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Tugboat workers qualify for Jones Act “maintenance and cure”

Perhaps you are a deckhand on a tugboat that operates on the Mississippi River. You are new to this kind of work and unfamiliar with maritime law.

For example, if you suffer an injury aboard an inland tugboat, you should be eligible for “maintenance and cure” under the Jones Act. What does this mean?

Tugboats have a unique environment

When you applied for work on a tugboat, you may not have been prepared for the environment. To begin with, there are close quarters aboard, and there could be unsafe working conditions. You have to be alert at all times or risk slipping or even falling overboard. To add to the risk, tugboats have a lot of equipment, and a single defective part could cause a significant injury to an operator.

Claims under the Jones Act

If you sustain an injury, and your employer was at fault for the injury, your claim of negligence under the Jones Act must prove three things:

               1. That, as the plaintiff, you are a seaman

               2. That the defendant was negligent

               3. That your injury was a result of the defendant’s negligence

Maintenance and cure explained

Maintenance refers to the “reasonable cost” of lodging, food and transportation to and from a medical office. Note that if you require a hospital stay, you would not be eligible for maintenance since the hospital will provide you with food and lodging. Cure refers to medical costs: the cost of your hospitalization and the services rendered by physicians and nurses, plus the cost of medicine and any medical equipment you need.


From slippery surfaces and debris littering the deck to defective equipment, many potential causes for an injury exist onboard on any kind of vessel. Because of the tight confines and abundance of equipment, tugboat workers must be especially mindful of situations that could cause injury. Some of these are the direct result of owner-operator negligence. As the injured party, you have a right to maintenance and cure under the Jones Act.

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