Who chooses the doctor when a mariner gets injured?

On Behalf of | Jul 7, 2023 | Maritime Law

Getting hurt on the job often results in taking a leave of absence and expensive medical care for the affected worker. Typically, state workers’ compensation laws apply, which can limit an individual’s choices regarding where they seek medical treatment. However, the entire process is different when someone gets hurt while working a maritime job.

For those who work at an offshore location, including professional fishermen and oil rig workers, the process of getting compensation for their injuries is somewhat different, and therefore the rules regarding their medical treatment also tend to be different.

Workers can choose their own medical care providers

Depending on the nature of someone’s injury and the location of their offshore employment, they may require emergency transportation to an emergency department and may end up receiving emergency care at the closest facility. They may then have the option of selecting a different location for any follow-up treatment that they require.

Provided that a worker seeks care from a licensed professional who adheres to best practices for their profession, they can potentially seek compensation for their treatment regardless of which healthcare provider they utilize. Instead of filing a workers’ compensation claim and then using those benefits to pay for their treatment, the worker will instead need to collect medical invoices and make a claim against their employer using the Jones Act.

Although some lawmakers in Texas question whether the Jones Act has largely outlived its usefulness, there are no other federal systems in place at this time to protect maritime workers from the financial consequences of work-related injury. Since its passage more than 100 years ago, the Jones Act has allowed for those injured due to regulatory non-compliance or negligence on the part of their employers in a maritime location to hold the business directly accountable for lost wages and medical expenses.

Generally, workers receive reimbursement for treatment instead of proactive coverage, so they determine what treatment they receive. However, factors including a refusal to follow medical directions or delays in treatment can potentially affect someone’s eligibility for compensation under the Jones Act. Discussing one’s injury and likely treatment with a lawyer who is familiar with maritime injury law can help someone get the treatment they need without ending up responsible for the cost of that care.