When you have been injured while working overseas, you have a right to choose your own physician once you have returned to the United States, no matter what your employer, or your employer’s insurance company, says to the contrary. You do not have to use an employer provided doctor, nor is your choice of doctor limited to a list of employer approved physicians. You can use whatever doctor you want.
Immediate Care and Emergency Care Provided By Your Employer
If you are injured while working overseas, you will need to obtain medical treatment for your injury. Your injury may require immediate attention, and the immediate medical care that you need may be provided by a physician or medical care center of your employer’s choosing. However, once you return to the United States, you may and should, choose your own medical care provider.
For illustration purposes, consider a scenario where a seaman has been injured while out at sea. A seaman, employed on a U.S. owned vessel has legal protections provided to him or her under the Jones Act. If the seaman suffers an injury requiring immediate care, he or she will be treated by the medical staff on board the ship until it is possible to return the injured worker to a U.S. port. If the injury upon arrival has not stabilized, or if the seaman requires additional emergency care, the worker will be transported to a medical facility that is located near port, where he or she will receive treatment until the injury has stabilized. Once the worker has become well enough and able to return home, the worker may select whomever he or she chooses to provide the remainder of his or her medical care.
Get Into A Care Situation Of Your Choosing Soon
There is a very good chance that your employer, or your employer’s insurance provider, will press you to obtain medical care from a company provided doctor. There are a number of reasons why your employer would want you to use their doctor:
- The doctor is paid by your employer and is thus incentivized to diagnose your injury as less severe than it really is.
- A lesser diagnosis than your true injury means that the company has to spend less on your treatment.
- The company doctor reports directly to your employer.
- You may not get the full spectrum of diagnostic testing necessary to adequately and properly identify the extent of your injury.
- Your doctor might not be inclined to order tests or report test results in a timely fashion.
However, these are all reasons why it is important for you to obtain care from a doctor of your choosing as soon as you are able to do so.
For example, employers of injured seamen must provide maintenance and cure (i.e., provide payments for medical care, treatment and support for the duration of the injury) until the doctor indicates that you are at the maximum medical improvement of your injury. An employer provided doctor may be inclined to indicate that you have reached maximum medical improvement considerably sooner than a doctor of your own choosing would be willing to assert.
Moving out of the medical care situation provided by your employer, and/or your employer’s insurance provider as soon as you are able to is important for getting the full extent of treatment that is required for your injury and maritime law provides you with the explicit right to choose your own doctor after your injury, and certain federal laws, such as the Defense Base Act, similarly allows an injured worker overseas to choose his or her own physician. Your injury may be more severe than your employer provided physician made it out to be, and a second opinion by an honest, trusted doctor of your choosing will be helpful in getting you the medical care you actually need.
Choosing A Doctor
One of the most difficult things about choosing your own doctor once you return to the U.S. is that you need to select a doctor that you can trust to handle your injury honestly and with integrity. You do not want a doctor who will cave to demands by your employer or your employer’s insurance company. You need a doctor who will diagnose and treat your injury with the appropriate care and course of treatment to make you as well as possible in light of the injury you have suffered while working overseas.
Also it is important to be mindful that the doctor you choose is a certified doctor. This includes medical doctors (MDs) and specialist physicians, such as dentists, surgeons, psychologists, optometrists, osteopathic physicians and chiropractors, as just a few examples. Faith healers or those that practice holistic medicine are not provided for under the Longshore and Harbor Workers Compensation Act as authorized treating physicians.
Sometimes injured workers simply do not have a doctor that they trust, or do not know how to identify a doctor that will provide them with the care that they need. In situations like this, contacting an experienced overseas work-related injury attorney will go a long way towards getting you into the care of a reliable, trustworthy doctor. Attorneys who regularly handle these types of cases are familiar with doctors who have knowledge about injury claims under the Jones Act, or the Defense Base Act, and your attorney can help you find a doctor for you.
Read more on choosing a doctor here