A Jones Act injury while overseas can be a scary prospect; you’re in a foreign country, unfamiliar with your surroundings or the people, and often have to deal with language barriers. Add an injury to that mix and things become a bit more complicated.
Oftentimes overseas medical facilities are not up to the same standards as those in the United States, and a variety of things can go wrong: improper instruments can be used, equipment can be unsterile, physicians not as well trained, and contaminated blood transfusions can end up infecting you with a variety of diseases.
However, as a U.S. Jones Act seaman working overseas, you have certain rights that will protect you if anything goes wrong in your medical treatment. If your company chooses your doctor/hospital after your injury, it is their responsibility to fix any mistakes that may happen.
Unfortunately, companies do not always uphold their obligations and instead force their injured maritime workers to seek help elsewhere, often from maritime lawyers like us. While you should never have to resort to policing your company (it is their legal responsibility after all), if your condition worsens due to improper medical care overseas, it could jeopardize your life and future. If your company refuses to help you recover from your overseas injury and subsequent improper medical care, the only remedy available to you may be legal action.
It is a sad fact that many offshore workers must resort to hiring a maritime attorney just so they can get the proper medical attention they need to recover and return to the work they love. It really is a wonder why companies don’t feel the need to take care of their employees after an injury. After all, it is the employees who have been loyally dedicated to the betterment of the company for years on end, and it only makes sense that they should receive proper medical care so they can continue doing just that.
As an overseas Jones Act worker, you may be provided with medical treatment in a foreign country immediately following your injury. You want to be extremely careful in regards to the medical treatment that you accept overseas.
Our office has handled numerous claims under the Jones Act for overseas maritime workers. Often these workers receive their initial medical treatment on land in a foreign country. Unfortunately, many of these countries do not provide proper medical treatment and the facilities are less than adequate.
However, under the Jones Act if your employer selects the treating physician or hospital for your treatment overseas, your employer is then responsible for any mistakes or errors that may occur in regard to your overseas medical treatment underthe Jones Act. This is an important protection that you have if you are required by your employer to receive medical treatment overseas.
Another issue that arises if you are required to receive medical treatment overseas relates to obtaining your medical records at a later date. We strongly suggest that you demand a complete copy of all of your medical records including any films or tests which have been performed overseas. This will allow you to then receive continued, proper follow-up treatment when you return to the United States. It also ensures that you have copies of your medical records and films so that you can prove your injuries and treatment in court if you so happen to choose that option.
If you are a U.S. rig or vessel worker currently employed overseas and become injured, you are at higher risk for complications in your medical care. As an overseas Jones Act worker, you may be provided with medical treatment in a foreign country immediately following your injury. If this is the case, you want to be extremely careful in your acceptace of overseas medical care.
Foreign Medical Facilities May be Subpar
After handling numerous overseas Jones Act cases, we have noticed that often these workers receive their initial medical treatment in a foreign country. Unfortunately, several of these countries cannot provide the proper treatment you need, and the facilities are subpar.
Fortunately, under the Jones Act, your employer is responsible for any mistakes in your medical care if they are the ones choosing your treating physician or hospital. This is a vital protection to have if you are required by your employer to receive medical treatment of their choosing overseas.
Medical Documents May be Difficult to Obtain
After receiving care in another country, it may be difficult to obtain your medical records at a later date. It is advisable that you request a comprehensive copy of all of your medical records including any films, tests, and doctor recommendations before you return to the United States. By doing this, you will be able to continue your follow up treatment back home without all the unnecessary complications that accompany not having your records. It also allows you to have copies of your medical records and films, which is useful for not only proving your injuries in court but also for personal reference.