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Steven M. Lee, PC

Q:
Under the Defense Base Act, do I have the right to be returned to the United States for treatment by the doctor of my choice, or will I be forced to choose among the medical services available in the nation where I’m currently living?

A:

In an emergency, you should accept urgent medical care wherever you are and wherever you can get it quickly. You don’t want to risk waiting too long and suffering a permanent injury or worse—death—because you refused medical care in the country where you were living.

However, once your medical condition is stable then you have a choice to make.

The Defense Base Act Allows You to Choose Your Own Doctor

If you wish to be treated in the United States then you should notify your employer immediately of your decision to return home and of your choice for your treating doctor. In some cases, your employer will automatically decide to send you home since your injury makes you more of a liability than a benefit overseas. If your employer refuses to send you home, however, then you will have to decide whether you are going to stay where you are or whether you are going to pay your transportation costs to get home and hope that you will be reimbursed later.

It is important to give a lot of thought and attention to choosing your doctor. The doctor you choose may have a significant impact on your ability to recover legal damages. It is your doctor who is going to:

  • Diagnose your injuries.
  • Decide on your treatment plan.
  • Document your injury and your limitations.
  • Decide whether you can go back to work and what work you can do.

The Defense Base Act creates a legal presumption that your doctor’s opinions are correct. A judge may listen and consider other opinions. However, if your doctor’s opinions are well reasoned and accurate then they should be believed by the judge. Thus, your doctor may be able to help you with both your physical recovery and your legal recovery, and it is important to choose wisely.

How a Maritime Lawyer Can Help You

If you experience any resistance to claiming your Defense Base Act rights, then it is important to hire a lawyer as soon as possible. An experienced Defense Base Act attorney can help you protect your rights going forward so that you make as fair a recovery as possible. Our legal team wants to help you recover from the unique injuries that you’ve suffered. Please contact us any time—24/7—to schedule a free and confidential initial consultation with an experienced lawyer.

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