Almost all maritime companies will perform a pre-employment physical examination of you before you are offered employment with the company. Under the Jones Act, there are several reasons why it is very important for you to be fully honest with your potential employers in regard to any past injuries that you may have suffered. There are specific rules which apply when an individual tries to hide a previous injury or fails to disclose such an injury on a pre-employment physical.
First, there is a legal case called McCorpen which specifically states that if a maritime employee fails to disclose a previous injury which is material to his employer, the employee will forfeit his right to medical expenses if he sustains an injury to the same part of his body. In other words, your failure to disclose a previous injury can completely bar you from recovering for medical expenses under maintenance and cure law for a similar or greater injury to the same part of his body. This can be very serious if you have previously suffered a very slight or small lower back or neck injury and, during the course of your new employment, an accident seriously aggravates or worsens your previous condition. Under such circumstances, the McCorpen case can allow your employer to fully deny medical treatment for the worsening of your condition.
In addition to using your misstatements or lack of honesty on a pre-employment physical to deny medical treatment to you, your employer will also use any incorrect statement made on a pre-employment physical against your credibility if a suit is eventually filed arising out of your injury. This very often occurs with “personal” type medical issues such as alcoholism or drug addiction. Many employees will fail to disclose this prior treatment to their potential employers. Then, if an injury occurs, this failure to disclose a seemingly irrelevant, personal medical issue will be used against them during their case.
A final reason you should not hide any prior medical treatment from your potential employer is that your employer, in all likelihood, will hire you regardless of many of the-employment disclosures that you make. In other words, even if you disclose prior injuries as well as alcoholism and/or drug problems in the past, very often your employer will screen you through a physical and ultimately qualify you for work. There are many, many cases where employees with prior sore backs or sore necks fully disclosed these previous conditions and were ultimately approved for offshore work. Minor injuries happen often, and most minor injuries will not preclude you from offshore employment. This is very important since once you are approved for offshore work, then any aggravation of the prior injury or worsening of the injury would be considered a covered injury under the Jones Act. As long as you are fully honest in regard to your past medical treatment, your employer will remain responsible for any worsening or aggravation of the prior conditions.
It is always best to be fully honest on any pre-employment physical examination form for a maritime employer. Typically maritime work is very heavy manual labor and you are never certain if and when you may suffer an injury while working. The McCorpen defense discussed above does not have a time limitation on it. In other words, the sore back that you failed to disclose years earlier when you were initially hired by your employer can still form the basis for your employer to deny medical treatment for any future back injury you may suffer with the company. Remember, your health is too important to put yourself at jeopardy by failing to fully disclose all prior medical conditions on your pre-employment application. And as mentioned above, very often your potential employer will ultimately approve you for the job even if you fully disclose prior medical problems.