Doctor selection under the Defense Base Act and the Longshore and Harbor Workers Compensation Act (LHWCA) is crucial. It can make the difference between fairness and injustice.
Through 42 U.S.C. 1651(a), the LHWCA is the substantive law for the Defense Base Act. Under the LHWCA, employers/insurance companies are required to provide injured workers with medical care. Injured workers have the right to choose one doctor. Once the selection is made, any change must come by agreement of the E/C or order of the Secretary of Labor’s office. Injured workers do not want to be reliant on either alternative. Accordingly, the initial choice is key.
Money has a tendency to corrupt. Sadly, doctors are not above being influenced by insurance company money to render false opinions unfavorable to their patients. Doing otherwise jeopardizes the flow of future insurance company business. This is why we see the same doctors being selected time and again in every type of workers’ compensation case, from state workers’ compensation cases, to Defense Base Act cases, to LHWCA cases.
Like sexual prostitutes, whore doctors do whatever is required to please the customer. Unlike sexual prostitutes, however, the immoral acts of whore doctors harm innocent victims … their own patients. So much for the Hippocratic Oath.
Given these harsh realities, it is especially important for injured workers to select their doctors carefully. There are many doctors of high principle who are not beholden to insurance companies. Lawyers who represent injured workers know who they are and can help in the selection process. Unfortunately, in a large percentage of cases the dye has already been cast by the time proper legal advice is sought. Most injured workers have already begun treating by the time they meet with a lawyer.
Thankfully, all is not lost. Only workers who have selected are bound. There are no second choices. Not every injured worker has been given the opportunity to select or by good fortune has by default landed with a decent doctor, such as when an unbiased initial emergency room doctor becomes the treater by the circumstances. Moreover, just because the insurance carrier claims that the injured employee has made a selection does not necessarily make it so. Many a court battle has been fought over this issue. Finally, a change of doctor can be made by agreement or can be ordered by the Secretary of Labor’s office.
The best advice for any injured worker subject to the Defense Base Act or LHWCA is to hire a lawyer ASAP. Do not believe for one minute that the employer and its insurance company representives have the injured worker’s best interests at heart. Far from it actually. Having someone with expertise on the injured worker’s side often means the difference between winning and losing.
Lawyers who handle these cases for injured workers charge no money up front for their services. The lawyer will make every effort to force the insurance company to pay all or a portion of his attorney’s fees and costs. Whatever must be paid by the claimant, if anything, only comes at the end of the case from proceeds recovered, usually settlement money, is based on an hourly rate rather than a percentage, and must be approved by an administrative judge.
Contact our office toll-free at 866-785-GALE or by email to learn your legal rights.
Jeffrey P. Gale, P.A. is a South Florida based law firm committed to the judicial system and to representing and obtaining justice for individuals – the poor, the injured, the forgotten, the voiceless, the defenseless and the damned, and to protecting the rights of such people from corporate and government oppression. We do not represent government, corporations or large business interests.