Maintenance and cure dates back to ancient times and states that someone working aboard a ship has certain rights if injured on that ship, regardless of any negligence. Work aboard ships is dangerous, and it was long ago decided that anyone willing to work in these conditions was entitled to certain benefits in case of injury or sickness. If you are a seaman injured on the job, you have certain rights guaranteed by this law, and a maritime lawyer can help you use it to recover damages.
What Is Maintenance?
Maintenance under maritime law refers to the costs of maintaining yourself and your daily life when you can’t work, or in simple terms, room and board.
Get Matched with a Leading Maritime Attorney in Your Area
- Find the leading maritime lawyers in your area
- Discover how to get compensation as fast as possible
- Learn your legal rights as an injured maritime worker
If you can’t work and earn a wage because of an injury aboard a vessel, this aspect of the law entitles you to the money you need to pay:
- Rent and utilities
- Buy food
- Pay for insurance and taxes
- Cover any other necessities related to your home
The right to maintenance from your employer comes from the fact that a ship owner is responsible for housing and feeding you when you are aboard a ship. This extends to your daily needs when you are off the ship and unable to work because of an injury or sickness.
Nothing unnecessary, like a cable bill or gas for your car, is covered under maintenance. The law is specific to household necessities.
What Is Cure?
Cure is related to your injury or illness caused by being on the job as a seaman. Whatever medical care you need due to that illness or injury should be covered by your employer under the law. This includes:
- Medical bills
- Transportation to medical appointments
- Any reasonable supplements to treatment, like physical therapy
Maintenance and Cure for Illness
The right of maintenance and cure applies not only to injuries that occur aboard a vessel. Working on a ship is dangerous, and accidents are not uncommon, but you can also get sick because of your work or simply while you are at work.
Your illness doesn’t have to be related to your duties or the ship’s environment. If you are too sick to work and your illness developed while you were aboard the ship, you are still entitled to maintenance and cure from your employer until you are well again.
The Duration of Benefits
The right to living benefits and care lasts until you reach maximum medical improvement or MMI. MMI refers to a point at which you have been treated medically until your condition cannot be improved.
This could mean you are fully cured or healed, but it may mean living with a chronic condition. Either way, your right to maintenance and cure expires when your doctor declares you have reached MMI.
The Rate of Benefits
There was a time when employers paid less than the actual living expenses for maintenance, but court cases challenging the practice of underpaying for maintenance were successful.
Employers now must pay the actual living expenses of injured seamen. The rate paid out for the right of cure to an injured seaman should be precisely what the medical expenses cost, not any less.
If you belong to a union, your contract may include a provision for the rate of maintenance that applies to all members, regardless of your actual living expenses. However, the law regarding union maintenance rates is interpreted differently in different parts of the country.
A personal injury lawyer experienced in maritime law can help you figure out if your union membership affects or determines your maintenance rate.
The Difference Between Maintenance and Cure and the Jones Act
As a seaman with an injury from being on the job, you have more than one source of protection under the law. The major difference between your rights under this law and those under the Jones Act is related to negligence.
According to maintenance and cure, your employer is responsible for compensating you, regardless of who, if anyone, was at fault for your injury or illness. You have no burden to prove negligence by anyone, even your employer.
If you are injured and can prove that your employer’s negligence contributed to the incident, you can sue for more compensation under the Jones Act. In addition to costs of living and medical care, the Jones Act allows you to request damages for lost wages and pain and suffering.
Qualifying for Maintenance and Cure
To qualify for these rights, you must meet the requirements that define a seaman. These are the same as those required by the Jones Act. According to both laws, a seaman:
- Spends at least 30 percent of work time aboard a vessel
- Does work that contributes to the running of the vessel
- Does work that takes place on navigable waters
When You Have Been Denied Benefits
If you have been injured on the job, have become ill because of your working conditions, and meet the requirements of being a seaman, you are entitled to benefits.
It doesn’t matter if your employer was not negligible; you still have that right. If an employer is denying you that right, you can fight for the compensation you deserve with the guidance of an experienced maritime lawyer.