If you are an offshore worker, chances are you have heard the phrase “maintenance and cure” a time or two. The concept of maintenance and cure is an important part of Maritime law. Offshore workers should not only be familiar with the phrase but they should also understand when maintenance and cure benefits are warranted.
In the event that an offshore worker is injured or falls ill while “in service of the vessel,” the shipowner (or employer) is responsible for the seaman’s daily living expenses (maintenance) and medical expenses (cure). The shipowner remains responsible for these expenses until the seaman reaches “maximum medical improvement,” a state where his or her condition cannot be improved any further or when a treatment plateau in his or her healing process is reached.
Maintenance payments are calculated based on the seaman’s living expenses. Maintenance benefits should cover the seaman’s mortgage, grocery expenses, and electricity and water expenses. Cure is the reasonable and necessary medical expenses incurred by the seaman for curative treatment. Employers also have the duty to furnish adequate medical treatment aboard the vessel.
Maintenance and Cure: Potential Issues
The obligation to pay maintenance and cure is “almost automatic” and is not predicated on the fault or negligence of the shipowner. However, the shipowner will be absolved of this obligation in certain situations. If a seaman willfully conceals a pre-existing condition to his employer when he is hired, the employer will not owe maintenance and cure. This is sometimes referred to as the “McCorpen” defense.
If the employer requires a pre-employment medical examination, the seaman’s obligation is to truthfully answer questions asked by a health care provider or in the hiring process. If the employer does not require a physical examination, the worker is only required to disclose conditions that he reasonably could be expected to know the employer would consider in hiring him. Finally, even where “concealment” is found, it will not defeat the employer’s obligation to pay maintenance and cure benefits under the law unless it is the cause of the current injury or condition.
Maintenance and Cure Attorneys
The Lambert Firm has more than 35 years of experience handling Maritime Injury Claims. If you have been injured while working offshore, we can help you get the maintenance and cure benefits that you deserve. Contact us today for a consultation.