Jones Act Info Center – Can I Go to My Own Doctor After a Maritime Injury?

If you are injured in a maritime accident, it is critical to seek medical attention as soon as possible. Sometimes that means being treated by a company physician. Not only do you want to ensure that your injuries are properly taken care of, but you also want to have documented proof of any bodily harm so that you can obtain certain benefits afforded by the Jones Act.

While seeking medical attention is required, seeing a company-designated doctor is not. You not only have the right to see your doctor, but it is also to your advantage to see the doctor of your choosing.

Why Choose Your Own Doctor?

Aside from the obvious benefits of choosing a doctor that you are most comfortable with, there are a number of risks involved in seeing a company-designated physician. First and foremost, the mission of the company physician is to limit your employer’s liability, not provide you with the most comprehensive care. A company physician may also:

  • prohibit you from consulting with a medical specialist that you choose
  • require you to travel long distances for visits
  • encourage you to return to work before your injuries have healed
  • insist that a rehab nurse accompanies you to medical appointments with your chosen doctor
  • disclose your medical information to your employer
  • direct you to see rehab nurses or other individuals who work for your employer or insurance company
  • demand that you sign a release allowing the rehab nurse to talk with your doctor directly when you are not there

Your Rights

You are allowed to see the doctor of your choosing, even if you have already seen a company doctor. If your chosen doctor disagrees with the company physician regarding diagnosis or treatment, you can follow your own physician’s recommendations. If your employer demands that you see their doctor, or retaliates against you for not seeing their doctor, talk to a maritime attorney immediately.

Jones Act Protections

The Jones Act protects qualified seamen who spend at least 30% of their employed time on a commercial vessel operating in navigable waters. If you are hurt, you are allowed to:

  • Maintenance and cure benefits – these pay for your reasonable costs of living and medical expenses.
  • Lost Wages – you are entitled to payment of your wages from the time you are injured to the time your mission ends.
  • File a Negligence Lawsuit – if your injuries are caused by even the slightest level of negligence, you may be able to collect damages for pain and suffering, past and future lost wages, mental anguish, the past and future medical bills and loss of enjoyment of life.

If you are injured while working in a maritime environment, you have the right to seek medical care from any doctor of your choosing for your injuries. Talk to an experienced maritime attorney to ensure you get the care and compensation that you deserve.

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