What Are Your Maritime Rights under the Doctrine of Maintenance and Cure?
As a Jones Act seaman, you have protected rights under the doctrine of maintenance and cure, that federal courts have called synonymous but different than workers' compensation benefits. Maintenance and cure offers injured or ill maritime workers no fault benefits promptly due by the boat employer.
What are the Meanings Behind "Maintenance" and "Cure"?Under the General Maritime Law, Maintenance and Cure refers to a generous contractual form of compensation for a seaman, much like workmen’s compensation to a land worker. In the event that a seaman falls ill or is injured in the course of his employment, maintenance and cure binds a shipping company by law to provide two major things to the seaman, without regard to the fault of the seaman or the employer:
(1) Maintenance – “Maintenance” means the cost of the seaman’s living expenses, including, but not limited to food, rent or mortgage, and utilities. In essence, a shipping company must ensure that an injured seaman be maintained in no better or worse condition than at sea.
(2) Cure – “Cure” means the care that is needed for a seaman while injured or sick, and includes the costs of nursing, medical attention, and transportation to and from treatment.
Who is Entitled to Payments of Maintenance and CureIf you were wondering if you apply as a seaman entitled to Maintenance and Cure, you must only be an employee of a vessel in navigation who is naturally and primarily on board to aid in the navigation and have a somewhat permanent connection with the ship.
What Amounts am I due under Maintenance and Cure?Maintenance and Cure cannot be contracted away in an employment agreement. The maintenance due to the seaman must be comparable to that which the seaman is entitled while at sea, and cure includes nursing and medical, until and only until the seaman reaches maximum medical improvement.
Final ThoughtsIn general, maintenance and cure is not compensation for an injury that a seaman experiences on a vessel. It is neither an award for a seaman’s injury or disability nor represents damages for pain and suffering which he may have endured. Rather, maintenance and cure is an additional remedy, offered as incentive for employees to undertake dangerous employment on sea, as a way to afford them medical care and treatment and reimbursements for the cost of living while in their disabled or injured state.