Seaman’s rights to maintenance, cure and unearned wages

On Behalf of | Mar 22, 2019 | Admiralty & Maritime Law

According to the Cornell Law School Legal Information Institute, maintenance and cure, in brief terms, refers to a seaman’s rights to compensation after he sustains injuries on the job. refers to benefits for day-to-day living expenses while refers to medical benefits. Louisiana law requires employers to pay maintenance and cure until the seaman is either to go back to work or has reached a point at which medical treatment can no longer benefit him. FindLaw explains maintenance and cure more in depth, as well as address the topic of unearned wages. 

Seamen, throughout a good portion of the year, live aboard a vessel. When a seaman sustains an injury that keeps him from working, he must find temporary room and board. So he does not have to pay for it out of pocket, maritime law mandates the employer pay maintenance, which should cover the cost of lodging. As of now, the local maintenance rate is between $20 and $30, though many legitimate arguments exist for increasing it.

Cure refers to a seaman’s right to medical treatment, which the employer’s workers’ compensation company must pay the entirety of. However, a seaman has an obligation to mitigate his medical expenses. If an employer suspects that a seaman’s medical care has been unnecessary or excessive, it may petition to cease cure or  for the repayment of benefits already paid.

Finally, an injured seaman has the right to unearned wages he would have received had he been able to continue working for the duration of the voyage or contract. This is the case regardless of when the seaman sustained his injuries, even if he sustained them on the first day of the job. Unearned wages include bonuses, overtime and other benefits the seaman would have earned had he been able to continue working.

Because disputes often arise over the term “voyage,” the courts refer to past practices between the worker and employer and the agreed upon term of employment.


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