When a seaman becomes ill and injured while in the service of his/her ship, the ship owner must pay him maintenance and cure whether the shipowner was at fault or whether the ship was unseaworthy. Guevara v. Maritime Overseas Corp., 59 F.3d 1496, 1499 (5th Cir. 1995) (emphasis added). When there are ambiguities or doubts, they are resolved in favor of the seaman. Vaughan v. Atkinson, 369 U.S. 527, 532, 82 S.Ct. 997 (1962). Moreover, Plaintiff is entitled to maintenance and cure until the date of maximum possible cure, when no further treatment will improve the condition. Johnson v. Marlin Drilling Co., 893 F.2d 77, 79 (5th Cir. 1990).
Like maintenance, Plaintiff is entitled to cure until he/she reaches maximum medical improvement. Importantly, a court need only consider one piece of evidence in making an award of cure: Plaintiff’s doctor’s testimony. Again, “all ambiguities and doubts regarding liability must be resolved in favor of the seaman.” Vaughan, 369 U.S. at 532, 82 S. Ct. at 1000; Johnson, 893 F.2d at 79. “Because of this rule, when the opinions of doctors are in conflict regarding the seaman's condition, the court MUST resolve the conflict in favor of the seaman's right to maintenance and cure.” Maritime Overseas Corp. v. Waiters, 923 S.W.2d 36, 40-41 (Tex. App.—Houston [1st Dist.] 1995) aff'd as modified, 917 S.W.2d 17 (Tex. 1996) (emphasis added). This is a very powerful tool to use when your client’s employer refuses to pay for their medical care.
We have been successful in moving for summary judgment on a cure obligation and compelling an otherwise obstinate employer to pay for our client’s past medical care and pending surgery. All that was required was to obtain an affidavit from the treating doctor stating: (1) the client’s injuries were causally related to an incident on a vessel; and (2) the past and proposed treatment were necessary to treat those injuries; and (3) the client had not yet reached maximum medical improvement. Many times obtaining a favorable ruling on cure has enabled settlement in where we thought one was not possible.
For more information regarding maintenance and cure, please contact us. Please visit our Jones Act and Maritime page for additional information regarding the process of filing a lawsuit. We provide free case consultations and all cases are taken on a contingency basis.