If a seaman becomes injured on a vessel, regardless of the fault of the vessel or its operators, his or her legal remedy is called maintenance and cure. “Maintenance” is a small daily compensation designed to provide the food and shelter that would have been provided to the seaman while aboard the vessel. Today, maintenance rates range from $7 to $35 per day.
“Cure” is the obligation of the seaman’s employer to provide medical treatment, prescription drugs, nursing services, hospitalization, rehab & therapy, until the seaman reaches maximum medical improvement. Maximum medical improvement means that the seaman’s condition will not improve any further or he is permanently disabled.
When a seaman reaches maximum medical improvement, the vessel owner’s obligation to pay maintenance and cure ceases, regardless of whether the seaman can return to work or not. The seaman has a right to his choice of physicians and does not have to accept treatment by his employer’s choice of physician. If an employer refuses to pay maintenance and cure, the employer can be held liable for damages and attorneys’ fees.