Maintenance & Cure

Understanding Maintenance and Cure Under Maritime Law: California Accident Lawyer Explains

Maintenance and cure are two important concepts in maritime law that provide certain benefits and protections for seamen who suffer injuries or illness while working at sea. They function like a type of workers’ compensation insurance in that employers must provide maintenance and cure benefits to an injured seaman no matter who was at fault for the injury or illness. However, there are some important differences, including the extent to which employers must pay cure and whether an injured worker has independent tort rights. Unfortunately, these concepts can be complicate and easily confused, which is something that far too many employers will not explain and may often try to twist the law in their favor to avoid paying what they are legally obligated to under the law. This is why seamen who are injured or become ill on a vessel need to always contact an experienced maritime accident lawyer in Oakland, California for help.

Here at the Law Offices of Daniel Weltin, we offer victims and their families a free case evaluation to learn more about their rights to maintenance and cure, whether they may have an additional personal injury claim against a negligent party. Our free consultation has no upfront cost and has no obligation to sign up, but if you do hire our bodily injury law firm and if we accept your case, our legal fees and litigation expenses are only paid after you are paid in a verdict, settlement, award, or another type of recovery. To learn more about your rights and how we can fight to protect them, contact our experienced Oakland maritime accident lawyer in California today.

Maintenance and Cure in General

Seamen who are injured or become ill while working aboard a vessel are entitled to certain benefits from their employer. These benefits are known as maintenance and cure, and there are very few exceptions or instances that shrink an employer’s obligation or amount owed to an injured seaman. There are also additional rights that an injured or ill seaman may have under the law.

An employer’s obligations under the legal concept of maintenance and cure are derived from the common law, or judge-made law, which means that many important elements and exceptions come from judicial decisions. However, the Jones Act, formerly known as the Merchant Marine Act of 1920, created additional protections for seamen and obligations for employers.

What is Maintenance?

Maintenance refers to a seaman’s daily living expenses which must be paid by an employer after an injury or illness. This does not just include room and board while on a vessel, but the common law has extended this concept to when an injured seaman is at home recovering too.

Therefore, that means that an employer must pay for certain and necessary household expenses, including the following:

  • Monthly rent or mortgage obligations
  • Certain utilities like electric, natural gas, propane, fuel oil, and related utilities
  • Property taxes
  • Homeowner’s insurance
  • Food and drink

However, an employer is not required to pay for other household expenses that may appear to be day-to-day obligations. Some of the expenses which are not covered include the following:

  • Telephone or cell phone bills
  • Television services either cable, fiber option, satellite, or streaming
  • Internal connection
  • Motor vehicle payments, either on a lease or loan payment
  • Entertainment costs such as movies, video games, streaming services, or other related expenses
  • Gasoline or vehicle maintenance expenses, and
  • Other expenses that are not deemed to be necessary household expenses.

What is Cure?

Cure refers to a seaman’s reasonable and necessary medical expenses during the normal course of treatment and care related to his or her injury or illness. The concept of cure also includes the reasonable cost of transportation, such as a special car service like a medical van. Under decisional law, an employer must continue to pay cure under a physician declares that the seaman 1) is fit for service, or 2) has reached maximum medical cure (MMC), also known as maximum medical improvement (MMI).

Can an Injured or Ill Seaman Choose His or Her Own Doctor?

Yes, an injured or ill seaman may choose his or her own doctors in most instances. However, there may be a cost adjustment in the benefits owed by an employer if the selected doctor is more expensive than the doctor that was chosen by the employer. This is particularly true if the employer is able to prove that their doctor was reasonable and adequate, or that the victim’s doctor is providing medically unnecessary treatment or charging unreasonably high medical fees.

How is Maintenance and Cure Calculated?

Generally, the daily amount of maintenance and cure is between $10 and $50 per day. The payment amount is set by the employer, but may also be established pursuant to a collective bargaining agreement (CBA) if the injured or ill seaman is a member of a union subscribing to that CBA.

The manner in which an employer typically sets the maintenance and cure rate is by estimating the victim’s actual costs of food and lodging and comparing it to the reasonable costs of food and lodging for the average seaman living in the victim’s geographic area. The employer will usually provide the reasonable costs of an average seaman, but if the actual expenses are lower than what the reasonable costs would be, the employer has an obligation to inquire whether the actual expenses are inadequate. In any event, an injured or ill seaman has the right to seek an increase by filing an action in court with the help of an experienced maritime accident lawyer in California like ours.

As it relates specifically to the amount of cure, the amount of this benefit is just the amount that is medically necessary to bring the seaman back to health to serve again, or where the seaman has stopped improving. It is not, as the name implies, to “cure” an injured or ill seaman – who may have suffered permanent or disabling personal injuries.

Were You Injured at Sea? Let Our Experienced Maritime Accident Lawyer in Oakland, California Evaluate Your Rights to Maintenance and Cure Under the Law

If you or a loved one were injured on a vessel at sea, contact the Law Offices of Daniel Weltin to protect your rights to maintenance and cure protections. Unfortunately, far too many employers may unfairly limit or preclude you from what the law provides to you – sometimes because of the complexities of maritime law, sometimes intentionally trying to take advantage of you and your rights. Our compassionate and experienced maritime accident injury in Oakland, California will meet with you and your family, evaluate your claim, and fight to protect your rights under the law.

To learn more about how we can help you, contact us today by calling (510) 319-1904​​​​​​​ or by sending us a message through our “Contact Us” box available here.

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