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What does ‘maintenance and cure’ mean in maritime law?

On Behalf of | Oct 18, 2023 | Injuries, Maritime Law |

When we discuss maritime law, we often talk about the Jones Act, a 1920 law that controls many aspects of the shipping industry, but maritime law encompasses more than the Jones Act. People were working on the seas long before 1920, and the legal systems of various countries have devised many ways to resolve issues. One such solution is the concept of maintenance and cure.

In maritime law, the term “maintenance and cure” refers to an employer’s obligation to pay for a workers’ medical care and living expenses after they have been injured on the job. In this context, “maintenance” refers to the costs of the worker’s room and board, and “cure” refers to their medical recovery.

No need to prove negligence

Courts developed the idea of maintenance and cure: They found that maritime employers owe this obligation to their employees who are injured on the job.

Note that this legal framework is very different from a typical personal injury lawsuit, in which the injured person must prove that the other party caused their injuries through negligence. In a maintenance and cure action, an injured worker doesn’t have to prove that their employer was negligent or did anything wrong before they can receive benefits.

In another important difference from personal injury law, maintenance and cure isn’t meant to provide full compensation for everything the injured worker has lost as a result of their injury. Instead, it pays only for the worker’s cost of medical care and room and board from the date of the injury until the date that they recover as fully as they can. Once the injured worker reaches the point where their condition is no longer expected to improve, they have reached the “cure” stage.

Other means of recovery

Maintenance and cure is not an exclusive remedy. A worker who receives benefits through maintenance and cure may, in some circumstances, also seek compensation through the Jones Act, and possibly through a personal injury claim.

Maritime workers should learn about all their options for recovering help after they have been injured on the job.


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