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Understanding maintenance and cure for injured seaman

Those working as a seaman are subject to the same risks and injuries of any worker in New Orleans and elsewhere. However, it is often the case that these risks and hazards are more severe, resulting in serious and even disabling injuries, in the event of a maritime accident. Because of that, seamen are afforded rights beyond traditional workers' compensation benefits.

An injured worker is generally entitled to the payment of losses related to the work injury. These include medical treatment, lost wages and permanent partial disability payments. And, under maritime law, an injured seaman is also entitled to maintenance and cure.

The obligation of maintenance and cure arises out of the employment relationship between the seaman and the vessel owner. This entitlement means that the vessel owner is responsible for the maintenance and cure of any injury or illness that occurs during the service of a seaman.

This obligation arises regardless of the seaman's fault, negligence of another party or seaworthiness of the vessel the seaman is aboard. Moreover, the seaman is entitled to any unearned wages from his employer until it is determined he or she is fit for duty again.

"Maintenance" is the entitlement to maintenance and cure refers to the daily amount necessary to compensate the injured or ill seaman for room and board aboard the vessel. Maintenance occurs on the date the seaman leaves the vessel and not on the date the injury or illness occurs. This usually amounts to $20 to $30 a day.

"Cure" refers to the injured or ill seaman's right to medical treatment. This also include the right to continue treatment until he or she is fit for duty, or is determined to have reached maximum medical stability. While a seaman is obligated to mitigate medical expenses, an employer has the burden of proving whether medical costs are necessary.

It should be noted that the benefits received from maintenance, cure and unearned wages is a substitute for the standard workers' compensation benefits sought by workers in other industries. When a seaman is injured or becomes ill aboard a vessel, it is important that their rights are protected and they receive their entitled benefits.

Source: Corporate.FindLaw.com, "The Seaman's Entitlement to Maintenance, Cure and Unearned Wages," accessed on July 25, 2016

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