What Is Maintenance & Cure?
Maintenance & cure is a term originating in maritime law describing financial support that an injured worker can receive as compensation for an illness or injury. Any American seaman injured at sea, whether in domestic or international waters, may be able to receive maintenance & cure under the general maritime law. This is different than the Jones Act.
There are 3 components to maintenance & cure. Maintenance refers to financial compensation that is given to cover a seaman’s day-to-day living expenses, cure refers to covering the medical expenses related to the illness or injury, and unearned wages (for international only voyages). These compensations primarily differ in what they can be used for; while cure can be used to directly apply to the costs of medical treatment, maintenance is a daily sustenance that can be used to cover needed expenses such as rent, mortgage, utilities, and food (often referred to as “the necessary expenses of running one’s household”). ‘Unearned wages’ such as straight time, overtime, tips, leave time, and other fringe benefits are also payable under maintenance and cure, as the law considers these lost wages to be compensation you would have received otherwise.
Injured seamen are entitled to receive maintenance and cure until the seaman reaches what is referred to as “the point of maximum medical improvement” or MMI. MMI generally refers to the point where the doctor determines the crewmember no longer requires medical assistance, and they are as good as they are going to get, treatment-wise.
Do I Qualify For Maintenance & Cure?
If you fall ill or are injured while working on the water, no matter what caused it, you can be entitled to receive maintenance & cure until you are at Medical Maximum Improvement.
Many conditions onboard a ship can contribute to illness and injury, from unseaworthy vessels to employee negligence and many more. Any illness or injury sustained aboard a vessel (excluding any resulting from willful misconduct, such as drunkenness of the crew member) is covered by maintenance and cure. To put it simply, if a crew member is injured or sick while working, the employer must make these periodic payments to the crew member until they have reached MMI. It doesn’t matter who is to blame so long as it happened while the crewmember is working even if their employer tries to claim ‘comparative negligence’.
Even asymptomatic diseases such as cancer can be covered by maintenance and cure. If the disease was found to have originated, recurred, OR worsened on the ship but did not display symptoms until after departing the vessel, the seaman is entitled to maintenance and cure. In cases like this the disease is considered to have “occurred” while the crewmember was still working on the vessel.
How Do I File For Maintenance & Cure?
Even if you qualify for maintenance & cure while working on a vessel, you may still need the help of a knowledgeable & skilled maritime injury lawyer to process your claim in the most effective way. Many federal circuit courts have held that maintenance rates contained in union agreements cannot be increased, but some other circuit and state courts allow you to increase the rate of maintenance & cure paid out even above what the union agreement offers.
In cases involving maintenance & cure, O’Bryan Law will follow the money and investigate filing your lawsuit in the court that can offer you the highest payout even if the injury occurred somewhere else. Don’t trust some greenhorn lawyer with the money you need to buy the basic necessities of your life – contact O’Bryan Law today and trust our experience to fight for your rights.