Seaman – Overview of Cure

When a seaman gets hurt offshore on a vessel, he is entitled to two payments. First, he is entitled to maintenance, which covers food and lodging. Second, the seaman is entitled to cure, which covers necessary medical expenses.

To get cure, a person has to be classified as a seaman. A seaman is a worker who is permanently assigned to a vessel or performs a substantial part of his work on a vessel and contributes to the vessel’s functioning. Also, to get cure, the injury must arise while the seaman is acting in the course of his employment. This may include shore leave, but does not include injuries that arise when the seaman is on purely personal business at the time of the injury (e.g., usually, but not always, when the seaman is at home on a day off).

Cure payments cover the seaman’s medical treatments until the point of maximum medical improvement is reached. This is the point, determined by a doctor, when further treatment will not actually improve the seaman’s condition, but can only serve to temporarily make the seaman more comfortable, for example, through palliative treatment. When in doubt, courts will usually mandate that the seaman may continue receiving cure. Cure payments may be terminated if the seaman refuses, delays, or quits treatment.

Cure covers necessary medical payments. However, a seaman cannot claim extravagant medical payments and must keep the costs of medical payments under control, if possible. Unnecessary treatments and very expensive private doctors may not qualify for reimbursement, although the seaman does have the option to choose his own doctor if the cost is similar to the employer’s doctor.

To get cure payments, an injury does not necessarily have to result from the seaman’s service. For example, if the seaman had a pre-existing illness before he was hired, but this illness flares up during the seaman’s time on a vessel, the vessel owner must pay the seaman cure while the seaman recovers from the flare up. What is more, cure payments are owed to a seaman, whether or not the vessel did something wrong to cause the seaman’s injury. The vessel owner may not owe cure, however, if the seaman had a pre-existing condition but lied about it to the employer to get hired.

If the seaman did something wrong which helped cause his injuries, he can still receive cure. The only exception to this is when the seaman engages in outrageous conduct which causes his injuries, with the classic example of a seaman becoming ill due to use of illegal drugs. In cases of outrageous conduct, the vessel owner may not have to pay maintenance and cure.

If an employer refuses to pay cure, the employer is liable for past cure, any medical costs that result from any aggravation of the seaman’s condition due to delayed medical costs, attorney’s fees in getting the cure in some cases, and, when the employer has acted in bad faith in denying cure, punitive damages (which can double or even triple an award).

If you are a seaman who has been injured in the course of your duties, chances are that your employer is obligated to pay you cure for your medical expenses. If you have not received cure payments, you may be entitled to back payments and damages. You may wish to contact an experienced offshore injury lawyer to discuss your legal options in securing the funds you deserve.


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