It is very common for your employer to insist that you be seen by the company doctor if you are injured on the job. In fact, sometimes this is written as a policy into your employment documents at the time of hire.
Does the Jones Act allow me to choose my own doctor after a work accident?
Yes, you can choose your own doctor. They cannot force you to choose their doctor and there are several reasons you don’t want to go to a company-selected doctor for your treatment after a maritime Jones Act injury.
Usually, the company doctor is communicating directly with the company about your medical condition. They do this usually on the telephone without you knowing it. A lot of times the company representative will meet directly with the company doctor and talk about your medical condition. This is your medical condition. You need to go to a doctor that you trust and who is going to be honest with you more so than the company. The company doctor is working for the company, not for you. His or her interest lies in saving the company as much money as possible, which can mean that you do not get the medical care you really need.
The company only has to pay for treatment that the doctor recommends. Many company doctors refuse to recommend basic tests such as MRIs or nerve testing after an injury. Therefore a company doctor is unlikely to provide you with the care you need in an attempt to save the company money.
You likely won’t receive the medical care you need. Standard medical testing today includes MRI’s and nerve studies; however, very often if you are seeing the company doctor, you may not be given these and other tests that could give you an accurate diagnosis right away. An MRI will show soft tissue injuries and hairline fractures that commonly do not show up on an x-ray and are often the only way to prove the full extent of your injuries. If the company doctor refuses to perform necessary tests like these, it is imperative that you go immediately to another physician you trust and you choose to have these tests done – not doing so may greatly hurt you and could be harmful to your long-term health. It is vital that you protect yourself and your health.
Your company only has to pay maintenance and cure until the doctor says you are at ‘maximum cure’ or ‘maximum medical improvement’. A company doctor is often much more likely to release you sooner and declare that you are at ‘maximum cure’. Once he does this, the company terminates your maintenance and cure.
The company doctor will release you before you’re ready. Very often a company doctor will encourage you to return to work as soon as possible – maybe even before you are fully healed and ready to work. As an employee, this might make sense to you as well, particularly if you cannot afford to miss work and stop earning your wages. Though it may seem wise in the short term, this could be detrimental to your continued healing and your case, if you choose to pursue one. If you return to work and your injury worsens, your company may insist that it is your fault – that you aggravated your own injury and made it worse. Additionally, your employer could also claim that you appeared fine while working after your return, in order to fight any claims you might make later. What’s even worse is that once you have returned to the job, it is common for an employer to refuse to cover any further medical treatment.
Disadvantages of Seeing a Company Doctor
If you go to a company doctor, you may have:
incomplete testing and diagnosis;
delay in reporting test results and symptoms;
inaccurate assessment of special treatment needs; and
generalized assessments of workers’ health.
It’s this last factor that you need to worry about the most when filing an injury claim under Jones Act or maritime law. General assessments of a worker’s health usually don’t provide the necessary evidence of a workplace injury. You sometimes need a specialist to diagnose work-related injuries or conditions, and you have the right to seek a specialist of your choice. To avoid these and the many other disadvantages of using the company doctor, you should exercise your right to choose your own physician.
What a Company Physician May Do After Louisiana Maritime Accidents
Your employer will most likely encourage you to see a company doctor because of the alliance they have built to deny your claim. A company doctor might:
claim your injuries were not serious;
delay performing necessary tests;
refuse to order an MRI;
misdiagnose you; and
improperly treat you.
The Law Says You Can Choose Your Own Doctor
Under maritime law, you are absolutely allowed to choose your choice of doctor after your injury. This is a critical part of your case and you’ve got to insist that the company pays for your doctor, not their doctor. Despite what you may have been told, the Jones Act allows you to choose your own doctor for your medical treatment.
Seeing the doctor of your choice is not just wise – it is your right. Insist on the necessary tests, and don’t return to the job until you and your doctor agree that you are sufficiently healed and that your condition will not worsen or be ongoing.
Contact a New Orleans Injury Lawyer or Attorney in Lafayette
The Jones Act law provides you with certain protections your employer may not want you to know about. A Jones Act attorney from The Young Firm can show you your rights and put you on the path to recovery.
If you have been injured and want to know more about your rights under the Jones Act and maritime law, download our free publications today! The Young Firm works exclusively on maritime and Jones Act cases, and we are here to answer all your questions and to guide you in getting the care and compensation you deserve. Call us at 1-866-703-2520 to discuss your rights and options.