In the United States, the doctrine of maintenance and cure is vital to a maritime workers’ well being. Crew members of vessels, referred to as seaman, are not covered by state or U.S. federal Workers’ Compensation regulations and compensation. Instead, they must rely on the U.S. Jones Act, which provides strict guidelines vessel and fleet employers must follow to keep their employees safe and in good health. Should injury occur as a result of an employer’s neglect, the employer must compensate adequately for the seaman’s injury.
Maintenance and Cure Defined
The doctrine of maintenance and cure says that no matter who or what is at fault, a seaman must be compensated for loss of pay and medical costs as a result of any work-related injury. The only exception to this doctrine is when the maritime worker becomes injured as a result of his or her own willful misconduct.
A seaman’s coverage for maintenance and cure benefits is not limited to time spent on board the employer’s vessel. Compensation is required for injuries sustained:
- When the seaman is on land, but performing duties of her or his maritime position
- When the vessel is in a foreign port, and the seaman is on shore leave
- When the seaman is traveling between home and the employer’s vessel, or vessel-related work location
The employer is responsible for providing maintenance and cure compensation funds.
What is Maintenance?
At its simplest, maintenance is financial compensation for lodging and food while in recovery from a work-related injury. The compensation must be adequate to provide necessities comparable to what the seaman realized while onboard his or her employer’s vessel.
What is Cure?
Cure requires that any injured seaman receive funds to pay for medical treatment, equipment and supplies adequate to recovery.
What is Willful Misconduct?
A seaman that is injured due to his or her own deliberate indiscretion is considered to be injured by way of willful misconduct. This indiscretion could include, for example, a situation in which the maritime working claiming maintenance and cure benefits was injured during a physical altercation in which he was the aggressor. Another example would be if the seaman were intoxicated when the injury occurred. A seaman whose injuries were complicated by venereal disease or who had been ingesting illegal drugs might well be accused of willful misconduct as well.
The burden of proving willful misconduct falls upon the employer.
An attorney experienced in the doctrine of maintenance and cure is an excellent resource for an injured seaman who needs help recouping adequate compensation, especially if willful misconduct is alleged.