With all of the oil derricks that can be seen throughout the state of Texas, it is easy to forget that a large portion of the state’s drilling work (and the country’s, for that matter) happens offshore. Working out on the open water on a drilling platform can present a number of risks, which is why such work routinely ranks amongst the most dangerous professions. If and when an accident happens on a rig (or during the course of traveling to or from one), workers are protected under maritime laws rather than those regulating traditional workers’ compensation benefits. These laws entitle injured workers to maintenance and cure.
The Legal Information Institute offers two definitions for maintenance and cure: The first addresses maintenance, which refers to a worker’s daily living expenses. These are all of the costs incurred during one’s time away from work. The only living expenses not covered by maintenance are those from the time one was in the hospital recovering from an injury sustained on an oil platform. These are considered to be medical expenses, which (along with doctor, hospital and therapy bills) are covered under cure.
The pattern jury instructions issued by the U.S. Circuit Courts state that to qualify for assistance under maintenance and cure, one must first prove that:
- He or she was employed on an offshore drilling platform
- He or she was injured while “in the service of the vessel”
- He or she requires a specific amount of maintenance and cure
“In the service of the vessel” might be interpreted to mean any duties performed to see to a platform’s upkeep (not necessarily work-related). Also, one might be entitled to maintenance and cure even in cases where his or her injury was not a direct result of employer negligence.