Many of our crew member clients had bad experiences with the doctors selected by their employer cruise line or shipping company. Often times the medical providers selected fail to properly diagnose injuries, prescribe wrong medication or botch surgeries. The first question our clients have is whether they must return to these company doctors. The answer is no!
Under the obligation of maintenance and cure, maritime employers must provide prompt and adequate medical care to their injured crew members. Cruise lines and shipping companies often have network doctors who agree to charge lesser amounts for the volume of patients that are referred. Many of these doctors are located outside the United States and may not have the same qualification or training in the latest surgical techniques as American doctors. This often leads to mistakes. We have seen a knee replacement surgery where the doctor implanted the replacement knee backwards, outdated surgical procedure used to repair a herniated disk which resulted in the need to have multiple vertebra fused and prescription of incorrect medication which caused the cruise member to lose eyesight. It is not surprising that crew members who are sent to these doctors do not want to return for additional “treatment”.
Maritime law allows crew members to reject the doctor offered by their employers and select their own physicians. With this said, the crew member may have to pay the difference between the cost charged by the network doctor and the doctor selected by the crew member. However, if it can be shown that an adequate doctor cannot be found at the network rate, the cruise line or shipping company must pay the higher rate for the adequate doctor selected by the crew member.