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Maritime Employers’ Doctors & Rehab Nurses – Whose Side Are They On?

Articles Dec 4, 2015

Maritime Employers’ Doctors & Rehab Nurses – Whose Side Are They On?

When you are injured in a maritime accident one of the first things you should do is to find a qualified medical professional who will provide you with the care you need to recover from your injuries. While your employer may claim the company will take care of you and your family, most injured workers quickly learn they should avoid company doctors and seek out an independent physician to provide your medical care and treatment.

In the maritime industry it is common for companies to try to bully their injured employees into being treated by the company physician when a serious accident occurs. These companies are often looking out only for their own interests. They want you to see the company doctor so they can minimize your medical expenses and control your medical treatment and get you back on the job as quickly as possible, even if you have not sufficiently recovered from your accident.

Select Your Own Physician for Maximum Maintenance and Cure Benefits

Under the Jones Act, when a seaman is injured in a maritime accident, the seaman’s employer is legally required to provide maintenance and cure benefits to the injured seaman. Maintenance benefits cover the injured seaman’s costs of living on land while cure benefits provide the reasonable medical care the seaman needs to recover from the accident. By law, injured seamen have the right to select their own doctor. This means that even though an employer may claim that the seaman must get his care from a company physician, in most instances the seaman is under no legal obligation to be treated, or even seen by, the company’s physician. In the event your employer is trying to force you to see their doctors, you should discuss your situation with an experienced maritime injury lawyer who can help you identify a qualified, independent doctor who will provide you with the medical care and treatment you need.

Doctors & Rehab Nurses – Be Careful of What You Say!

If you have any contact with a doctor, rehab nurse or other medical provider who works on behalf of your employer or its insurance company you need to be careful. Even if you tell the doctor or nurse something “off the record” or ask that it be held in confidence, you need to know that likely nothing you say will truly be off the record. In fact, some doctors and nurses will even quote you in your medical chart as having asked them to keep the conversation off the record. Because these health care providers work for your employer and its insurance carrier, it is always best to first talk with your lawyer who can advise you on how to handle these types of situations.

When you are injured in a maritime accident, your employer’s insurance company may also try to assign you a “rehab nurse” or “case worker” to help coordinate your medical care and recovery.  Typically, this is just another ploy on the part of the insurance company to monitor your medical care and to gain access to privileged medical information.  In many cases the rehab nurse will attend your doctor visits with you, allowing this “rehab nurse” to listen to the conversations you have with your doctor and ask questions about your treatment and recovery.  It is not uncommon for a “rehab nurse” to try to meet with your doctor in private to make suggestions about your medical care and encourage to get the doctor to release you even if you are not ready to return to work.

Seek the Advice of an Experienced Attorney

It is paramount for you to be on your guard when you are dealing with doctors, rehab nurses or any other individuals who work for or have ties to your employer or its insurance company. When you are in doubt, it is always best to speak with a qualified lawyer who has extensive experience handling maritime injury claims and knows how the maritime industry operates. Your lawyer may be able warn you of their tactics and help you take the appropriate steps to protect your legal rights.

For more information, contact David Willis, a board certified personal injury trial lawyer by calling toll-free, 1-800-GOT HURT.

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