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Cruise Lines or Ship Owners are Responsible to Provide Crew Members Medical Care for Injuries Occurring when on Sick Leave

Sometimes crew members develop additional injuries or illnesses while on sick leave. Often times these new injuries or illnesses have nothing to do with the shipboard accident which placed them on sick leave in the first place. The question on the minds of these crew member is does the cruise line or ship owner have to pay for the medical treatment of these new injuries or illnesses? The answer is YES.

ankle xray.jpgUnder the maritime law doctrine of “maintenance and cure”, a cruise line or ship owner must provide a daily living allowance (Maintenance) and medical treatment (cure) to its crew members who were injured or when an illness manifested itself while subject to the call of the ship. This duty to provide maintenance and cure lasts until the crew member reached maximum medical cure. Maximum medical cure is simply the stage were the injury or illness is resolved or there is no further medical treatment that could better the crew member’s condition.

Courts have determined when a crew member is on sick leave, he is technically still subject to the call of the ship because when he gets better, he will go back to work. As such, these courts reasoned that since the crew member is subject to the call of ship while on sick leave, the cruise line or ship owner must provide maintenance and cure for any additional injuries or illnesses arising during that period. For example, if a crew member is on sick leave for bronchitis and on the way to the supermarket is hit by a car, the cruise line or ship owner must provide maintenance and cure for any injuries resulting from the car accident.

Should the cruise line or ship owner not provide maintenance and cure benefits for the additional injuries or illnesses, a crew member can sue for the failure to provide maintenance and cure claim as well as a tort claim under the Jones Act. Under these claims, the injured crew member can seek damages in the form of:

  • Payment of medical bills for the injury;
  • Payment of certain living expenses until the point of maximum medical cure;
  • Compensatory damages for the worsening of the condition (pain and suffering, lost of the enjoyment of life, disfigurement and loss of earnings); and,
  • Punitive damages.