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A Personal Injury, Workers' Compensation and Defense Base Act Law Firm Fighting for the Injured.
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My last blog post explained that in order to bring a claim under the US VSST act there must have been a death that occurred in the attack. The case requiring this was Borochov. That finding was affirmed on appeal. This means that the only way of changing this result is to have the legislature change the language of the statute. Work is being done to achieve that result.

Bringing a claim also requires proof that Iran was behind the attack.

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For Instance in the attack on February 15, 2021 at the Erbil  airbase we know that a DBA contractor died so this meets the requirement of an extra judicial death in the attack as required by Borochov case.

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When injured on the job, navigating the Worker’s Compensation system in Florida can be quite a daunting task.  One of the most crucial decisions is whether to settle or take the case to trial (commonly referred to as a Final Merits Hearing).   Keep in mind, if the case proceeds to trial, a Judge cannot award a monetary settlement rather medical or indemnity benefits.  Regardless, either path has its own advantages and disadvantages, and understanding these can help one make an educated decision.

Understanding Worker’s Compensation in Florida

Florida’s Worker’s Compensation system is designed to provide benefits to employees who suffer work-related injuries or illnesses.  These benefits include medical treatment, indemnity benefits, and last but not least compensation for permanent impairments. However, obtaining the aforementioned can be complex and sometimes contentious, leading to disputes between injured workers and their employers/insurance companies.

What is a Settlement?

A settlement is an agreement between the injured worker and the employer’s insurance company.  When a settlement is entered into, one is essentially receiving a lump sum dollar amount, in exchange for closing the case, and waiving any rights to future claims related to the injury.   Continue reading →

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By Deborah Caputo — Attorneys Jo Ann Hoffman & Associates, P.A.

You sustained injuries while working with a Defense Base Act contractor. As a result, you filed a Defense Base Act claim for benefits for your injuries. The abbreviation that will be referenced throughout this article which is “DBA” for Defense Base Act.

Your case progresses, litigation proceeds, accompanied by the scheduling of several events. Among these, one particular event, that is arranged by the attorney representing the Employer and their Insurance Carrier, is the Vocational Evaluation. This article dives into the details of vocational evaluations and mastering your approach with confidence.

What is a Vocational Evaluation?

Glad you asked. 

An injury while working for a DBA contractor not only raises medical and disability concerns (which warrant separate blog discussions) but also impacts one’s ability to earn wages. The question a vocational evaluator in its simplest form is to address whether the injured person can earn the same wages they did at the time of their injury or in another employment.

During a vocational evaluation, you, your attorney, and the vocational evaluator meet. Think of your attorney as your filter, ensuring only relevant questions are asked. The evaluator, hired by the Employer and Insurance Carrier, seeks information. The evaluation aims to establish the wage someone with your injuries would earn in the open job market under normal circumstances, and after the evaluation, the evaluator will provide a document titled, the “Labor Market Survey”.

The Labor Market Survey is essentially a list of potential jobs with each respective job detailing its responsibilities and average salary. The Labor Market Survey will be sent to all parties in the case post-evaluation.

So, this Labor Market Survey is just based on my evaluation, is that it? question-mark-300x237 Continue reading →

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How has Artificial Intelligence Impacted the Legal Field?

What is artificial intelligence?

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is the science of programming machines, especially computer systems to think and reason like human beings. These computer systems have been programmed to perform tasks such as problem solving and providing answers to everyday questions, even solving math equations.

Generative Artificial Intelligence is a type of AI technique where the machine perceives and classifies information to produce new and original content. The type of content includes image, music, video, art and design and text generation.AI-HEAD-300x200

There are different types of generative artificial intelligence services. A few of the most common ones are ChatGPT, Microsoft’s Co-Pilot, Claude and Google Bard. Some are targeted at the legal profession, such as LexisNexis’ AI product which can generate the first draft of a legal document and analyze a judge’s past decisions to tailor a paper to the particular judge.

The Supreme Court’s “2023 Year-End Report on the Federal Judiciary” by Chief Justice Roberts addresses the impact of AI technology on the legal field. “Law professors report with both awe and angst that AI apparently can earn Bs on law school assignments and even pass the bar exam. Legal research may soon be unimaginable without it. AI obviously has great potential to dramatically increase access to key information for lawyers and non-lawyers alike. But just as obviously it risks invading privacy interests and dehumanizing the law,” says Chief Justice Roberts in the report.[1]

What is unique about lawyers using AI as opposed to other professions?AI-300x209

Lawyers are bound by special rules that govern their profession, which may come from their state bar’s ethical rules (i.e. the licensing body’s rules) or from state or federal law. Continue reading →

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This article is intended to be a brief overview of the Defense Base Act (“DBA”) law. For more information on the DBA, please visit the Department of Labor website here.

Before the Defense Base Act, there was only the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act (LHWCA), a federal law passed in 1927 that provides for the payment of compensation, medical care, and vocational rehabilitation services to employees disabled from on-the-job injuries that occur on the navigable waters of the United States, or in areas customarily used in the loading, unloading, repairing, or building of a vessel. The LHWCA covers employees in traditional maritime occupations such as longshore workers, ship-repairers, shipbuilders or ship-breakers, and harbor construction workers. The Defense Base Act (DBA) is essentially an extension of the Longshore Act and is a federal law enacted in 1941 by Congress with its primary goal being to cover workers on military bases outside of the United States.defense-base-act-dba-service-page-300x145

The DBA provides workers’ compensation coverage to civilian employees working overseas on United States military bases or under contract with the United States government for public works or national defense. Civilian employees means not the soldiers at the base; the soldiers are working for their respective government entities whereas civilian employees work for private defense contractors. Administered by the US Department of Labor, it applies to all employees regardless of their nationality. Although the employer in the warzone may be an American company, the employees might be there from all over the world – including India, Uganda, Kenya, Bosnia, Columbia, and many more countries. All employers conducting contracts outside of the US are required to secure DBA insurance for their employees working overseas. Failure to comply with this requirement can result in the Employer facing severe penalties such as criminal prosecution, imprisonment, and/or hefty legal fines and restitution. The Act ensures that all workers receive benefits similar to those provided under state workers’ compensation laws, even when the workers are working outside of the United States.

How does one become eligible for a DBA claim? We’ve all heard the term innocent until proven guilty right? Well, the DBA has its own version of that phrase. Under the Longshore Act, section 20(a) provides that when a person (or eligible dependent if the claimant died) makes a DBA claim that he or she was injured or became ill during the course of an employment overseas, a court deciding the case will use Section 20(a) to presume that the Claimant’s case is compensable under the DBA. A legal presumption is something that a court will conclude is true until there is factual evidence to disprove it. Continue reading →

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When one person dies in a rocket attack, everyone injured in that rocket attack can make a claim for damages under the anti-terrorism law set forth at www.usvsst.com.  The US Department of Justice has a website that explains the rights of US victims of state sponsored terrorism. US victims include contractors working under a contract  which their employer has with the US Government. PHOTO-2024-04-11-11-01-41-225x300These rights can be found at www.usvsst.com. It provides compensation to individuals or the personal representative of a deceased individual who holds a final judgment issued by the United States District Court, awarding the individual compensatory damages. The judgment must arise from active international terrorism for which a foreign state sponsor of terrorism was found not immune from the jurisdiction of US courts under the foreign sovereign immunities act (FSIA) and the individual must submit the applications found at the website, not later than 90 days after the date of obtaining the final judgment from the District Court.

Presently the funding through this website has paid about 25% of the awarded damages to contractors since 2016 since the fund does not have money every year to make disbursements.  Attorneys’ fees are

IMG_5463-300x254contingent on obtaining these benefits and has been limited to 25% of the benefits paid on usvsst disbursements. Fees can be higher where a law firm has to find and recover money from other third parties. A restrictive view of the ability of contractors to make a claim under this Act was recently taken by the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit decided March 8, 2024. The case was Borochov vs. Islamic Republic of Iran and Syrian Arab Republic case number 22–7058.

This law firm is committed to fighting terrorism and pursuing money damages for the contractors who suffered injuries where a fellow contractor paid the ultimate price for our freedom. Let us file a claim for you. For those of you that have retained us on the terrorism claim we will shortly contact you with a family member intake form because your family members who suffered emotional and psychological damages from your injuries are entitled to make a claim for compensatory damages. Family members include siblings, spouse, children, parents and each can get their own award if the contractor’s injuries had an emotional and psychological impact on that family member.

Continue reading →

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Recently, I was honored by the Broward Bar with the Lifetime Achievement Award of Excellence in Workers Compensation. I was touched and proud to be recognized for my hard work and dedication to helping the injured. My high school English teacher was the one who told me to go to Law School.  I know how lucky I was to have my parents be able to pay for my education. They both worked full time and had only one child to educate. Imagine if they had more children to educate. It would have been so difficult. I wanted to DO MORE to help others get educated. Seeing people get injured I realized how difficult it would be for an injured parent to pay for an education for their children.

IMG_0534-1-220x300I am proud to say I still get emails, letters and calls of thanks from people I helped. One man called and left a message: He said tell Jo Ann my settlement helped my son go to college. That made me so happy. I know education is important to help people break out of the cycle of poverty. Plus it is important to tell children they can achieve their goals by getting the education they want. That is why I encourage my clients to know they can achieve anything they can dream. My Partner, Vance B. Moore, left me with a plaque saying, “If you can dream it you can do it”. It quotes Walt Disney and Vance was a huge Disney fan. He is watching from heaven now. You would never find a man who would do more to help people. WE are proud to continue his vision.

That is why this firm announces its donation to the 440 Scholarship Fund which pays for education for children of the injured, but to get it you have to apply. That is why I include this application link. Application – Friends of 440 Scholarship Fund

If you need help with the application either reach out to Attorneys Jo Ann Hoffman & Associates, PA or contact Lori@440scholarship.org The Friends of 440 Scholarship Fund is a charitable organization whose purpose is to make the dream of attending college classes a reality for eligible students who are dependents and descendants of an individual who has been injured or killed in the course and scope of their employment and/or who received benefits under the Florida Workers’ Compensation Law. In addition, dependents of individuals whose primary employment is connected with the operation and/or administration of this same law are also eligible to receive scholarships. Continue reading →

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On February 24, 2023, JoAnn Hoffman received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Broward County, Workers Compensation Division of the Florida Bar for her decades long work helping the injured in Florida.

IMG_1063-225x300How far have we come and how far can we go to be Fair to all people? That is the question that still exists today. So I have these personal comments that brought me to this post:

I saw racism when I was a child… and sexism,…and oppression of the poor. My family did not have much money but we worked hard and slowly earned our way out of poverty.

My recognizing injustice began as a young child when I saw my mother injured in an accident. She lay in bed for months missing work. Her attorney called her and told her he settled her case for $350. I found that offensive and made it my life’s mission not to let that happen to other people. There was no internet then, no one to reach out to. Her case was just finished.

I went to law school because my high school English teacher told me I was

Continue reading →

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Congratulations to Jon Stewart who spearheaded a long and hard fought battle to win medical and disability benefits for veterans who breathed smoke from burn pits during their service in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. Although not widely known, virtually all of our service people and contractors stationed in the Middle East were exposed on their bases to the daily burning of their trash, plastic, medical waste, and toxic chemicals in open burn pits. Everyone breathed that polluted air on the army bases and it was not good.

What you need to know about the PACT Act and where it takes us from here:

  1. Many military and contract workers developed cancer, respiratory illness or lost their lives. Until now there has been limited recognition of this tragedy. Now with the passage of the PACT Act under S. 437 Health Care for Burn Pit Veterans Act the surviving veterans will get proper treatment and disability for cancer and respiratory issues through the Veterans Department.  Some conditions are presumptive and other conditions require a diagnosis from a doctor relating the condition. Also the VA can have you examined by their doctor. Certain conditions carry a presumption that they came from the burns pits so benefits can be awarded without a causal connection statement from a medical doctor.
  2. These cancers are now presumptive:Burn Pit
    • Brain cancer
    • Gastrointestinal cancer of any type
    • Glioblastoma
    • Head cancer of any type
    • Kidney cancer
    • Lymphatic cancer of any type
    • Lymphoma of any type
    • Melanoma
    • Neck cancer
    • Pancreatic cancer
    • Reproductive cancer of any type
    • Respiratory (breathing-related) cancer of any type

    These illnesses are now presumptive:

    • Asthma that was diagnosed after service
    • Chronic bronchitis
    • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
    • Chronic rhinitis
    • Chronic sinusitis
    • Constrictive bronchiolitis or obliterative bronchiolitis
    • Emphysema
    • Granulomatous disease
    • Interstitial lung disease (ILD)
    • Pleuritis
    • Pulmonary fibrosis
    • Sarcoidosis
  3. Veterans can apply for coverage under the PACT (Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxins) Act.  This link takes you to the application form.  To quality the veteran must show employment during the time periods at these locations:
    • Iraq between August 2, 1990, and February 28, 1991, as well as from March 19, 2003, until burn pits are no longer used in this location;
    • Southwest Asia (including Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Oman, and Qatar) from August 2, 1990, until burn pits are no longer used in these locations; and
    • Afghanistan, Syria, Jordan, Egypt, Lebanon, Yemen, and Djibouti from September 11, 2001, until burn pits are no longer used in these locations.

    This is a much needed recognition for many people who suffer with these conditions. For the families who had their service member return home only to suffer a long unexpected painful death from cancer or respiratory disease, the loss has been devastating. Family members may be entitled to survivor benefits and a modest funeral reimbursement. Read more at the VA site for the amounts.

Continue reading →

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I would like to take a moment to reflect on the humble beginning that I came from and how the efforts of many people contributed to my ability to make a better life for my family. It’s a bit of a long read but please stay with me because I think it has a blockbuster ending.

I grew up on a small farm in Indiana. My parents worked full-time day jobs and then farmed our land when they returned home in the afternoons. In addition to saving every penny towards building a better life, my parents emphasized the importance and transformative power of education.Jo-on-tractor-300x207

Due to financial constraints, my father had dropped out of high school to work on the railroad. This would have likely been his job for the rest of his life, but for a visit from the high school basketball coach. If my father agreed to return to high school, the coach offered to provide my father with a paid assistant position with the basketball team. My father agreed, and this arrangement provided the financial means for my father to finish his high school degree.  He then went on to get a college degree so he could be a teacher and be a positive influence for others like the coach was for him.

As a teacher, my father could provide better for our family than as a railroad laborer. The county provided pensions and other benefits for teachers as well – all opportunities he unlocked by increasing his education. He wanted to make sure that others could access teaching opportunities and provide for their families too. My dad got involved in a program to help young Black students from the South become teachers. Continue reading →

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