“Maintenance and cure“ is an ancient duty the owner of a vessel owes to provide food, lodging and necessary medical services to a Jones Act seamen who becomes ill or is injured while working on a ship. The duty of the owner to provide maintenance and cure occurs when a seaman is not able to perform his work and the duty continues until he reaches maximum medical recovery.
Jones Act Seamen
Courts have determined that the owner’s duty of maintenance and cure for the purpose of protecting seaman is a broad one. Recovery does not depend on the vessel or owner and the burden of proof in obtaining maintenance and cure is relatively light. Generally, a seaman only needs to prove that he was injured while serving on the vessel. The seaman does not have to prove a connection between his work aboard the vessel and his injury. The right of maintenance and cure exists regardless of fault. The purpose of maintenance and cure is to cure the injured seaman. A seaman’s right to maintenance and cure is based on the employee-employer relationship.
Although a seaman’s burden is fairly light, the employer is entitled to investigate the seaman’s claim. An employer may deny maintenance and cure if a diligent investigation indicates the seaman’s claim is not legitimate or if the seaman does not provide medical records supporting his claim. However, if the employer’s investigation of a seaman’s claim creates a question as to whether the seaman is entitled to maintenance and cure, the seaman will be entitled to maintenance and cure.
If an employer does not properly investigate a claim for maintenance and cure or unreasonably rejects a claim after investigating the seaman’s claim, the employer is possibly liable for compensatory damages as a consequence of failing to pay maintenance and cure. The employer is also possibly liable for punitive damages and attorney’s fees if they are at fault in denying a proper claim for maintenance and cure. If you would like to speak to an experienced Jones Act lawyer today, please contact Cueria Law Firm, LLC. You can schedule a free consultation, and learn about the special right to maintenance and cure you have as an injured Jones Act seaman.
Sources: Stermer v. Archer-Daniels-Midland and American River Transportation Co., 140 So. 3d 879 (2014), Stermer v. Archer-Daniels-Midland Co., 186 So. 3 319 (2016).