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Maintenance and Cure
One of the most basic rights of a seaman, laid down over centuries and cherished through generations of maritime tradition, is the right to maintenance and cure while a seaman is injured.
Maintenance and cure rights refer to those rights that provide for the seaman's most immediate basic and medical needs after an injury. These rights kick as soon as the injury occurs, and will continue until the seaman reaches a state of maximum medical improvement (MMI), where he cannot be expected to improve any further.
Maintenance payments provide for the basic daily expenses of a seaman. While a seaman is injured, he will still need to pay for his daily expenses and look after his family. Maintenance payouts therefore, must cover house rent, food expenses, groceries, utilities and other daily expenses. There are no set payments for maintenance that are laid down by maritime law. Typically, the rate of maintenance can vary between $15 and $30 per day. Obviously, these amounts are very low, and often, they barely cover the seaman's expenses, leave alone covering the costs of looking after his family. Maintenance payouts must take into consideration a number of factors, including the location of the seaman.
This refers simply to the medical costs of the injured seaman. After an injury, a seaman may require not just emergency medical care, but also surgeries, medications, and physical therapy. The employer is required to pay for all these costs. Cure expenses can even include the transportation costs incurred by the seaman while traveling to and from the doctor's office.
A seaman's most inalienable right is that of maintenance and cure. Unlike a Jones Act claim of negligence, maintenance and cure does not depend on proving employer negligence. Simply put, a seaman is eligible for maintenance and cure, even if he was responsible for his own injury.
You would think that every employer would come forward to voluntarily meet the expenses of his injured worker. Very often, that is not the case. Employers may try to deny or delay payments, or pay out a much lower amount for maintenance, than a seaman can subsist on. In such cases, consulting with a maritime lawyer can help you recover your rights and the maintenance and cure payments you are eligible for.