Under the Longshore and Harbor Worker’s Compensation Act, if you are a maritime worker that has suffered illness or injury at work, you have the right to choose your treating doctor. However, you only get one free choice. If you then wish to change your doctor again, you will need to obtain the consent of your employer or get an order from the U.S. Department of Labor. For this reason, we strongly recommend that you do your research and choose the right doctor the first time around.
It is also important to note that section 7c of the Longshore Act states that injured workers can choose a physician who is on the Department of Labor’s annually prepared list of physicians who are not authorized to provide medical care or services under the Act. Your chosen physician must also be located within 25 miles of your home or place of work, unless otherwise granted prior approval by the U.S. Department of Labor’s District Director.
If your illness or injury means that you are unable to select your physician and the nature of your injury means that you need immediate medical treatment/care, your employer may select a physician for you. For example, if you were to suffer an injury that places you in a coma, your employer would assign your doctor. However, this doesn’t eliminate your right to choose a physician when you are able to do so, provided that you don’t undergo a prolonged period of treatment with your employer-chosen physician first.
Although you can, in theory, choose any physician to treat you. Section 7b of the Longshore Act states that ‘the Secretary shall actively supervise the medical care rendered to injured employees,… and shall have authority to determine the necessity, character and sufficiency of any medical aid furnished or to be furnished, and may, on his own initiative or at the request of the employer, order a change of physicians or hospitals when in his judgement such change is desirable or necessary in the interest of the employee’.
What this means is that if your employer doesn’t believe that you have chosen a physician with the credentials and experience needed to administer your care, they can request that you are switched to an alternative. This doesn’t just apply to general physicians, but also to all licensed physicians authorized to treat workers under the Longshore Act, including surgeons, dentists, optometrists, chiropractors*, osteopaths, podiatrists, clinical psychologists and more.
If you would like more information about choosing a physician under the Longshore Act, please contact our experienced and knowledgeable team at The Law Offices of Daniel Weltin in San Leandro.
*Chiropractors are only included to the extent that their reimbursable services are limited to treatment consisting of manual manipulation of the spine to correct a subluxation, proven by x-ray or other clinical findings.