If you’re a seaman who has been injured onboard a vessel, you have a right to medical treatment. You’re entitled to maintenance and cure, and cure is the obligation to provide you with medical care, hospitalization and rehabilitation until you’ve reached maximum medical improvement. This is independent of a Jones Act claim, and many injured seamen wonder how medical treatment will affect their Jones Act case. This is what you need to know:
You Have a Right to Medical Treatment
When you’re injured in a maritime accident, you have a right to medical treatment. Period. Many employers pressure their employees to see a doctor of their choosing. If your employer is telling you to see a company doctor, beware! A doctor of the employer’s choosing may downplay your injuries, or even improperly diagnose them. Company doctors may be looking out for the employer’s interests; not yours. In a maritime injury case, it’s always best for your interests to see a doctor of your own choosing, and your employer does still have to pay for your medical treatment if you go to your own doctor.
Be Careful With Health Insurance Claims
In some cases, maritime employers instruct injured seamen to use their health insurance to pay for their maritime injury. If you’ve been injured onboard a vessel, this may not be a good idea.
First, many health insurance policies specifically state that they will not pay for a work-related injury. It is the employer’s responsibility to pay for these medical costs. If you use your health insurance to pay for a work injury, your employer may use this as evidence that you have misrepresented the nature of your injury. This can hurt your Jones Act case. And your health insurer may deny the claims anyway since they are the result of a work injury.
Another problem with using health insurance to pay for a maritime injury is that the insurance company may then file a lien or have subrogation rights to collect medical expenses from any settlement or recovery you receive from your suit. In other words, you could end up paying your health insurance company back for your medical bills out of your own legal recovery.
These complexities of medical care after a maritime injury can have a big impact on the success of your Jones Act case. It’s a good idea to consult an experienced maritime attorney to ensure you’re handling your medical treatment and medical bills appropriately after your injury to avoid hurting your case.