What Qualifies as Cure
When a seaman is injured, he is entitled to receive two things while he is in recovery: maintenance (food and lodging expenses), and cure (necessary medical expenses). Through the years, courts have issued case opinions outlining what is and is not allowed in a cure award. An understanding of this should give an injured seaman a better idea of what to expect.
First, cure lasts for a limited amount of time, from the time the seaman was injured until the seaman reaches what is called maximum medical recovery. Maximum medical recovery does not necessarily mean the point where the seaman is well; it means the point where the seaman will not get better with improved therapy, or if the only thing left is pain control. For example, if a seaman blows out his knee while on the job, he can get cure to cover rehabilitation or even surgery to try to fix the problem. If after rehabilitation he still has knee problems and pain and the doctor says he is going to have to just live with these issues and cope with pain medication, the seaman will no longer be able to receive cure.
Second, cure covers necessary medical expenses. Sometimes, seamen who are injured pursue unnecessary medical help, such as very expensive private doctors when free public care is available. This can cause a seaman to lose the right to cure.
Third, cure can sometimes cover illnesses that are not necessarily related to a seaman’s work. Some courts have allowed cure for psychological conditions that arise during the seaman’s duty.
Fourth, cure can sometimes cover a pre-existing condition that flares up during the seaman’s service, if the seaman did not lie about having the condition. If a seaman’s old knee injury is aggravated while working on a ship, he may be able to get cure, assuming he has been honest with his employer that he had an old knee injury and didn’t lie about it when getting hired.
Fifth, a seaman can often receive cure even if he did something stupid and helped cause his injury. However, he may be barred from receiving cure if he engaged in some kind of outrageous conduct which caused his injury, such as willfully disobeying orders or gross negligence, for example if the seaman’s use of illegal drugs contributed to his injury.
Cure is a great benefit to injured seamen, which is easily obtained with a little common sense. If an employer denies cure, the employer may be liable for compensatory damages, attorney’s fees, and in some cases punitive damages. If you have been denied funding for cure, you may be entitled to thousands of dollars in compensation. You may wish to discuss your situation with an experienced maritime attorney in order to plan how you will secure funds for cure from a vessel owner.
If you or a loved one have been injured, Call Carabin Shaw at 800-862-1260. We Can Help.