All maritime employees have a right to collect payment for your medical bills and lost income after an injury on the job. However, many soon encounter strange behaviors from an employer or insurance company when they attempt to make a claim. For example, an employer may give you an advance instead of paying maintenance and cure, or even offer you a quick settlement if you agree not to talk to a lawyer. While these are definitely red flags that an employer is up to no good, there are many other, more subtle ways that your employer could be preparing to fight against your fair recovery.
5 Simple Ways an Employer Can Ruin Your Maritime Injury Case
The important thing to remember is that, no matter what tricks your employer tries, he cannot do anything without your cooperation. If you are prepared for the questions the insurance company will ask, know how to advocate for your own health care, and know your rights under the law, it will be much harder for your employer to take advantage of you—and much more likely that you will receive the full amount of benefits you are owed.
Beware of these common tactics used by employers and their associates after a maritime injury:
- Refusing to perform diagnostic testing. The company may have you “looked over” by the ship’s medical team or refer you to a physician on land. The doctor then tells you, without any scans or X-rays, that your injury is minor and you just need a day or two of rest. What they don’t tell you is the longer you delay basic diagnostic testing, the harder it will be to link your injury to your accident. Even if you wait just a few days before getting an MRI or CT scan, the insurer can claim that your injury was caused by something other than your accident. How you can stop this from happening: insist on a full medical examination, including diagnostic tests and scans, immediately after your accident.
- Sending you back to work too early. Employees are often pressured to return to work as soon as possible, and may even be threatened with termination or blackballing if they spend too long in recovery. These threats are not only illegal, but they are also a tactic used by employers to devalue your injury claim. By returning to work, you are essentially telling your employer that your injuries have fully healed—and if you suffer re-injury, you may not be able to collect any more benefits. How you can stop this from happening: Insist on seeing your own doctor, and do not return to work until you are fit to perform all of your regular work duties.
- Hiring a private investigator. Once you file a claim for compensation, your employer’s insurer might attempt to collect video surveillance of your daily activities. If they catch you doing anything—no matter how small—that shows you are physically able to return to work or have been exaggerating your condition, your claim is at risk. How you can stop this from happening: It is vital that you follow your own doctor’s orders about what you can and cannot do. Never exaggerate the effect of your condition, and stay off of social media while your case is pending.
- Forcing you to give a statement. Insurers often contact injury victims after an injury, claiming that they need “clarification of some details” in order to process the claim. In reality, they are taking a recorded statement that will be used for one purpose: to use what you say against you later in your case. How you can stop this from happening: There is absolutely no law requiring you to give a recorded statement following your accident, and the company cannot withhold benefits if you refuse to give one. If your employer or insurer attempts to withhold payment unless you give a statement, contact a maritime lawyer immediately.
If you or a loved one has been injured while performing maritime work, our attorneys can determine who may be liable for your accident and what you are owed under the law. Call 1-800-3-MAY-DAY today to set up your initial consultation, or download your complimentary copy of Are You a Seaman Injured in a Maritime Accident? Know Your Rights.