Maintenance and cure is one of the most important aspects of general American maritime law. The term “maintenance and cure” refers to the financial support an injured worker can receive as compensation for an illness or injury under general maritime law.
This differs from the Jones Act in several crucial ways. Primarily speaking, maintenance and cure is considered to be “no fault” compensation, meaning that responsibility for the specific injury or illness is not placed on the shipowner – however, the financial burden for recovering from this illness or injury is still placed on the shipowner for the length of their recovery.
While there are some limitations to where and how it can be used, maintenance and cure is a major cornerstone of maritime law, and can be life changing for injury victims under the right circumstances.
Maintenance and Cure FAQs
What is maintenance and cure?
Maintenance and cure is a maritime law term describing financial support a worker can receive as compensation for an illness or injury.
There’s two major components to maintenance and cure, each covering a different aspect of maritime work. Maintenance refers to the payments made towards an injured maritime worker’s basic living expenses, like utilities, rent, and food, in the event their injury has left them unable to work. Cure, on the other hand, refers to payments made towards the worker’s medical expenses incurred during the illness or injury, including hospitalization, physical therapy, medications, and even transportation in some circumstances.
How does maintenance and cure work?
Maintenance and cure differs from the Jones Act in that it is a “no fault” compensation, meaning that negligence doesn’t need to be established for the injury or illness in the way it would for a Jones Act claim.
If a maritime worker falls ill or is injured during their period of employment “in service of the vessel”, their employer and/or the owner of the vessel are legally required to provide maintenance and cure even if fault for the injury or illness cannot be established. This provides an additional layer of support for injured maritime workers, even if they are unable to establish fault for their injury under the terms of the Jones Act.
What benefits does maintenance and cure provide?
Maintenance and cure can offer a number of financial benefits to ill or injured workers, including:
- Ongoing medical care (physical therapy, etc)
- The initial cost of the procedure (physician’s office visits, surgeries, etc)
- Transportation to and from any medical procedures or appointments
- Rent/mortgage payments in the case of long term unemployment
- Insurance payments
- Certain utilities, such as electricity and water – telephone, cable, and internet are typically excluded
These payments can go a long way towards maintaining your quality of life, even after a debilitating injury or illness suffered during maritime work.
How long does maintenance and cure last?
If you are found qualified to receive maintenance and cure, you are entitled to receive it until you have reached a point known as maximum medical improvement (or MMI). “MMI” refers to the point in recovery when the injured party is as recovered as they can reasonably expect to be after the type of injury they received. Typically, this is when a doctor would discharge a patient from care – the injured person may not be back to 100%, but their condition is not expected to improve any further.
Who can receive maintenance and cure?
Maintenance and cure is a viable option for any maritime worker injured “in the service of a vessel”. This typically means any role onboard a vessel in navigation is eligible, from the bridge crew to the maintenance staff and even the cooks in the galley. In certain cases this may also include roles like dockworkers and cargo handlers, but the circumstances may vary from case to case.