Just a few months into his contract working for the US State Department in Iraq, Robert Smith found himself lying in a hospital bed. He was working on rebuilding some roads that were destroyed during the war when a hidden roadside bomb exploded, throwing him to the ground. He had survived, but he had sustained injuries from shrapnel as well as a traumatic brain injury and post-traumatic stress. He filed his DBA claim for total disability under the Longshore and Harbor Workers Compensation Act. He thought that this would be the end of it and he would receive his entitled benefits. However, filing the claim was just the beginning of a year-long fight for his rights.
He found himself in meeting after meeting, being pressured by the insurance carrier to accept a lower settlement. Without the support and guidance of an experienced Defense Base Act attorney and needing money due to being out of work for months, he accepted the settlement and walked away with hardly enough money to cover what he had lost, much less receive continued medical treatment and support for his PTSD and brain injury.
Robert Smith’s case might be fictional and may be the worst-case scenario for someone who is injured working overseas. Yet, there are many real-life cases similar to Robert’s that could’ve ended differently had they enlisted the support of a Defense Base Act lawyer.
What Is A Defense Base Act (DBA) Attorney?
A DBA attorney is someone who specializes in cases that fall under the Defense Base Act, which was enacted in 1941 to protect United States civilian contractors who are injured while working overseas. It’s an extension of the Longshore and Harbor Workers Compensation Act and covers virtually anyone working for the U.S. government on foreign soil, especially those on U.S. military bases.
A DBA lawyer represents injured U.S. contractors covered under the DBA, as well as the families of those killed overseas while working overseas. It may seem that your claim is clear-cut and that you’ll receive your benefits. However, as exemplified by Robert’s case, you may need to fight for them. Moreover, you may need someone that knows how to advocate for you and support you so that you’re not pressured to accept less than what you’re entitled to. This is what Defense Base Act lawyers do for injured workers.
They know the rules and regulations of Defense Base Act claims, which means they know the technicalities that can result in denials and disputes over your claim. DBA claims are often expensive for insurance carriers to pay out, which is why they may pressure an injured contractor to take less than what they deserve. However, an attorney that specializes in DBA claims will be able to guide you through the entire process and represent you and your rights.
Receiving Your Due Benefits
After a claim is filed, it begins the informal proceedings part of the process. These proceedings are more administrative and mostly about proper notifications and examination of the claim. However, regardless of how straightforward this part of the process may be, an attorney will make sure that your rights are respected under the full extent of the Act. They will make sure that you receive favorable recommendations on your benefits and that you won’t be taken advantage of by the insurance carriers.
Furthermore, an attorney will be particularly beneficial if you have a complicated claim. Many occupational medical problems may not present symptoms until after the two-year filing rule. Exposure to workplace hazards may not present problems until much later. An attorney will know how to assert your rights in these cases.
This is also the case for those contractors that work in zones of special danger. The DBA does cover such medical conditions as PTSD caused by perilous conditions a worker is subject to in war zones. However, because of the nature of PTSD and how it manifests itself, it could be difficult to prove the necessity of receiving your benefits. Since a DBA attorney knows the law well, they will be able to represent you during the process so that you your due workers’ compensation benefits.
The DBA covers any and all injuries sustained while or from working conditions, including physical injuries as well as psychiatric injuries. Moreover, it also covers the compensation for any aggravation of pre-existing conditions. Such benefits include:
- Paid disability
- Medical care
- Temporary and permanent partial disability
- Temporary and permanent total disability
- Death benefits.
The type of benefits you receive will be recommended by the U.S. Department of Labor, Office of Workers Compensation Programs (OWCP), Division of Longshore & Harbor Workers Compensation. Based on your claim and the findings of your chosen physician, the OWCP will recommend the benefits for which your entitled. However, these benefits may not always be what you need or deserve and may even be disputed by your employer’s insurance carrier. In either of these cases, an attorney will fight for your rights throughout the entire rest of the process. When an insurance company wrongfully denies the claim of you as an eligible worker, an experience DBA lawyer is going to be able to handle the process for you.
DBA Attorney Fees
Although it’s only beneficial to you to consult an attorney on your claim, many injured workers may be concerned about the attorney fees. It’s understandable since you’re already paying the costs of medical treatment as well as earning little to no income from the inability to work. However, unlike other cases where you might have to pay attorney fees regardless of winning, if a dispute arises and you retain an attorney, you may not be responsible for the fees.
When a dispute over a claim between you and the insurance company arises, it’s often the responsibility of the insurance company to pay any of the fees if you obtain your benefits. However, if a judge denies your claim, you do not owe any attorney fees.
Let Us Focus On The Claim So You Can Focus On Recovering
The process of a DBA claim can be stressful and time-consuming, especially if it’s disputed. During this time, you should be focusing on your recovery, not worrying about whether you will receive your benefits. You deserve the same protection as any other worker, especially since you are supporting our men and women in uniform in war zones overseas and on U.S. military bases.
As experts in Defense Base Act claims and injuries, we will be able to handle the administrative parts of your claim and make sure you receive the same protections and your due benefits. If you need to make a claim today, contact our law firm to ensure you receive the maximum compensation possible.