Did you work overseas as a civilian contractor? You may have faced many of the same hazards as service members. But when you returned home, you did not get the benefit of VA care and disability benefits. Instead, if you sustained an injury or were diagnosed with a condition related to your work, you have to pursue workers’ comp.
The Defense Base Act is an extension of the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act (LHWCA). It requires U.S. government contractors and subcontractors to provide workers’ compensation insurance for their employees. That way, if you are hurt while working overseas under a U.S. government contract, you can receive benefits by filing a DBA claim.
Going through a Defense Base Act claim is not easy. Getting your claim approved can be a long and frustrating process. Then, once it is approved, you may still need to fight for full and fair compensation.
Our team of Defense Base Act attorneys is here to help with every step of the claim process. We will explain how to calculate a Defense Base Act settlement that is fair and can help you move forward in life.
Are You Eligible for Defense Base Act Benefits?
The Defense Base Act covers you if you work as an employee of a civilian contractor overseas, such as if you work on U.S. military bases, land used for military purposes, or public work contracts.
Traditionally, your injury must arise out of and in the course of employment—meaning you were injured at work. However, you also may be covered for injuries that happened outside of work if you lived in a Zone of Special Danger.
If you are concerned about whether you are eligible for benefits, talk with us right away. Our DBA attorneys will evaluate your eligibility based on the work you did for the U.S. government overseas.
Defense Base Act Benefits
There are a few types of benefits available under the Defense Base Act:
- Vocational rehabilitation, and
- Death benefits.
The workers’ compensation insurance may cover all your reasonable medical care provided by the doctor of your choice.
Disability Wage Benefits
When you are disabled in some way, you are entitled to replacement wages. The amount you may receive depends on the severity of your injury, including whether you are partly or fully disabled and whether that disability is temporary or permanent.
Temporary total disability (TTD)
If you cannot work for a time, but you will heal and go back to work, you can collect TTD benefits. You may receive two-thirds of your average weekly wage (AWW) for the duration of your disability.
Temporary partial disability (TPD)
With a temporary partial disability, you are injured but can do some work. You may receive two-thirds of lost wages for up to five years.
Permanent total disability (PTD)
Those who have a permanent total disability will never be able to return to the work they did before their injury or condition. With PTD benefits, you may receive two-thirds of your AWW for the duration of your disability with an annual adjustment based on the U.S. national average weekly earnings reported by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Permanent partial disability (PPD)
A permanent partial disability arises where you sustained a permanent physical limitation. If your disability falls on a schedule under Section 908 of the LHWCA, there is a compensation schedule. You may receive TTD for a specific number of weeks for the percentage of your permanent bodily disability. If your disability is not on a schedule, you may receive two-thirds of your earning capacity loss.
For TTD, TPD, and PTD, your payments are subject to a maximum weekly rate. Because it is important to fight for every penny you deserve, we recommend hiring an experienced Defense Base Act attorney to review the AWW calculations.
When you are permanently disabled from your occupational injury or disease, the Act entitles you to vocational rehabilitation services.
If your spouse passed away from an occupational injury or condition, the Act entitles you to death benefits of:
- Half their AWW to you and one child, or
- Two-thirds of their AWW for you and two or more children, and
- Up to $3,000 for reasonable funeral expenses.
Do not hesitate to reach out to Grossman Attorneys at Law for help. We can help you pursue death benefits under the Defense Base Act.
Calculating Your Average Weekly Wage
The fundamental basis for many disability benefits is your AWW. However, calculating your AWW is not always straightforward. We recommend working with an attorney to understand the process better.
If you were with your employer for at least one year, and your work schedule was based on a consistent five or six days a week, you take your daily wage and multiply by 260 (for a five-day workweek) or 300 (for a six-day workweek). Divide that figure by 52. If you had not worked with your employer for a year by the time you were hurt, your daily wage is based on a worker in a similar job in the same region. Once you determine a comparable daily wage, you follow the same calculation.
For a seven-day work schedule or a casual work schedule, a straightforward formula may not be accurate. It is doubly important to hire an attorney to make sure your average compensation for your Defense Base Act claim is calculated accurately. You may have evidence of your earnings, or you may look to another worker in the same type of job in the same region.
Your annual wages must be calculated then divided by 52.
Negotiating a Defense Base Act Settlement
A lawyer can help you with various aspects of negotiating a Defense Base Act settlement.
Understanding Lump Sum Benefits
Disability benefits under the Defense Base Act are ongoing. However, in some circumstances, it is to your advantage to negotiate a lump sum settlement. Talk with a lawyer about the pros and cons of receiving benefits over time versus at once. Our Defense Base Act attorneys can talk with you about the most appropriate resolution to your claim.
Calculating the Value of Your Defense Base Act Claim
You need to know how much your claim is worth. Speak with an experienced lawyer about calculating the value of your DBA claim, including paid and unpaid medical expenses, future medical expenses, lost income, disability benefits, and rehabilitation needs. You need a lot of information to calculate your settlement, including the severity of your injuries, your likely recovery time, and whether you will be able to return to similar or different work once you hit your maximum recovery.
Consider how your injury impacts your mental health.
Are you suffering from PTSD, or has your disability reduced your quality of life?
Will you require mental health care in the future?
Once you understand your AWW and claim’s value, we can talk with the insurance provider about a settlement. Either you or the insurer can raise the question of a settlement, and both sides have the power to negotiate a fair amount. We highly recommend you have an attorney negotiate on your behalf. The insurer will have much more experience with this process than you.
Seeking Settlement Approval
If we reach a settlement agreement with the insurer, the process is not over. The Department of Labor (DOL) must evaluate the proposed settlement.
The DOL will review:
- The reason for the settlement;
- Your medical information and work history;
- Your medical report for the injury or disease;
- An itemized bill of medical expenses; and
- The specific settlement amounts for medical bills, compensation, and attorney fees.
The DOL also considers your age, education, work history, and degree of disability. It matters whether you can return to work, and if so, what kind. Will it be comparable in pay to your previous work? The department considers your future medical needs, including whether you will need a great deal of care. Finally, the DOL reviews your life expectancy based on actuarial tables.
The DOL must agree that the settlement is fair for you before approving it.
Is Pain and Suffering Compensation Available for DBA Claims?
Many civilian contractors ask about about pain and suffering compensation.
Unfortunately, benefits under the Defense Base Act do not cover pain and suffering. Whether you hope to receive ongoing disability payments or a settlement, you cannot include an amount for pain and suffering.
Contact a Defense Base Act Lawyer for Help
You never have to go through the workers’ comp claims process alone. Grossman Attorneys at Law knows how to calculate a Defense Base Act settlement or ongoing benefits. We will gather your information, consult with your medical providers, and determine how much your case is worth. We can advise you on the advantages and disadvantages of taking a settlement. You can trust us to fight for the best possible outcome in your claim.
We represent clients worldwide, including in the U.S., Canada, Australia, Great Britain, France, Peru, Uganda, and Kenya. Whatever your circumstances, reach out. We offer translators and are available 24/7.
Most importantly, there are no upfront fees. We get paid only once we recover compensation.