which offers compensation for medical bills).
Among the myriad of risks facing maritime workers, they must also be concerned about contracting methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus (MRSA). These infections can cause serious harm and are often resistant to many of the medications used to treat bacterial infections. MRSA infections can be deadly in some cases, so workers must remain informed about symptoms, how infections are contracted, and how to receive proper treatment.
For most workers in New York, workers’ compensation pays claims when injured or if they experience a work-related illness on the job. However, if you are a seaman working aboard a vessel, the remedies for injuries or illness may not be as well known. At Tabak Mellusi & Shisha LLP, we often help clients pursue and obtain the maintenance and cure benefits they need.
If you sustained an injury while working on a barge, ship or another water-based vessel, you may have rights that extend beyond traditional workers' compensation benefits. New York workers' comp law grants injured workers the right to repayment for necessary medical treatment, lost wages and permanent partial disability. However, maritime law extends an injured party's rights to include benefits for maintenance, cure and unearned wages, and to allow injured seamen to file claims for unseaworthiness and negligence. FindLaw details what that means for you.