If you are a seaman that has been injured or become ill, then you may have heard the terminology "maintenance and cure" thrown about. It essentially refers to your right to have your medical expenses covered by a shipowner if you're hurt on the job.
While the idea of maintenance and cure may sound like workers' compensation coverage, it's a little different from it. Under this doctrine, a shipowner is required to pay for a seaman's medical costs regardless of whether they were hurt or became ill on the job or somewhere else.
The only condition that must be met is that the seaman must be subject to recall at the time of the injury or illness. They must not have severed their employment relationship with the shipowner at the time they become injured or ill either. The ship's owner will have to pay for the seaman's medical costs whether they were actually at fault for the injury or not.
Generally, self-inflicted injuries caused by intoxication or a seaman's own negligence can be covered by maintenance and cure. Sexually transmitted diseases cannot though. If a seaman contends that they have a medical condition that was later determined to have been made up, then they may be ineligible for maintenance and cure as well.
Even if a seaman ultimately qualifies for maintenance and cure, their entitlement to benefits may be limited. The shipowner is only required to pay for medical costs necessary to get a seaman to maximum medical improvement. Once that occurs, they have no obligation to pay for long-term health costs associated with future care.
Additionally, the financial support that a shipowner provides is paid at a per diem rate necessary to take care of a seaman's lodging and food that they would have received while working aboard the vessel. Lost wages may also be covered under this doctrine.
While applying for and receiving maintenance and cure benefits is supposed to be a relatively straightforward process, shipowners often drag their feet in handling such claims. They often stall in providing them with medical provider information or may delay in making payments on claims. A Louisiana admiralty & maritime law attorney can a let you know what your rights are and whether you should file a case.