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Company doctors - Why Jones Act mariners do not have to see them

Brian Beckcom

Brian Beckcom


Do I have to see a company doctor for my injuries in order to receive my Jones Act benefits?

Depending on how, where, and why you were injured, you may not have much choice about seeing a company or ship doctor for your immediate care.

However, if you are told that you can only see company-approved doctors for the care of your injury, then you aren’t getting the whole truth about your rights under the Jones Act. In reality, you do not have to exclusively see company doctors for care of an injury, and it’s usually a good idea to seek out the opinion of an outside, independent doctor before you make major decisions about your care.

The Jones Act Is Very Clear About Your Right to Receive Medical Treatment

If you qualify for benefits under the Jones Act, then you have the right to receive medical care from a doctor that you choose. Although employers and insurance companies may try to mislead injured seamen in order to minimize how much is paid out in these kinds of injury claims, the law is very clear about their rights. If you are having trouble getting the medical care you need, you should consider at least talking with an attorney about your situation and your rights under the law.

Companies May Give Misleading Information About Your Rights to See Company Doctors Under the Jones Act

Although the Jones Act itself is fairly clear about an injured seaman’s right to medical care, employers of Jones Act seamen often take advantage of under-informed workers who have been hurt. Instead of clearly explaining the workers’ rights and legal protections, some employers choose to twist words, leave out important facts, offer misleading information, or even outright lie about a worker’s rights to medical treatment—all for the benefit of their own bottom line. If you have recently been injured while working at sea, you should consider it a “red flag” if you are told by a company or insurance representative that:

  • You must see a company-approved doctor.
  • You aren’t eligible for follow-up care after the initial treatment.
  • You cannot see a specialist for your injuries.
  • You will lose your benefits if you see a doctor of your own choosing.

Three Reasons to See a Doctor of Your Own Choosing for a Jones Act Injury

Although the Jones Act allows injured workers to seek medical care from a doctor of their own choosing, many workers who are injured at sea end up settling for a quick visit with the ship’s doctor or a doctor chosen by the company. If you feel like your employer has taken adequate action, and if you are happy with the care you receive from the company doctors, then there may not be any reason to seek out medical care from another provider. However, there are some situations in which seeking out your own doctor may be the best choice for your health and well being.

If any of the following situations sound familiar, it may be time to start exercising your Jones Act rights and looking for care outside of the company:

  • Your company has not offered to help you get medical care. If you were hurt at sea and are still waiting for your employer to help you get care, don’t wait another day. If your company has not helped you get treatment, then you have the right to seek out a doctor on your own.
  • You are not happy with the care provided by the company doctor. If you have seen a company doctor, but do not feel that you were treated properly or fully, then it’s important that you follow up with another medical provider who can guide your ongoing recovery.
  • You do not believe that the company doctor has your best interests in mind. In many cases, company doctors are more interested in protecting the company than protecting the patient. If you are worried that a company doctor is biased, it is perfectly within your rights to see a medical provider who makes you feel comfortable and cared for.

How Do I Choose the Right Physician to Handle My Care After an Injury at Sea?

The doctor you choose can have a big impact on your Jones Act case, your medical recovery, and even when and how you return to work. While our legal team can’t tell you exactly who the right physician for your case might be, we can help you understand what to look for in the doctor you choose. Here are some signs that a doctor is the right fit for you:

  • You feel confident that your doctor has your best interests in mind.
  • Your doctor makes you feel comfortable, listened to, and cared for.
  • Your doctor thoroughly explains your treatment and answers your questions.
  • Your doctor is willing to refer you to a specialist when your care requires it.
  • Your doctor can handle the extra documentation and paperwork that accompanies Jones Act claims.
  • Your doctor understands how to bill for treatment related to Jones Act injuries.

If you have questions about seeing a company-approved doctor, or if you are having trouble finding a doctor of your own choosing to treat your injuries, don’t hesitate to contact our experienced legal team today. We can connect you and your family with the information and resources you need to choose a doctor who will make your health and wellbeing a priority and will help you document the evidence needed for your Jones Act injury claim.

Struggling to Get the Care You Deserve After Sustaining an Injury at Sea?

Ultimately, it’s not fair, but injured seamen may need legal help to take advantage of their basic right to see a trusted doctor. If you are restricted from seeking outside medical care, or if you are unhappy with the care you are receiving from company doctors, don’t hesitate to reach out to our experienced attorneys today at 1-877-724-7800.

Topics: Jones Act