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What's the Doctrine of Maintenance and Cure?

Injured seamen who are hurt in service of their ship are entitled to something known as "maintenance and cure," not just lost wages.

What exactly is the Doctrine of Maintenance and Cure?

Essentially, maintenance is a daily stipend, or payment. It's designed to cover an injured seaman's room and board while he or she recovers from the injury. Your employer generally is responsible for paying maintenance the same way that you would have received your paycheck (every two weeks, usually). You're entitled to receive maintenance payments until you reach what is known as your maximum medical improvement -- the point at which you aren't likely to recover any further.

"Cure" is a little different. It's the cost of all the necessary, reasonable medical care you need for your injuries. This includes essentials like medication, hospital care, doctor visits and X-rays. It also covers things that your employer might not care to pay for, however, like physical therapy and chiropractic care -- as long as those treatments are reasonable for your condition. Again, you're entitled to receive "cure" until you hit the point of maximum medical improvement. Keep in mind that you may have to pay some out-of-pocket expenses (like prescription co-pays) and then submit the receipts to your employer. Your employer, however, has the obligation of repaying you without any significant delays.

Occasionally, an employer will balk at paying all or some of your reasonable maintenance and cure expenses -- even if it seems like you are clearly due those benefits. Don't let that sort of thing go unchallenged. You can get help to protect your rights by consulting an experienced maritime lawyer about your case.

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