The terms are defined as follows.
- Maintenance—The proper rehabilitation and working environment that should be available to the seaman including but not limited to the provision of lodging and food over the course of recovery.
- Cure—Medical treatment toward recovery, at least as far as medical science is able to provide. Also termed "maximum medical cure," this obligation is owed a seaman for accidents as well as sicknesses, such as appendicitis, which generally do not fall within the provisions of state compensation acts. Medical care is provided free of charge, or at low cost, in those areas where the public health service has facilities.
- Wages—A sailor's usual wages during illness, but not extending beyond the end of the voyage. On ships operating year-round, on inland waterways, wages may not extend beyond a period of a year, the end of the contract, or the period of illness, whichever is shortest. For impairment of future earnings, the seaman must bring suit.