Filing a Defense Base Act claim can be an exhausting process. Deadlines and documents can be overwhelming. If you were injured in a work accident that falls under the Defense Base Act, it is important to understand how Defense Base Act settlements work.
Do You Qualify for Compensation?
Defense Base Act (DBA) insurance covers civilian employees working in foreign countries as part of a military contract. This contract can be held by a private or government organization and functions as a type of workers’ compensation. Coverage is not limited to citizens of the United States.
The DBA covers medical expenses, disability, and death benefits. The incident causing the injury must occur during the general course of employment but does not have to be during work hours.
How to Calculate Defense Base Act Settlements
The more accurate and reasonable your desired Defense Base Act settlement request is, the more likely it is to be granted. There are a lot of factors that go into calculating your Defense Base Act settlement.
The amount of compensation that you may be entitled to for your injury depends largely on your average weekly wages. The court will consider a number of factors which may include:
- The wages you were earning when the injury occurred;
- The average earnings of similarly situated workers, taking location into consideration; and
- Whether you have been at the job where the injury occurred for more or less than a year.
After your annual earning capacity has been determined, divide the weekly wage amount by 52. The resulting number is used to calculate two-thirds of your average weekly wages. Compensation is calculated by weekly earnings. That means this number is really important for your case. Even being off by a few dollars could add up significantly over time. The per-week cap for average weekly wages awarded in 2021 is $1,632.70.
DBA insurance companies will attempt to depreciate your earning potential based on any inconsistencies they can find. Hiring a lawyer who knows how to calculate Defense Base Act settlements could have a significant impact on the compensation you receive.
Disability vs Injury
The severity of your injury plays an important part in determining reasonable compensation. An injury such as the loss of a toe is significantly different from the loss of a leg. Both injuries deserve compensation, but at different rates. There are four types of disabilities classified as part of the Defense Base Act. They include:
- Permanent total disability,
- Temporary total disability,
- Permanent partial disability, and
- Temporary partial disability.
Whether you are able to continue performing your current job or maintain the same earning potential despite the injury is an important piece of information when determining how to calculate Defense Base Act settlements.
What Is a Fair DBA Settlement?
Unlike a regular personal injury case, Defense Base Act settlements do not take into account “pain and suffering.” This means it is crucial to accurately calculate future costs associated with your work-related injury.
The best way to avoid an unfair settlement is to know what a fair settlement looks like. Some factors to take into account include:
- Current unpaid or paid medical expenses that require reimbursement;
- Compensation for mental health concerns such as treatment for PTSD;
- Future medical expenses projected to arise because of the injury;
- Lost past and future wages including bonuses; and
- Reduced earning potential due to total or partial disability.
An experienced Defense Base Act lawyer will be able to walk you through all the necessary considerations and provide a true evaluation of the injury’s impact on your life. Consider how the injury impacts your daily life and future implications.
How Defense Base Act Settlements Work
There are several basic steps in filing a Defense Base Act Claim and reaching a settlement.
Receive Medical Attention
Your health is the most important thing. If you have sustained a serious injury that requires immediate medical attention, you should make that your first priority. Your health and wellbeing come first.
Fill Out Employee’s Claim for Compensation
The first step in filing your DBA claim is to fill out the Employee’s Claim for Compensation LS-203 form. The information you provide on the form should be detailed and accurate. Submit the form within 30 days of the actual injury or 30 days after you were made aware that the injury was work-related. In the case of occupational disease, you may have up to a year to submit your claim.
Receive Your Case Number
After you submit the form to the Division of Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation (DLHWC), the department will provide you with an assigned case number. They will also notify your employer and the DBA insurance company that the claim has been submitted.
Provide Relevant Medical Records
Submit all relevant medical records pertaining to the injury in question. This includes all doctor’s recommendations, prognosis, medications, and expenses that you have already incurred. These records should clearly convey the extent and cause of your injuries.
DLHWC Submits Information
Your medical records and initial application will be submitted to your employer and their insurance carrier for review. The DLHWC will wait to hear from them before making a recommendation for your case. This process could take up to 30 days.
An informal conference between all parties involved is typically the next step. The DLHWC will issue a memorandum at this conference. It is ideal to have an experienced Defense Base Act attorney to represent you at this meeting so that you clearly understand the benefits being offered.
Evaluate the Recommendation
If either party disagrees with the DLHWC benefits recommendation, they can file an LS-207 form to legally challenge the memorandum. Do not accept less than you deserve for your injury.
Choosing to Litigate Your Defense Base Act Claim
Before beginning the litigation process, you should consider hiring professional, experienced legal counsel. If you choose to challenge the DLHWC, this will essentially start the litigation process. The case will then be referred to the Office of Administrative Law Judges.
The DBA Litigation Process
How Defense Base Act settlements work once the litigation process begins is very similar to most other standard legal processes.
Each party sends discovery requests to one another asking for various documents and making other inquiries. These could include employment records, medical records, questionnaires, and more.
Depositions are scheduled, and each party is permitted to ask questions under oath. Some people who might be deposed may include:
- You as the injured party,
- Doctors treating your injury,
- Defense experts,
- Insurance adjusters, and
- Representatives from your employer.
Depositions can provide key evidence in support of your DBA claim.
A hearing is held so that all the information gathered can be formally presented to an administrative law judge. This person will ultimately decide the case. Be prepared that sometimes an administrative law judge opinion can take up to a year.
Option to Appeal
Once the administrative law judge has submitted their opinion, both parties have the option to appeal.
Reasons Your Defense Base Act Claim Could Be Denied
If the DBA insurance company can find a way to deny your claim, they will. Upon denial of the claim, you can opt to appeal. Your attorney will file the proper forms and supporting documentation to justify your appeal. There are a few common reasons that claims get denied.
The Cause of the Injury Is Unclear
Your claim cannot leave room for doubt as to the cause of the injury. Sometimes an expert opinion from a doctor or physical therapist is necessary to prove the correlation. Injuries do not have to take place during work hours or within the exact scope of employment.
The Injury Is Not Serious Enough
Keeping accurate and detailed records of all medical treatment, prescriptions, and necessary leave is important to your case. Omitting these details can lengthen the time it takes to receive a settlement.
You Are Still Capable of Working
Your injury does not have to be debilitating to qualify for compensation. This is often a point of contention for DBA insurance compensation. You must prove that there was an actual injury that required medical attention.
Is a Defense Base Act Attorney Necessary?
You are not required to have professional legal representation throughout the Defense Base Act settlement process. Understand that the insurance company that will be proposing your settlement offer is composed of professionals. They are not likely to have your best interest in mind. Your best chance at receiving a fair settlement for your injury is going to be with the assistance of an experienced Defense Base Act attorney.
Grossman Attorneys at Law regularly handles Defense Base Act claims. They are available 24/7 to speak to you about your case. Contact Grossman Attorneys at Law at 1-800-940-8048 to guide you through the process and seek the compensation you deserve.