Medical Rights of Injured Maritime Workers
If you've been seriously injured in a maritime accident, you may be confused about your rights. Perhaps your employer or the company's insurance adjuster is insisting that you sign forms you don't fully understand. You may be asked to give a recorded statement or see a particular doctor. You need an attorney experienced in maritime injuries to help you navigate the tricky waters of your post-accident medical care. We at Arnold & Itkin have extensive experience in these types of cases. In 2009, we recovered more than $15 million in over 20 maritime injury cases.
What Are My Legal Rights?
The most important strategy after you've been injured is to know your rights. Many of these rights center around your medical care. Since your recovery of medical expenses, loss of past and future income, pain and suffering, and other financial restitution is directly tied to the doctor's assessment of your condition, it is vital that you know and protect your medical rights, including the important ones listed below.
- The right to choose your own doctor. Probably the most important decision is who you choose to be your doctor. You should choose a doctor you feel comfortable with, who you trust to make the best medical decisions for your care. You may come under pressure from your employer or the insurance adjuster to see the doctor of their choice. They may even insist that you must see their doctor and suggest that you will forfeit your medical benefits. This is not true. The law is clear that the choice of doctor is yours alone. Your employer does have the right to require you to see his doctor for evaluation purposes but not for treatment. An experienced attorney can advise you when you are required to see your employer's doctor, and when you must give your employer or his insurance company access to your medical records.
- The right to refuse to sign any paperwork in exchange for medical benefits or maintenance payments. The insurance adjuster can visit you at your hospital bed, but he can't force you to sign anything. Your medical benefits are dependent on your doctor's assessment of your injuries, not your willingness to sign an insurance document – and there's a good reason to be wary of these documents. Often, they will include a clause agreeing to have your case heard in arbitration, in a setting chosen by your employer.
- The right to refuse to give a recorded statement. You are required to report your accident immediately and follow company procedures, but you may not have to give a recorded statement. Medical evidence shows that short-term memories are frequently fragmented; you may remember events incompletely or incorrectly. If you have this experience, and you later remember events more accurately, it may be difficult to amend an already-recorded statement. You should hire an attorney as soon as possible to help prepare your statement.
- The right to medical benefits regardless of fault. Under the Jones Act, an injured seaman has the right to full medical benefits, until he or she makes a complete recovery, no matter who is at fault in the accident.
- The right to medical treatment if two doctors disagree. If your employer requires you to get a second opinion for evaluation purposes and that doctor recommends different treatment than your own doctor or recommends ceasing treatment altogether, your employer may believe he no longer has the responsibility to pay for your doctor's recommendations. That's not true. The Jones Act requires that when two doctors disagree, all doubts must be resolved in favor of the injured seaman.
- The right to treatment for a previously existing medical condition that has been aggravated by your accident. To get medical treatment, it's not required that your accident caused your injuries. If you were already injured and your accident made it worse, then you are entitled to medical benefits for that same injury. This applies to bad backs, injured shoulders, or any other previous injury you might have had.
Maritime law is complicated, and it can be difficult to know and exercise your rights in the face of an employer who denies them. The experienced lawyers at Arnold & Itkin, however, can help you build a compelling case that will ensure your medical bills are paid. We have helped many injured maritime workers and crew obtain the compensation to which they are rightfully entitled. We can help you, too.
If you've been injured in a maritime accident, call Arnold & Itkin today! (888) 493-1629