Whenever a Jones Act seaman is injured on the job, their employer is required to pay maintenance and cure. It has been said that the duty to pay maintenance and cure is an “ancient” obligation. In fact, the right to maintenance and cure is codified in ancient sea codes going back thousands of years. Because Jones Act seaman are not covered under a traditional workers’ compensation scheme, maintenance and cure is their only resource to help pay their bills and receive medical treatment.
Maintenance refers to the amount paid to an injured seaman to “maintain” their current lifestyle. This is essentially the same as weekly/monthly indemnity checks paid under traditional workers’ compensation schemes. The amount paid is usually commensurate with the amount required for the injured seaman to cover their basic bills every month. Usually, the amount paid for maintenance is lower than the amount received under traditional workers’ compensation schemes. In every case I have been involved with, the amount of maintenance has usually been around forty dollars per day.
Cure refers to an injured seaman’s medical treatment. When a Jones Act seaman is injured on the job, the shipowner is required to pay their reasonable medical expenses from the time of injury through the time the injured seaman reached maximum medical improvement. Once maximum medical improvement is reached, the shipowner is no longer required to pay for palliative care.
The threshold of liability needed to trigger a shipowner’s duty to pay maintenance and cure is low. As stated above, the only requirement, generally, to trigger a shipowner’s duty to pay maintenance and cure, is to show that the Jones Act seaman was injured on the job. Under those circumstances, the shipowner is liable to pay the injured seaman’s maintenance and cure regardless of who is ultimately found to be at fault for the accident.
The courts over the years have striven to keep the right to maintenance and cure free to technicalities and hurdles for injured seaman. For the most part, determining the right to maintenance and cure is fairly simple and straightforward…..was the injured seaman hurt on the job? However, there are a few defenses to maintenance and cure which can be asserted by a shipowner. We will cover those in detail as we continue to add content to the site. We want to thank everyone who has supported the site and our social media pages. We continue to work tirelessly to provide relevant content and, as always, should anyone have any questions or comments regarding this article, or any information contained on the site, please do hot hesitate to reach out.