When Employment Contracts Limit Maritime Benefits
Maritime employers often require workers to sign an employment contract designed to limit the amount of compensation received in the event of an illness or injury. However, these private contracts cannot bypass federal law.
Employment Contracts and Maritime Law
Injured maritime crew members are covered by the Jones Act and general maritime law, and may be entitled to receive:
- Maintenance. Maintenance is a living allowance paid for food and lodging during the time the employee is unable to work due to his illness or injuries. These payments are made from the end of the voyage following an injury until the point of maximum medical improvement, as determined by a doctor. There is no set daily rate for maintenance, and the rate may vary from one case to the next. When the employer and the worker haven’t agreed upon a maintenance rate, the court will establish the amount of maintenance at trial.
- Cure. Cure refers to the medical expenses resulting from a seaman’s illness or injury, and his employer is generally liable for these costs. These expenses may include doctor and hospital bills, diagnostic testing, therapy costs, and other reasonable medical expenses. These costs must be paid until maximum medical improvement has been achieved.
Employment contracts can establish maintenance and cure rates before any injuries occur. However, even when these rates are determined by the employment contract, it may be possible to have your compensation increased if your actual expenses exceed the contract rates.
Jones Act Benefits
The Jones Act guarantees rights to seamen that are not covered by other maritime law, including compensation for medical expenses, disability payments, lost wages, and loss of earnings capacity. Many maritime employers attempt to avoid litigation of Jones Act claims by pushing for arbitration. Unless the employment contract includes an arbitration clause, the worker cannot be forced into arbitration to settle a Jones Act claim.
Maritime Injury Claims
If your maritime employment contract limits compensation for your injuries, you may need to file a lawsuit in order to receive the benefits you deserve. Maritime law is complicated, and you need an experienced attorney who knows how to protect your rights. To learn more about what the law offices of Steve M. Lee, P.C., can do for you, visit us on Facebook.