Maintenance and cure has long been recognized in courts in the United States courts. It dates back to 1823 when the court found that seamen, by nature of their profession, are prone to illness and injury and are often unable to handle associated expenses. If a seaman is injured, aggravates a preexisting injury, becomes ill or aggravates a preexisting illness while in service of a vessel, traveling to the vessel (under specific circumstances), or on shore leave, the owner of the ship or employer has a duty to provide ‘maintenance’ to the seaman, which is a daily stipend to cover expenses while recovering. The duty to pay maintenance continues until the seaman reaches maximum medical improvement. Maintenance is most commonly distributed twice per month.
Medical Cure As Applied to Seamen
All necessary and reasonable medical treatments required due to injury or illness which occurred while in service of a vessel are considered the “cure”. The injured or sick seaman has the right to the medical providers of their choosing and are under absolutely no obligation to receive treatments from providers their employer selects. Generally, the seaman’s medical care providers will bill the employer directly for services falling under cure. Employers are required to reimburse the seaman directly for any out of pocket expenses relating to treatment. This includes the cost to travel to and from associated appointments.
Maximum Medical Improvement
Maximum medical improvement is reached when the injured or sick seaman recovers or requires no further curative medical treatment. The word “curative” implies the possibility that treatment will relieve symptoms and also improve the underlying condition. Once it is determined that there is no further curative treatment available, the seaman is no longer entitled to maintenance and cure.
A seaman that is injured or becomes sick on the job is also entitled to wages he or she would have received had they not been injured or become ill and continued working. These lost wages include all applicable overtime, bonuses, paid time off, and any other benefits that the employer would have paid out had the seaman continued to perform their job duties aboard the vessel. The paid benefits of maintenance, cure, and lost wages are taken in lieu of workers’ compensation benefits.
If you are a seaman and are injured or become ill on the job, it is recommended that you consult with a maritime injury attorney. Although you may not end up needing an attorney, speaking to one will give you valuable insight and ensure that you know your rights under the law. If you have been denied maintenance and cure and believe that you are entitled, a maritime injury attorney can help you enforce your rights.
The lawyers at Stevenson & Murray are knowledgeable and experienced in maritime law and the application of maintenance and cure. Call today for a free case evaluation with one of our maritime lawyers at 877-622-3223.