Seeking prompt medical attention after a workplace injury is essential. Not only do you need an appropriate diagnosis and treatment, but you also need to document your injuries.
As a maritime worker covered by the Jones Act or the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act, you may face pressure from your employer to see a company doctor. Be sure to understand your rights and risks before proceeding.
Do you have to see the doctor your employer recommends?
If you sustain an injury at sea, your employer might suggest or demand that you receive treatment from a doctor of your employer’s choosing. However, your employer can not force you to receive care from any doctor.
In certain cases, your employer can require you to submit to an independent medical examination by your employer’s choice of physician, but the purpose of an IME is simply to gather information. Neither the Jones Act nor the LHWCA requires you to receive treatment from a company doctor, even if you agree to an IME. You may choose your own physician as long as he or she is a qualified medical practitioner.
Why should you choose your own physician?
Seeing the company doctor might be convenient. Your employer may even offer you an incentive to do so. However, it is important to receive treatment that aligns with your best interest.
Company doctors generally face pressure from employers to look out for the best interest of the business, which may lead to biased decision-making. This might include clearing you to return to work before your recovery is complete or neglecting to prescribe appropriate treatment because it is too expensive.
After a maritime injury, you have the right to receive treatment from a doctor you trust.