Maintenance and cure are benefits paid to injured sailors to cover their medical expenses and daily living expenses while they recover. Because workers at sea are not covered by workers’ compensation benefits like land workers are, maintenance and cure benefits work in a similar way to providing for a sailor hurt on the job. They may sometimes pay more than workers’ compensation due to the perilous nature of the job, as those working at sea are at a much higher chance of being injured or killed in a work accident when compared to land workers.
Who is Eligible to Receive Maintenance and Cure Payments?
Any sailor or seaman employed by a vessel that operates on navigable waters is eligible for maintenance and cure. However, they will need to prove that they were injured while in the ship’s service. Most maintenance and cure benefit payments are obtained through agreements with the employer or an insurance carrier and require no litigation. Once the sea worker has proven eligibility to receive maintenance and cure benefits, the employer carries the burden of proof to demonstrate that maximum cure has been reached.
When Will My Maintenance and Cure Payment End?
Payments will usually end when the medical professional who is treating the injured sailor determines that they have reached “maximum medical improvement.” This means that the sailor is no longer in need of curative medical treatments and that their injury or medical condition will not get any better than it has. When that happens, the employer is allowed to stop maintenance and cure payments.
What If My Employer Refuses to Pay Maintenance and Cure?
There are rare instances in which employers may refuse to pay maintenance and cure benefits or may unilaterally decide to end them prematurely. There have been cases in which employers request the employee to be examined by another doctor for a second opinion, in an effort to determine if the sailor has reached maximum medical improvement. Fortunately, the courts tend to side with the injured sailor, pointing out that ending maintenance and cure payments should be a medical rather than a judicial decision.
If you have attempted to obtain your maintenance and cure payments through negotiation and have exhausted every avenue with no results, you may be able to initiate a lawsuit to recover compensation for your damages. In some cases where there is proof of gross negligence on the employer’s part, you may even be able to seek punitive damages. Every case is different, and you should seek the help of a maritime attorney if you have been hurt while working on a vessel and have been denied your maintenance and cure benefits. Gideon Asen LLC helps sailors across Maine, Vermont, and New Hampshire to stand up for their rights and get the money they deserve after an injury. Schedule a consultation by calling (207) 206-8982.