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Fishing Company Sanctioned for Improper Ex-parte Contacts With Injured Seamans Treating Doctors

A Court Order has been issued for sanctions against United States Seafoods for having improper ex-parte communications with an injured seaman's treating doctor. An insurance adjuster for the Alaska fishing company contacted the injured seaman's treating doctor to seek an opinion relating to whether or not the seaman was at maximum medical cure. The seaman's attorney had previously revoked all authorizations given to the insurance adjuster to obtain medical information about the seaman. The Court had also previously ordered the company to pay back maintenance. The Court sanctioned United States Seafoods finding that the ex-parte contacts to be "highly improper" and clearly without "legal basis." An Order was also issued prohibiting United States Seafoods from engaging in future ex-parte contact with the injured seaman's treating health care providers, even if they have information relevant to issues relating to maintenance and cure. The King County Superior Court Case is Holloway v. Alaska Beauty LLC and United States Seafoods.

In another previous similar King County Superior Court case, Farfan v. Starbound, another Order was issued declaring such ex-parte contacts to be in improper. In that case the employer argued that under Washington State workers' compensation law, an employer has a right to ex parte contacts with treating physicians. The workers' compensation comparison to a seaman's right to maintenance and cure has been held to be improper. Federal maritime law benefits to maintenance and cure are separate and distinct from laws relating to State workers' compensation. In FarFan v. Starbound, the Court rejected and refused to follow the State workers' compensation rules and held that under Federal Maritime law an employer and/or vessel owner is prohibited from having ex-parte communication with an injured seaman's treating health care providers. Stacey & Jacobsen represented the injured seaman in Farfan v. Starbound.

Despite clear prohibition against such contacts, in the State of Washington insurance companies and defense lawyers continue to engage in the prohibited practice of engaging in ex parte contacts with an injured seaman's treating doctors. In almost all cases, an injured seaman's first step is to reject all previous medical authorizations given to the employer or their insurance company. You should be aware that insurance adjusters working for the employer are not representing your interests. They may be contacting your treating doctors without your knowledge attempting to develop testimony that will terminate your rights to maritime benefits and limit your right to compensation.

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