A seaman who is injured or becomes ill while working on a vessel may be eligible for maintenance and cure benefits. Maintenance and cure are unique to maritime law and usually work in tandem. They are both no-fault claims, meaning that proving negligence against a maritime employer is not necessary before receiving benefits. Both legal schemes arise from ancient maritime law—so old that they pre-date the United States.
Maintenance requires the vessel owner to provide room and board expenses during the mariner’s recovery. This benefit may entitle a seaman to the money needed to pay rent, utilities, groceries, insurance, taxes, and other home-related expenses.
Cure requires a vessel owner to pay for the seaman’s medical expenses, which may include medical bills, treatment, filling prescriptions, transportation to appointment, physical therapy, etc.
To qualify for maintenance and cure benefits, you must be a “seaman." A seaman is a person who spends 30% of his working time aboard a vessel in navigable waters and whose role aboard the vessel contributes to the mission of the voyage.
The right to maintenance and cure is not limited to injuries that occur aboard a vessel. Seamen may also be entitled to benefits when they become sick or ill while on the job. In fact, the seaman’s illness does not even need to be work-related. To qualify for the benefits, the sickness need only develop while the seaman is acting in service of the vessel.
A vessel owner may continue to owe maintenance and cure to an injured or ill seaman until the seaman’s condition cannot be further improved (called “maximum medical improvement” or “MMI”). MMI is determined by your doctor. While some seamen may be fully cured when they are declared MMI, others may continue to suffer a chronic condition even after reaching MMI.
If you’ve been injured or fallen ill on a vessel while working as a commercial mariner, it is always prudent to call an experienced maritime lawyer. Maritime employers are required by law to pay maintenance and cure, but claims adjusters administering these benefits typically work for the maritime employer—not you. They will act in the best interests of the company and its insurer, possibly backed by advise from their own maritime lawyer. Don’t go it alone. Talk to an admiralty lawyer about what’s happening. If nothing else, you can make sure that you’re receiving the right benefits.
Mariner Law, PLLC was founded with the intention of helping injured mariners—it’s in the firm name. Maintenance and cure is essential for injured seafarers, and that’s something a mariner injury attorney can fight to protect. Mariner Law, PLLC never represents insurance companies. First consultation with a firm maritime lawyer is free. You may be entitled to maintenance and cure benefits. Call (253) 600-2531 to learn more. The firm serves mariner clients in Washington, Oregon, New York, Connecticut, Alaska, and nationwide.