Maritime injury attorney David Willis explains why it is critical for offshore workers to see their own doctor after an on-the-job injury.
Offshore Workers' Rights Under the Jones Act
When you get injured working offshore or in any maritime setting - whether on a rig, platform, barge, boat or other vessel - it is important to stand up for your legal rights. In most cases, this means filing a claim under the Jones Act. The Jones Act is a federal law that provides special protections to many types of offshore workers -- protections that include the right to seek full financial compensation when their employers' mistakes contribute to their injuries.
The Jones Act Entitles You to See Your Own Doctor
Under the Jones Act, injured offshore workers are entitled to seek treatment from their own doctors. While suffering an injury offshore may leave you with little choice but to see a company doctor initially, when you get back to land, you should see your own doctor as soon as possible. Under the Jones Act, you are entitled to "maintenance and cure" benefits and you also have a right to claim full injury compensation based on Jones Act negligence. Accordingly, you will want to make sure that you receive independent medical advice from a physician who only has your best interests in mind.
Be Wary of Requests for You to See a Company Physician
In many instances, employers will try to convince injured employees to see a "company doctor." Why? Because the employer often has a long history of sending injured employees to that doctor and it is usually a doctor who tends to be more favorable to the employer's viewpoint as to the severity of the injury or the cause of the injury itself. In fact, when you see a company doctor about an offshore injury, you should assume that nothing you say will be kept confidential or "off the record."
Avoid Discussing Your Injuries with a "Rehab Nurse" or "Case Worker"
Another ploy that maritime employers and their insurance companies often use to gather information about their employees' injuries and medical care is to assign "rehab nurses" and "case workers" who are supposedly there to help you with your recovery. But, just like some company doctors, these individuals work for employers and their insurance companies - not for injured employees. Do not assume just because you asked them to keep something off the record, that it will not, in fact, be on the record and come back to haunt you.
Your Employer's Goal is to Minimize Your Financial Compensation
Why do employers take these steps? The answer is simple: They want to pay as little for your injury as possible. They are more concerned about their profits than their employees' wellbeing and they will gladly stop paying benefits at the first opportunity to do so. But, as an injured "seaman" under the Jones Act, you are entitled to coverage for the medical care you need to make a full recovery, and it is important that you not let your employer take advantage of your situation.
What if I Don't Have a Doctor?
If you do not have a doctor, the legal team at the Willis Law Firm may be able to assist you with a referral or recommendation in your area. We represent injured seamen in Jones Act claims nationwide, and we can help make sure you recover the compensation you deserve.
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