Maintenance & Cure
Maintenance and cure is essentially intended to be a hassle-free phenomenon, from the standpoint of the injured seafarer.
For this reason, the courts give the seaman the benefit of the doubt in cases rhar come before them.
More than this, rhe obligation to pay maintenance and cure is intended to be largely “self-executing,” meaning, in essence,
That the seafarer should be paid quickly and without having to bring suit.
There are significant downsides to a shipowner (or its insurer) who delays in paying maintenance and cure-or who terminates it at a date that a court later rules to have been too early.
When a seafarer is injured under circumstances that do not raise questions of any possible defense, the wisest course for the shipowner to follow is to pay medical bills as soon as they are presented as cure,
and to pay at least a reasonable minimum per day as maintenance, as well as unearned wages.
W hile there may be some issues that demand investigation, this should be accomplished with great dispatch,
and the payments adjusted accord ing to the findings.
A negligent failure to pay maintenance and cure (or a negligent delay in doing so) can expose the shipowner (or its insurer) to payment of compensatory damages to the seaman-essentially payment for.
The consequences to the seaman of not receiving the maintenance and cure payments that were due.
More sobering, however, is the thought of what happens to a shipowner who “arbitrari ly and willfully” fa ils to pay maintenance and cure.
In a 2009 case that went to the Supreme Court,
a seaman working aboard a commercial rug filed suit against his employer under the Jones Act and general maritime law for refusing to pay maintenance and cure after he injured his shoulder and arm in a fall on rhe rug’s steel deck.
In a 5 to 4 decision in favor of the seaman, the shipowner was held liable to pay punitive damages, and the legal fees of the injured seafarer.
3 This can amount to a very significant sum. Punitive damages are damages awarded in addition to the compensatory damages awarded to a seafarer to make good his/her losses.
Punitive damages in admiralty can probably as much as double the award of compensatory damages,
and are designed to send a message to the defendant, to discourage any repeat of the act that led to the suit.
Conversely, the shipowner cannot count on being able to recover any amounts overpaid.
by reason of maintenance and cure-presumably a result of the favored position that seafarers occupy in the law.
Accordingly, the shipowner (a nd more particularly,
the shipowner’s insurer) needs to proceed with particular care and good fa ith in responding to a claim for maintenance and cure.
In summary, maintenance and cure is available to seamen in a wide variety of circumstances.
Its benefits may be considerable, but in general they provide compensation for fewer categories ofloss than most other forms of recovery for personal injury.
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