Working as a defense contractor on foreign soil can put you at risk of many different accidents and injuries. If you suffer injuries on the job, you deserve benefits under a law called the Defense Base Act (DBA). These benefits are similar to workers’ compensation for domestic workers, and just like workers’ compensation, you must go through the claims process to receive your coverage.
We know you want to receive benefits as soon as possible, but getting your benefits can take time, and the timeline for DBA claims varies from case to case. However, the process can go smoother with help from a skilled Defense Base Act attorney.
To start the process following an injury, you need to prepare and file a claim with the Division of Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation (DLHWC). The claim must be supported by evidence of the following:
Once you file a claim, an insurance adjuster will reach out to you. They might seem sympathetic and helpful, but, in reality, their goal is to limit the benefits the insurer pays out – or to deny your claim altogether. It is beneficial to your claim to have a DBA lawyer handling this process.
At this point, the following might happen:
Having the right DBA attorney can improve your chances of having your claim approved from the start, so you don’t have to wait any longer for benefits. A lawyer can also swiftly gather additional information when needed to speed up the process.
If you need to appeal a claim denial, you should contact a lawyer immediately if you have not already done so. The appeals process can be extensive, and having the right DBA attorney can improve your chances of approval at earlier appeal stages. The appeal process involves a hearing with an Office of Administrative Law Judge (OALJ), which can take two months or much longer to get scheduled, and your hearing might be scheduled for four months or longer from that date. After your hearing, the OALJ can take five months or longer to issue a decision on your claim. In particularly complex cases, it might even take up to a year.
If your claim remains denied, our attorneys can request an administrative hearing for review of the matter by the Office of Administrative Law Judges (OALJ). It can take up to two months or longer to get your hearing on the docket, during which you will not be receiving benefits. Once your case is docketed, it can take up to four months for your formal hearing or trial. This means an OALJ appeal can take up to nine months in some cases. During this time, your lawyer can be preparing for your trial, and you might participate in mediation to try to avoid the need for trial.
The OALJ generally advises that a decision can take around five months following your trial. The complexity of your case will affect how long it takes the judge to write their formal ruling, and it might take anywhere from three months to a year. It will be worth the wait if you finally are granted the benefits you deserve.
Within the context of your DBA case, you will be seeking coverage for your injuries from an insurance company. It is important to understand that insurance companies do not work for you, they work for profit. Payments to injured persons are costs to insurance companies, and they will do whatever possible to deny whichever claims they can while paying as little as possible on those claims that they cannot deny.
The insurance company might argue that your MMI is at a point where you are no longer entitled to compensation. They might challenge coverage for future medical issues related to pain and may refuse to cover lost earnings linked to your injuries. You can only collect ongoing benefits or a settlement if you can prove your eligibility. Your DBA attorney from Mara Law Firm has the knowledge and experience you need to accurately calculate and then collect the full settlement amount you are entitled to.
Often, DBA claims settle once the injured contractor has reached the point of MMI. While this means that the injury has healed as far as it is going to, this does not mean there will not be long-term costs. Many injured contractors who reach MMI still require palliative medical care for the remainder of their life. Palliative care is specialized medical care for a serious injury, and these amounts can be significant.
The purpose of accepting a settlement is to take an amount that, in present value, will cover the entire long-term costs associated with your injury. This includes not only long-term medical care and any necessary treatment, but also any shift in your ability to earn and support yourself and your family.
Your settlement should include the full amount of your long-term costs associated with your injury. If you have reached MMI, that still means that you may require ongoing medical treatment, medications, rehabilitation, and other measures to address the symptoms of your injury. All of these factors are incorporated into your settlement amount to ensure that you and your family are not left covering bills associated with your injuries in the future.
To demonstrate the long-term costs of your medical care and any change in your earning ability, you will need evidence. This comes from follow-up opinions from medical and occupational experts who analyze your injury and determine how your symptoms will impact your long-term healthcare needs and earnings potential.
Working with a DBA attorney takes the stress and logistics of collecting evidence and drafting the claim to the insurance company out of your life. Your attorney schedules follow-up appointments with experts for you to accurately calculate the full damages you are entitled to. Then, your attorney drafts a claim and files it with the insurance company to begin the process of collecting what you are entitled to.
When the insurance company does not agree to a fair settlement that fully covers the costs and damages associated with your injury after reaching MMI, your attorney brings them to court for you. A lawsuit is sometimes necessary to hold the insurance company accountable for its obligations to you. When this is the case, your attorney handles the filing, communications, negotiations, and in-court representation necessary to argue your case in court.
To ensure that your settlement fully covers your damages, you must claim them. Generally, there is no set formula to calculate the amount of your lump-sum DBA settlement amount. The Defense Base Act generally does not allow for pain and suffering damages like you would collect in a personal injury case like a car accident or truck crash.
The insurance company employs full-time teams of claim adjusters and attorneys to carefully scrutinize all claims that come in. The purpose of this is to identify opportunities to deny the claim or reduce the amount paid. Determining the amount that you are entitled to requires a consideration of the complete facts and circumstances surrounding your case and the related costs associated with the symptoms of your injury.
You might think that you cannot afford to hire an attorney to help with your DBA case, but it is important to know that you pay nothing out of pocket. Your DBA lawyer, after a settlement is reached, will be paid for the hours they put into your claim and the settlement process by the insurance company, not by you. This means that you have no out-of-pocket expenses related to your DBA lawyer. Below, you will find a link to reach out for a free consultation of your situation and how our firm can help.
At Mara Law Firm, we work to get our clients DBA benefits in the quickest time frame possible, so please do not hesitate or wait to contact us to discuss your claim today.
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If you are in need of employment litigation attorney in California or have been injured overseas while under a military contract and are in need of a defense base act attorney. Please fill out the form below and contact us immediately for a FREE consultation.