Under maritime law, a Washington State Ferry employee who is a member of the crew of a ferry is entitled to maintenance and cure if they are injured or become ill while in the service of the vessel. You are entitled to coverage if the condition manifest or was aggravated while in the service of the ferry. Under some circumstances, you may be entitled to maintenance and cure even if you are not on the vessel. Some commutes to work are covered, passage through WSF property or property adjacent to the dock are covered, or other situations where your activities have a benefit to your employer. If you are not sure if you are covered, contact an experienced maritime lawyer to discuss the facts of your specific situation. Maintenance and cure is a broad entitlement under maritime law and any doubts must be resolved in favor of coverage for the seaman. Your employer may be subject to penalties or damages for failure to promptly and properly pay maintenance and cure.
Maintenance is a daily stipend or payment while you receive curative medical treatment for your condition. The amount of your maintenance entitlement is set by the collective bargaining agreement with your union and the WSF.
Medical cure is the cost of medical treatment reasonably required to address your injury or illness. You are entitled to select your own doctors and medical providers. Your employer cannot withhold medical cure if you refuse to see a doctor or medical provider selected by WSF. You are also entitled to a second opinion if you are considering medical options.
The obligation of the Washington State ferries to provide maintenance and cure continues until your condition has reached maximum medical improvement. That is the point at which no further medical treatment will improve your condition. The ferry system is not responsible to pay for ongoing treatment that is palliative and not improving the condition. If you are not sure if your treatment is curative or palliative, you should contact an experienced maritime lawyer to discuss your entitlement to medical cure and when the obligation may end.
What is the maintenance rate?
The amount of maintenance paid to WSF crew members while they are off work for an injury or illness is set by the collective bargaining agreement between their union and the Washington State Ferries. These rates are subject to negotiation each time the collective bargaining agreement is renewed.
According to the agreement effective July 1, 2011 through June 30, 2013 between WSF and the Inlandboatmen’s Union of the Pacific (IBU), the maintenance rate is set at $35.00 per day plus an additional $30.00 per day as a “wage supplement” that is payable while the seaman receives maintenance. See Rule 25.01. This means that you will receive a daily stipend of $65.00 per day while you are off work getting medical treatment for your injury or illness. In the event that you later bring a Jones Act case for additional compensation beyond maintenance and cure, WSF is entitled to “offset” payments made for “wage supplement” in the amount of $30.00 per day.
Under the terms of the agreement between WSF and the Marine Engineers’ Beneficial Association (MEBA) effective July 1, 2011 through June 30, 2013, maintenance is paid at the rate of $30.00 per day. See Section 25 (licensed engineers) and Section 27.01 (unlicensed engineers).
Masters, Mates & Pilots.
For masters, mates and pilots, the agreement between the International Organization of Masters, Mates & Pilots effective July 1, 2011 through June 30, 2013, provides a daily maintenance rate of $40.00 per day plus a “wage supplement” of $60.00 per day. See Rule 13.01. The “wage supplement” ends after 90 days. If a Jones Act claim is brought to obtain additional compensation, WSF can offset any amounts paid as “wage supplement” while the officer was receiving maintenance.
Copies of the most recent collective bargaining agreement for your union are available from Washington’s Office of Financial Management collective bargaining agreements page.