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Paying for Medical Treatment after a Maritime Injury

Let’s face it, your health is your future.  There is a reason people say ‘if you have your health, you have everything.’  Here are some very important considerations about your medical treatment after your injury.

Your Basic Rights

Here are some quick basic rights you have under the law after your accident.  

  • You have the right to select your own doctor.
  • You do not have to give a recorded statement after your accident in order to have your medical treatment approved (this is a real common trick companies use).
  • You do have to go see a company chosen doctor, but only ONCE and not before you see your own doctor.

What’s the Deal with Company Doctors

Why does every company try to rush their injured workers off to a special doctor that they send everyone to (aka ‘the company doctor’)?  Usually, insisting you get treatment from a company selected doctor is because:

  • A company selected doctor may be very slow or reluctant to recommend special testing (MRIs, CT scans, nerve testing) which may prove how serious your injury is (and if a test doesn’t show what’s wrong with you, then the company can deny you are injured).  By the way, an x-ray is extremely limited in what it can tell the doctor and almost all x-rays will appear normal, even if you have a serious back or neck injury.
  • A company selected doctor may more quickly release you to return to work, and if you can return to work then you certainly can’t be too badly injured and you sure don’t need any more medical treatment.
  • A company selected doctor will often communicate directly with your company or the insurance company about your condition, something your local doctor may not be willing to do.
  • A company selected doctor company control over your medical treatment.  Your doctor or one chosen by your attorney= a fair doctor who is more worried about your health than what the company will think.
  • Once any doctor declares you do not need any more medical treatment, the company will stop approving medical treatment for you.  So even a company doctor opinion that you don’t need any more treatment will serve as an excuse for your company to deny you treatment from other doctors.

Should You Use Your Health Insurance for A Work-Related Injury

The short answer is no.  Ideally, your maritime injury will be properly reported and your company or its insurance company will be paying for and approving your medical treatment.  Using your own health insurance (even if it was provided through your company) can complicate and sometimes hurt your claim.  Most health insurance does not cover work-related injuries.  So companies will sometimes claim you have tried to commit fraud if you try to use your health insurance for your accident-related medical treatment (this is true even if they suggested or told you to use it!).  Medical treatment for a work injury should be paid for by your company or its insurance company.

Medical Testing After a Maritime Accident

In addition to x-rays, basic medical testing that you should expect includes both an MRI and nerve conduction studies.  An MRI, commonly performed on the neck, knees, shoulder, ankles and back, shows ligament and other soft-tissue damage that cannot be visualized on an X-ray.

Nerve conduction studies are used to diagnose nerve injuries, and are commonly administered to those who have suffered trauma to the lower back. If you’re refused basic diagnostic tests by the company doctor, seek another physician. If you run into any trouble trying to get a second opinion, you should acquire the assistance of anattorney, in New Orleans, LA, at The Young Firm.

It’s an unfortunate reality that many companies aren’t willing to foot the bill for diagnostic testing that could prove you have a serious injury. When the company doctor refuses certain tests, this is a sign that your employer is defending the company. It’s also a sign that you should look in New Orleans, La. for attorneys with Jones Act knowledge handling your claim.

Get Every Possible Test Done

One of the core beliefs of our office is that our clients should have every possible medical test done to determine if anything at all shows up as abnormal on any of the testing.  This is literally your one chance to square up with your company for an injury they may have caused or contributed to.  You have simply got to know what is medically wrong with you, what can be done to fix it, and how much will it cost.   Sitting around going to appointment after appointment without having extensive testing done will not help you get the answers to any of these questions.    

I’ll share with you a quick story.  Each year I get an annual physical which includes an exercise stress test.  Well, the first year I had this done many years ago, the hospital said the stress test showed a ‘false positive’ for cardiac fibrillation (if you don’t know what that is google it—I did and it will scare you to death!).  So I said to the doctor, “Gee, what’s a false positive?  Sounds like saying someone is ‘a little pregnant’?”  He explains that ‘in all likelihood’ it was just a test error and that I should not worry about it.  Wrong answer.  I insisted he do a more involved follow-up test even when he told me twice I did not need it.  I paid for it myself, out of my own pocket, and the test came back normal and confirmed the ‘false positive’ was nothing to worry about.  Was I stupid to pay for a test that came back normal?  Absolutely not.  It gave me such peace of mind to know more about my health that it was well worth the cost.  When your doctor tells you he can’t find anything on the first test he did to show why you are still having pain and difficulty, I get it.  The next question is “well doc, what other test can you run to tell us more.”

The Company Doctor Is Refusing To Perform Medical Testing. What Should I Do?

If you are receiving medical treatment from a company chosen doctor, very often the doctor will not immediately perform medical testing to fully diagnose the nature and extent of your injuries. Today basic medical testing should include MRIs as well as possibly nerve conduction studies. An MRI may be performed on your neck, shoulder, back, knees, ankles and other parts of your body. The MRI test shows soft tissue and ligament damages which are not seen on a plain film X-ray. If the company chosen doctor is refusing to perform basic medical testing including MRIs, you should seek medical treatment elsewhere including from a local physician you know and trust. Unfortunately, many companies have little desire to pay for medical testing which could prove the seriousness of your injury. Very often when the company doctor delays or refuses to perform basic medical testing it is the first sign that the company is defending your case.

Under the Jones Act and maritime law, you are allowed to choose your own treating physician.  It is so important that you insist on receiving medical treatment from a doctor you trust so that all the necessary tests may be performed to diagnose any medical problem you may have suffered.

My employer chose my treating physician and there were serious mistakes made in my medical care. Under the Jones Act, who is responsible for this negligence?

Sometimes, after an employee is injured, dishonest employers will push them into seeing a company doctor of the employer’s choosing.  You should be aware that if you go to your company doctor, medical negligence could happen; however, under admiralty laws, your employer is responsible. Reach out to Jones Act lawyers at the Young Law Firm so you will have the best attorney handling your case.

Your employer will usually try to make sure that you go see a doctor chosen by him or her because the doctor and your employer have an alliance. In other words, it is a defense mechanism for your employer to limit his or her chances of getting sued.

Most of the time, a company doctor will not perform an adequate evaluation of your injuries. This could cause serious consequences if your injuries are internal. This could also lead to a misdiagnosis and mistreatment.

Considering seeing a company doctor can severely damage your claim and can be an extreme health hazard, depending on your injuries, admiralty laws require that companies be held liable for damages if such medical negligence occurs. This is especially important for offshore workers who are closer to foreign land and have to seek medical treatment in another country.

Commercial Diver Sues Employer For Choosing Poor Company Doctor

A commercial diver is suing his employer after injuring his ankle while working offshore.

David Hughes has filed a Jones Act lawsuit against Global Industries Offshore.  The lawsuit accuses Hughes’ employer of negligently maintaining its vessel and of providing negligent supervision, planning and direction of the work of the crew.  The employer is also accused of picking a bad physician.

The ankle injury occurred on June 9. Hughes was attempting to transit a passageway aboard the vessel Pioneer when he broke his ankle. Hughes received emergency medical treatment on board the vessel and was then transported to Lafayette General Hospital.  At the hospital, a physician chosen by Global Industries performed surgery on Hughes’ ankle.  According to the maritime injury lawsuit, a  second surgery was then required to correct the first procedure.

Hughes states that he is suffering from severe emotional trauma and distress, loss of future life pleasures, disfigurement and permanent impairment. He is seeking compensation for loss of wages, fringe benefits, earning capacity, medical expenses and court costs.

The maritime injury lawsuit will be head in federal court in New Orleans.

Medical Treatment for Maritime Workers in Foreign Countries

If you are an American working overseas on oil rig or vessel and you must receive medical treatment due to an injury or illness, there are several issues to be aware of.

  • First, the Jones Act and maritime law both state that your employer must provide you with immediate medical treatment due to any type of injury or illness. If your employer delays providing you with prompt medical treatment while you’re working overseas, this could give rise to a claim against your employer especially if your injury gets worse.
  • Your employer must provide you with proper and adequate medical treatment if you suffer an injury or illness while working overseas in a foreign country as a maritime worker. This means that if you do not receive proper medical treatment and it causes your condition or injury to worsen, you can file a claim against your employer. Very often this situation arises even if you have not suffered any type of actual work-related “injury” on the rig or vessel, but rather you have simply become ill with some type of disease or illness. It simply doesn’t matter whether it is a work-related injury or a non-work-related illness. Either way, your employer must provide you with proper and adequate medical treatment.
  • Finally, if your employer selects the doctor or hospital to treat you while you are working in the foreign country, your employer is responsible for any medical negligence on the part of the doctor or hospital. Our office has handled many cases involving this very issue. Unfortunately, many overseas oil rigs and vessels operate in extremely remote and undeveloped countries. These countries typically do not have access to proper medical doctors or even basic medications which have been used for years in the United States. One of our clients suffered a routine stroke while working on an oil rig off the coast of South America and, unfortunately, was brought to a small town unfamiliar with the treatment of stroke patients. What could have been a temporary ischemic attack (TIA) turned into a full-blown brain hemorrhage because our client failed to receive a clot-busting medication which would have been the standard practice in the United States and other developed countries. As a result, he obtained a very successful settlement which provided for his future.