Maritime injuries involve a great deal of complexities that extend beyond the medical. Due to the nature of maritime work, sometimes the injuries that maritime workers suffer can be quite severe. Maritime law holds that employers are required to provide maintenance and cure benefits to their employees. Cure benefits are those that cover an injured maritime worker’s medical expenses, whether they are for treatment, recovery or rehabilitation. Maintenance benefits are those that are designed to cover an injured worker’s living expenses while they are recovering from their injuries. These living expenses include things like room and board, groceries, and utility bills.
One thing that’s important to note about cure benefits is that they are not indefinite. In fact, there is a limitation placed upon the payment of these benefits, which is known as maximum medical improvement or MMI. This limit is essentially the point at which further medical treatment will no longer benefit the injured maritime worker. In a broad sense, this MMI limit is reached when the injured maritime worker has recovered sufficiently enough from their injuries in order to return to the normal course of their work. However, things become slightly more complicated when returning to work becomes either extremely difficult or impossible.
As mentioned earlier, there is a maximum amount of time during which an injured maritime worker can continue to receive cure benefits. If the injuries sustained are severe enough that the injured maritime worker is completely incapable of returning to work, then MMI has a different threshold. In these cases, the threshold is reached when the medical treatment that the injured worker is receiving is only there to maintain his or her comfort and not to provide recovery and rehabilitation from injuries. As you might imagine, this threshold can sometimes be hard to define. There can be differing medical opinions, and sometimes employers will disagree with the medical assessment of an injured worker’s capabilities that have been offered.
If returning to work is truly an impossibility, then it’s important to note that an injured maritime worker can still receive compensation for their medical treatment. However, this compensation will have to come through a different avenue than the cure benefits that had been provided by the employer. A qualified maritime attorney will be able to assess the facts of a maritime injury case and make recommendations as to how this compensation should be sought. When you find yourself in this position, it’s important to remember that you have options. Make sure that you’re taking whatever steps are necessary in order to protect your rights and your medical wellbeing.
Just as in other industries, maritime employers frequently try to shortchange injured workers that they should be caring for. Because maximum medical improvement is somewhat of a nebulous concept, employers can take advantage of it. Often employers will attempt to cut off an injured workers cure benefits before it’s technically the right thing to do. It’s important to remember that this determination is up to your medical professionals and not your employer. If when consulting with your doctors it is determined that it is still possible for your recovery to move forward and for you to return to work, then you are still eligible to receive cure benefits through your employer. If your employer is failing to meet this obligation, then you will need to get in touch with a maritime attorney who will be able to take the employer to task.