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Injured seamen's right to maintenance and cure under maritime law

Many Louisiana residents make their living on the high seas. It is tough work, and it can be dangerous. Seamen who are injured during their service on a vessel have the right, under maritime law, to recover unearned wages, as well two forms of compensation known as maintenance and cure.

When a seaman is injured and no longer able to serve on the vessel, he or she loses not just wages but the room and board that was provided on the vessel. Maintenance is financial compensation for the loss of this room and board. The maintenance rate is somewhat low, usually in the range of $20 to $30 per day. Maintenance payments commence when the seaman departs the vessel, not when the injury occurs. When the seaman attains maximum medical cure, meaning additional medical treatment will not result in an improved medical condition, the right to collect maintenance ends.

Cure is the right to receive medical treatment. The seaman has the right to cure until he or she reaches maximum medical cure or is fit to return to work.

Finally, the seaman can recover the unearned wages the seaman would have been paid if he or she had been able to work through the remainder of the voyage.

The seaman's right to maintenance and cure has its origins in the common law. It is based on the employment relationship with the vessel's owner. The seaman has the right to claim maintenance and cure without regard to who was at fault in the accident, or whether the vessel was unseaworthy. An injured seaman can claim maintenance and cure without bringing a Jones Act claim, although the Jones Act can provide additional compensation.

Source: FindLaw, "The Seaman's Entitlement to Maintenance, Cure and Unearned Wages," accessed Jan. 26, 2016

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