What Is Maintenance & Cure?
Understanding a Seaman's Right to Medical Treatment
When an accident or injury occurs at a workplace, the injured employee typically has the right to compensation for medical expenses and loss of wages. Offshore workers have the same right to benefits when they are injured in accidents that occur on offshore vessels such as oil rigs, offshore platforms, and jack-up rigs. However, seamen and harbor workers differ from normal employees because they are dependent on their employers for shelter and food in addition to normal wages. When a maritime worker falls ill or is injured while at sea, medical care may also be required.
Therefore, when offshore workers are injured, the first concerns typically involve medical expenses:
- How will they pay for your necessary treatments?
- What source of income will they survive on while recovering?
- Will their work pay for their injuries?
With so many questions surrounding an offshore injury, it is no wonder that so many seamen do not know their rights or how to enforce them. However, it is critical to recognize that any seaman who is injured while at sea has the legal right to receive maintenance and cure from their employer. Whether you are a commercial fisherman, a deckhand, or any other position, you are entitled to these benefits.
Explaining Maintenance & Cure
The principle of maintenance and cure is one of the central aspects of general maritime law. Per this principle, a vessel owner must pay for your living expenses, such as food, rent, electricity, phone, transportation, and for your medical treatment until you reach maximum medical improvement. There is no need to prove the shipowner was at fault to receive these benefits.
- The obligation to "cure" simply means the shipowner is required to pay for medical expenses at no cost to the seaman injured while in service to the ship. Maximum medical cure is the point at which the employer needs to provide medical treatment which improves his functioning ability, which is going further than just providing medical attention until he has healed.
- The language of "maintenance" is what binds the shipowner to provide his offshore employee with the means to live while he is rehabilitating. Once the worker has improved, he can maintain himself again and no longer needs his employer's maintenance.
For work injuries, a seaman receives compensation benefits that are intended to cover all healthcare costs. Once a seaman reaches the maximum medical improvement (MMI) they will no longer receive maintenance and cure. Even if a seaman has not fully recovered, they may be deemed as healthy as they are going to get. This means that maintenance and cure may not cover all pain, suffering, and desired medical treatment.
What If My Employer Will Not Pay for Maintenance & Cure?
If you were injured while working offshore, you may have the legal right to receive maintenance and cure. This benefit is provided by general maritime law to injured seaman, regardless of who is considered to be at fault. Maintenance is a daily fee to cover the seaman's room and board. Cure covers all reasonable, necessary medical treatment. Even though you are provided this right under the law, not all employers act ethically and pay what you are owed. It is important to know that if your employer is not paying your medical bills that you have legal rights.
If your employer is refusing to pay the medical expenses related to your injury, and therefore denying your rights to maintenance and cure, it is crucial that you contact an experienced maritime lawyer as soon as possible.
Protecting Your Rights as a Maritime Worker
Slippery deck platforms, broken machinery, and bitter weather conditions are all common causes of injury and illness among offshore workers. Depending on the type of accident, a worker may be unable to return to work for an extended period, leaving their family without a stable income. Maritime employers cannot pick and choose which benefits they provide to sick or injured employees. If your employer has failed to provide these benefits after you have suffered injury or illness, contact a maritime injury attorney for help.
At Arnold & Itkin, we understand recovering benefits is not always easy. In addition to fighting injury or illness, you also need the strength to stand up to your employer, who may refuse to pay or try to offer you a bare minimum amount. Our maritime injury lawyers are proud to stand up for the rights of injured workers. We will not allow your employer to take advantage of your rights. Contact our firm for the aggressive legal support that you need to win maximum maintenance and care benefits. With a commitment to justice and a proven history of success, a personal injury lawyer from our team will provide you with caring support in your offshore accident case.
If you are facing a similar situation, it may be time to speak with an offshore attorney to determine your options.