Maintenance and cure, like so many terms from the long history of seamanship, is exactly what it sounds like. Maintenance is the cost of living while on a ship or in recovery due to injuries suffered on a ship. Cure is the expense of medical treatment and other infirmary costs. This may be an accounted amount or a daily stipend.
There is a more modern term that matters is the modern calculations for maintenance and cure. That term is maximum medical improvement. The owner or operator of a vessel is required to pay maintenance and cure until a seaman reaches this level of wellness after injury or illness.
Maximum medical improvement is a medical determination, not a legal one. This means that no lawyer, judge or legal entity can determine when a person has reached it. Only a doctor or medical professional with the proper qualification can determine and attest to maximum medical improvement.
Courts can generally be expected to default for a seaman’s right to maintenance and cure. If there is any ambiguity as to maximum medical improvement, a court should at least seek a medical opinion before allowing a vessel’s owner or operator to stop payment of maintenance and cure.
Workers on ships that have required maintenance and cure may have a case for payments as well as extra costs such as legal fees in a civil court. An attorney can help review the details of a case of injury or illness on a vessel and determine if a medical opinion was not properly considered by the owner.