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Maintenance and Cure Archives

Rights of Seamen When Injured or Ill

As defined by 46 U.S.C.S. 10101(3), a "seaman" is someone who is employed in a substantial capacity on a vessel, whether as captain or other type of crew member. A seaman's employment is connected to an operating vessel and, as such, is sea-based. Just a few of the many types of seamen includes fishers, processors working on board a vessel, ship master, vessel cook, and cabin steward. Exclusions to the "seaman" definition are scientific personnel, sailing school instructors, and sailing school students.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and the Fishing Industry

Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), as the name implies, may occur after witnessing or experiencing firsthand a traumatic event, such as a wartime experience, an accident, a narrow escape from harm, assault, physical and emotional abuse, and so on. PTSD is receiving more attention in recent years, partly due to the recognition that many of our soldiers and veterans are dealing with the effects of PTSD. PTSD is nothing new to humankind, but the understanding of PTSD as a genuine physical and mental ailment worthy of care and compassion is fairly new. Not everyone who experiences trauma will develop PTSD, but, according to the National Center for PTSD, 7.8% of the U.S. population will experience it. There are other forms of post-trauma response that present similar symptoms as PTSD, such as traumatic brain injury (TBI), which may occur alone or in conjunction with PTSD.

Follow-up: Injuries Aboard ALASKA OCEAN and ALASKA JURIS

As reported in our March 5 blog, in the space of one week, in separate incidents aboard separate factory trawlers in Alaska, one man on each ship suffered traumatic head injury, each from a snapped cable. One, on March 1, occurred on F/T ALASKA JURIS, owned by Fishing Company of Alaska, and resulted in the tragic death of Andrew Fotu, 25, of Seattle.

Maritime Employer Must Pay Punitive Damages For Wrongful Treatment of Seamen

In a case now pending in the Washington State Supreme Court, steps are being taken to ensure all seamen get their right of maintenance and cure and those who deny it are punished. The monumental case is Clausen v. Icicle Seafoods, Inc., where a fisherman was denied maintenance and cure even though he was injured while in the service of a vessel. Maintenance and cure are traditional remedies under maritime law. "Maintenance" is the daily payment to cover certain living expenses expected while on a vessel; "cure" refers to the payment of certain medical bills. They are designed to provide a seaman with food, lodging and medical care when one becomes sick or injured in the vessel's service. The OSCEOLA, 189 U.S. 158, 175, 23 S. Ct. 483, 47 L. Ed. 760 (1903); Vaughan v. Atkinson, 369 U.S. 527, 532, 82 S. Ct. 997, 8 L. Ed. 2d 88 (1962). Maintenance and cure are no-fault obligations employers must fulfill so long as the injury occurred while in the ship's service and until the seaman reaches maximum cure. West v. Midland Enters., 227 F.3d 613, 616 (6th Cir. 2000), Gardiner v. Sea-Land Serv., Inc., 786 F. 2d 943, 945-46 (9th Cir. 1986).

Judge Rules Surveillance Has No Probative Value in Maintenance and Cure Claim

The United States District Court has ruled that a surveillance video taken of a Jones Act seaman had no probative value in the seaman's maintenance and cure claim. In Meir v. Wood Towing, 2010 WL 2195700, the employer disputed the seaman's right to maintenance and cure and refused to pay the seaman's back surgery bill and other related medical expenses of $83,000. The injured seaman's treating doctor recommended surgery for the crewman who alleged he had slipped and fell on a slippery substance on a barge. The injured seaman had an abnormal MRI and discogram at L5-S1. The employer requested a second opinion by an orthopedic physician who initially agreed with the treating doctor that an anterior surgical fusion was reasonable.

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