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The limits of maintenance and cure benefits

On Behalf of | Jan 3, 2019 | Maintenance & Cure

When those whose work involves sailing out of Manhattan’s ports are injured during their voyages, their concerns typically center on three important elements: wages, maintenance and cure. One might think that an employer can argue that while a seafarer is not working that they do not deserve to be paid, federal law requires that any wages that would have been earned after their injuries occurred be paid out. This obligation to pay unearned wages continues until the voyage ends. 

The obligation to pay maintenance and cure, however, lasts longer. Per the Cornell Law School, maintenance and cure benefits are paid to seafarers to cover the medical expenses arising from work-related injuries and to meet their day-to-day expenses while they are away from work. Determining when the payments of these benefits should end may seem as simple as knowing when the seafarer returns to work. However, that is not always the case. 

The Federal Bar Association states that an employer remains obliged to pay maintenance and cure benefits until such time as an injured party has reached “maximum cure.” That term may seem open to interpretation, yet the law is clear regarding when it considers that point has been reached. “Maximum cure” is officially defined as being the point at which further treatments will not improve one’s condition. This applies to both scenarios when one is able to return to work, and when one’s injury leaves them unable to resume their previous job. In the latter case, one would then be expected to seek other sources of assistance (such as disability payments or unemployment benefits), as maintenance and cure benefits do not cover long-term disabilities or palliative care.