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The limits of maintenance and cure benefits

Given the risks associated with employment in the maritime industry, it is easy to imagine one who is injured at sea requiring an extensive recovery period in Manhattan before he or she is fit to return to work (that is, if he or she is indeed able to return to work at all). The financial losses that result from not being able to work for a significant period of time can be massive, yet in the case the of maritime workers injured while employed in the service of their vessels, maintenance and cure benefits are meant to mitigate them. 

Per definitions established by the U.S. Second District Court, those inured at sea are entitled to be treated and cured at the expense of the ship. Yet exactly how long does that entitlement last? The answer to that question may depend on the nature of the injury that leaves one needing maintenance and cure benefits. 

The standard for the length of maintenance and cure benefit entitlement was established in a 1938 ruling issued by the U.S. Third Circuit Court of Appeals. In it, the Court recognized the need for maintenance and cure benefits to extend past the termination of a voyage. Such benefits should cover all costs associated with injuries sustained while fulfilling one’s job responsibilities. In the case of the contraction of an incurable disease or chronic infection that manifests itself during a voyage, yet whose occurrence was not caused by it, employers might also be required to provide maintenance and cure. In such instances, however, that obligation is not indefinite. Rather, the court ruled that benefits are only required until those receiving them see an improvement in their conditions as would be expected after undergoing proper medical care. 

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