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What are your rights to 'maintenance and cure?'

The idea that injured seamen have a right to 'maintenance and cure' is considered an ancient doctrine. Many seafarers don't fully understand their rights under this provision.

Distinct from the benefits that can be claimed under the Jones Act, seamen are entitled to maintenance and cure any time they are injured "in the service of the vessel," even if they were on land at the time. It doesn't matter if the vessel's owner was negligent or not.

What exactly does "maintenance and cure" provide? Well, your "maintenance" is the dollar value of your daily room and board, equal to what you would have been provided on the ship. "Cure" is the cost of any reasonable medical care related to your injury or illness.

It's important to understand, however, that your employer is only obligated to pay your maintenance and cure until you've reached the maximum medical improvement for your condition. Most of the time, seafaring companies will treat their injured seaman fairly. However, there are always going to be a few who would like to skirt their financial responsibilities.

How might an employer try to cheat you out of your fair maintenance and cure? Here are several different ways:

  • They may pay you an unfairly low per diem rate that's far below what you need to cover your living expenses.
  • They may try to delay your payments or question whether your injury was in service of the vessel at all.
  • They may try to insist that you have reached your maximum medical improvement far too soon so that they can justify cutting off your payments.

When that happens, you may have to seek legal assistance from a New York attorney who understands the mechanics of Maritime law and all the benefits you are due.

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