Commercial fishermen, deckhands and seamen have a number of legal protections should they become sick or suffer an injury. The Jones Act, the doctrine of unseaworthiness and maintenance and cure each plays their role within these protections. As for maintenance and cure, it has a specific application for what it covers and when.
When does maintenance and cure apply?
Maintenance and cure originates in common law, rather than being a statutory protection like the Jones Act. It springs from the idea that anyone working aboard a ship should be cared for if they become sick or injured while on the ship. Negligence plays no role in maintenance and cure – no wrongdoing is required to invoke the remedy.
Maintenance and cure benefits last until the seaman has either recovered from their injury or illness, or until their doctor determines they have reached a maximum level of improvement. Once medical treatment can no longer improve the seaman’s injury or condition, maintenance and cure can end.
What does maintenance cover?
Maintenance deals with non-medical living expenses. This includes any wages a seaman would have earned throughout the voyage. It also includes day-to-day expenses for however long the seaman is recovering. Food, boarding and utilities would be included in maintenance. Non-living expenses, such as a cable bill or gas for your car, would not be included.
What does care cover?
Care deals with the actual medical expenses related to the seaman’s injury or illness. Doctor and hospital bills, medications and therapy are all examples of medical expenses covered by cure.
Calculating what a seaman is owed for maintenance and cure can be tricky, particularly with respect to maintenance. If you suffer an injury or illness while at sea, speak to a legal professional who is experienced with Maritime law. They can help to ensure that you receive everything to which you are entitled.