Injured seamen are entitled to maintenance, cure, and unearned wage benefits regardless of fault. Moreover, as long as the injury or illness occurs while the seaman remains obligated to return to the vessel if called, such as when on shore leave, the benefits should be available, and because close calls concerning coverage are supposed to favor seamen, coverage has been granted under numerous other circumstances. While the no fault aspect of the law is the same as that utilized in most state workers’ compensation systems – Florida’s workers’ compensation system is located in Chapter 440 of the Florida Statutes – the state systems are more conservative with regard to the extension of coverage for injuries occurring beyond the workplace.
Maintenance, cure, and unearned wage benefits should not be confused with the compensation available under the the Jones Act, a fault based system, for economic and non-economic damages (e.g., pain and suffering), and they end when the seaman is fit for duty or has reached maximum medical cure, defined as the point beyond which there can be no reasonable expectation of medical improvement – caveat: maximum medical cure does not mean improvement to pre-accident levels – even where palliative care continues to be provided.
Maintenance is the seaman’s actual reasonable expenses of room and board while ashore, equal in quality to those received onboard the vessel. Standard rates for various regions are typcically applied as a rule of thumb, nut the standard rates do not prevent a seaman from going to court to obtain a higher rate.
Cure are the reasonable medical expenses for treatment until the seaman is fit for duty or until maximum medical cure. A seaman may choose his own physician, but that physician may not be compensated at his full rate if the employer prefers another physician and proves that the seaman’s doctor provided unnecessary services or charged more than the employer’s preferred choice.
Unearned Wages are the wages that the seaman would have earned until the end of the voyage or he is fit for duty. They are payable as they accrue.
This blog contains only the most rudimentary information about maintenance, cure, and unearned wages. For a deeper explanation, a lawyer should be consulted.
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Jeffrey P. Gale, P.A. is a South Florida based law firm committed to the judicial system and to representing and obtaining justice for individuals – the poor, the injured, the forgotten, the voiceless, the defenseless and the damned, and to protecting the rights of such people from corporate and government oppression. We do not represent government, corporations or large business interests.