Maintenance and cure has been recognized in the United States courts dating back to 1823 when it was determined by the court that seamen by nature of their profession are particularly prone to injury and illness and are often ill-equipped to handle the expense of such. If while in service of a vessel, traveling to the vessel (in some instances), or on shore leave, a seaman is injured, falls ill or aggravates a pre-existing injury or illness, it is the duty of the ship-owner to provide the seaman with ‘maintenance’, which is a daily stipend intended to cover their room and board expenses while recuperating. The seaman’s employer has the duty to pay maintenance promptly until maximum medical improvement has been reached. Maintenance is most commonly paid twice per month.
All reasonable and necessary medical treatment related to an injury or illness which occurred while in service of a vessel is considered “cure”. Seamen have the right to choose their own medical providers and are under no obligation to receive treatment from doctors selected by their employer. Generally a seaman’s health care providers bill the vessel owner directly for any treatments falling under cure. Employers must promptly reimburse the seaman for any out of pocket expenses relating to their treatment, including the cost of travel to medical appointments.
Maximum Medical Improvement (Maximum Cure)
Maximum medical improvement or MMI is reached when a seaman’s condition is fixed and stable, and the seaman is no longer receiving curative medical treatment. Curative implies that there is a possibility that treatment will not only relieve symptoms, but improve the underlying condition and/or function. Once the seaman’s health professional determines that there is no more curative treatment available, the entitlement to maintenance and cure ends.
A disabled seaman is also entitled to the wages he or she would have received if they’d been able to continue working throughout the remainder of their voyage or contract. These unearned wages include overtime, bonuses, accumulative time off (ATO) and other employment benefits that a seaman would have earned if able to perform their duties aboard the vessel.
The benefits of maintenance, cure and unearned wages serve in lieu of standard workers’ compensation benefits. The information provided above is simply an outline of the wage and medical services benefits an injured seaman is entitled to.
Anytime a seaman is injured, it is a good idea to talk to a maritime injury lawyer as soon as possible. You do not have to hire a lawyer right away, and you may not ever end up needing one, but speaking to a lawyer will provide you with valuable insight as to how you can ensure that your rights to maintenance and cure are protected. If you have already been wrongfully denied maintenance and/or cure, a maritime injury lawyer is your best chance of successfully enforcing your rights. The lawyers at Kraft Davies Olsson in Seattle, Washington are knowledgeable and experienced in the law of maintenance and cure. Call today for a free case evaluation with one of our lawyers at 206-624-8844.