Commercial fishermen and merchant seamen have legal recourse in case of a debilitating injury. If you think this may apply to you, please read on.
Maintenance and cure is not a phrase you would normally associate with maritime law or the Jones Act. However, it’s something you should know about. In general, “maintenance and cure” stands for benefits provided to an injured seaman by his employer. If you are a seaman/former seaman who has been injured on the job, you are entitled to receive this benefit.
In this case, “maintenance” stands for room and board reimbursement that an injured seaman receives while he recovers from an injury. This right is based on the same concept that a seaman would receive room and board if he were serving on a ship. This covers rent, property taxes, homeowner’s insurance and food. However, it doesn’t include cable, internet, car payment or telephone bills. The purpose is to cover only those expenses that a seaman would not have if he were currently onboard a ship as part of his service. For example, maintenance doesn’t cover car payments or gasoline because these aren’t household costs.
What is Cure?
Cure refers to costs associated with recovery from injuries received while working on a ship. This included reasonable medical treatment costs and the e is the injured seaman’s reasonable and necessary medical expenses, along with the cost of transportation to and from medical-related appointments. You can think of this like workman’s compensation that some land-based employers are responsible for.
How Long Can You Receive Maintenance and Cure?
As an injured seaman, you could receive maintenance and cure until you have healed to what is called the maximum medical improvement (MMI). In other words, you receive maintenance until you have reached a point where your injury is not going to get any better. Typically, when your doctor thinks you have reached your MMI, he discharges you from care under the maintenance and cure law. This doesn’t require that you be fully recovered. It just means that your condition isn’t expected to get any better.
How Maintenance and Cure Is Paid?
Either your employer or their insurance company pays your maintenance every week or every other week. The employer pays your medical bills directly. Maintenance is all your household expenses under the law. Unfortunately, maritime employers and their insurance companies were able to discharge this obligation for as little as $8 to $10 per diem, or $240 to $300 per month. Actual living expenses weren’t part of the equation. Due to recent court decisions, maritime employers have to provide maintenance in accord with the seaman’s real household expenses. As an example, if you live in an area that has high household expenses, say $2,500 per month that should be the amount of your maintenance.