When a seaman suffers injury or illness in service of their vessel, whether they are a commercial or merchant seaman, they are eligible to receive “Maintenance and Cure” which are benefits received from their employer during their recovery. Maintenance means the day-to-day living expenses such as rent, homeowner’s insurance, property taxes, and food. Maintenance ONLY includes things that are absolutely necessary to run a household—luxuries like cable TV, Internet, and telephone bills are not covered by maintenance. Maritime lawyers such as Friedman, James & Buchsbaum LLP, ensure that should you be injured or become ill during your employment on a vessel you receive the Maintenance and Cure benefits you deserve.
Cure is made up of your reasonable and necessary medical expenses. This includes the cost of transportation to and from your medical treatment. In the same way a Workers’ Comp policy covers land-based employees, Maintenance and Cure covers sick or injured seaman.
Maintenance and Cure ends when a seaman is declared fit to return to duty or has reached MMI (maximum medical improvement). MMI basically means that doctors do not expect further improvement and treatments aimed at improving the injury, such as physical therapy, have been suspended. MMI does not necessarily mean that the seaman has fully recovered from their injury or illness; they may still be in need of medical care, however, once they have achieved a state in which they are no longer expected to improve they have officially reached MMI. This, unfortunately, also includes seamen that are permanently disabled. If your employer unreasonably and intentionally refuses to pay a reasonable amount of Maintenance and Cure you do have recourse. The law allows for punitive damages in these cases so long as there is sufficient evidence that your employer refused to do so.
Maintenance and Cure apply to injuries and illnesses that occur both on and off your ship. So long as you were acting “in the service” of your vessel you are covered by Maintenance and Cure. Furthermore, it does not matter whether your company is at fault for causing the injury or illness. As long as you were in service of your vessel when the injury of illness occurred you are entitled to Maintenance and Cure.
Finally, applying for Maintenance and Cure does not mean that you are ineligible for compensation under the Jones act. You are fully within your rights to file a negligence claim under the Jones Act if your employer has caused your injury or illness and it will not have an effect on the Maintenance and Cure that your employer must also provide.