What is the doctrine of maintenance and cure?

In maritime law in Louisiana, there is something called the doctrine of maintenance and cure. According to the Federal Bar Association, admiralty law typically sides with the employee in that there is an expectation of the employer to provide a safe work environment and to minimize any risks. If an injury occurs, the employer is expected to pay for the costs the employee incurs as a result of the accident.

Under the doctrine of maintenance and cure, if you are injured, your employer must provide financial maintenance to pay for your costs as long as you are unable to work in a seaman position. Your employer must pay until you are completely able to return to work. However, if your injury is so extreme that there is nothing further medical professionals can do to help you recover enough to return to work, then your employer’s obligation ends. If upon first medical examination after your injury, a medical professional says you will not improve with medical treatment, then your employer has no obligation under maintenance and cure. You must be capable of improving and returning to work to continue to receive maintenance.

The hope is to create a balance that protects both you and your employer. It is protecting you because it ensures you get the money owed to you by your employer because of your injury. It protects your employer from fraudulent claims from employees who have been cleared to work but fail to return and expect to continue to receive payments. This information is only intended to educate and should not be interpreted as legal advice.