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A Personal Injury, Workers' Compensation and Defense Base Act Law Firm Fighting for the Injured.
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post-trau·mat·ic stress dis·or·der
noun
MEDICINE
  1. a condition of persistent mental and emotional stress occurring as a result of injury or severe psychological shock, typically involving disturbance of sleep and constant vivid recall of the experience, with dulled responses to others and to the outside world.

If you are a widow or a loved one of a civilian contractor who has struggled with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder or has committed suicide as a result of a work-related injury while working overseas in a war zone you may be wondering whether your loved one’s death is covered by the Defense Base Act. Our firm can help guide you on the law and the rights of your loved one who performed work overseas.

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As we move into unprecedent times the Attorneys at Jo Ann Hoffman & Associates are here to help you not only through your legal case, but also guide you on how to get help for your personal issues caused as a result of your Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder from your work-related overseas injuries. As many of our clients are suffering from PTSD, as a consequence of war, we are very vigilant and attentive to address our client’s specific needs on a day-to-day basis. Not only do we provide our clients with access to a group of attorneys in our firm with vast knowledge of their case to help them from the beginning to the end of their legal process, we also have a firm that is willing to help locate professionals who can help our clients cope with their symptoms. PTSD develops when a person experiences a form of a severe trauma and as a result of that trauma their personal life as well as their health are affected. Civilian contractors experience many of the same traumatic experiences and war related attacks as U.S. military veterans. While US Military veteran injuries are covered by the Veterans Administration, civilian contractors that are hired by the Department of State or private companies are covered by the Defense Base Act. Continue reading →

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When computing the claimant’s Average Weekly Wage, “AWW” one must include “concurrent employment” if applicable.  Fla. Stat. § 440.02(27).  “Concurrent” is a term left undefined by Florida Workers’ Compensation Law, but case law suggests it means a “second job” or “moonlighting” that is expected to continueCato Corp. v. Stuart, 711 So. 2d 1375 (Fla. 1st DCA 1998).  “Employment” is statutorily defined to mean “any service performed by an employee for the person employing him or her” but statutorily excludes work in four areas:

(1) domestic servants in private homes,

(2) most seasonal farming involving five or fewer regular employees,

(3) professional athletes, and

(4) community service imposed by a criminal sentence.

See Fla. Stat. § 440.02(16)(a)-(c) (2015).

For purposes of concurrent earnings, the phrase “any service performed” in the definition of “employment” in section 440.02(15)(a) “is extremely broad.”  Reaves v. United Parcel Service, 792 So. 2d 688, 689–691 (Fla. 1st DCA 2001).  In addition to the four exceptions, also excluded is any area of work for which coverage under the Florida Workers Compensation Law does not apply – such as an independent contractor.  Anna Maria Fire Control Dist. v. Angell, 528 So. 2d 456 (Fla. 1st DCA 1988).  As such, wages earned in such excluded areas of work cannot be included in the AWW as “concurrent employment.” See Jay Livestock Market v. Hill, 247 So. 2d 291 (Fla. 1971). Continue reading →

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You’re driving home from work and stop for yet another red light when suddenly the car behind you slams right into your vehicle. You just want to get home, so you agree to exchange phone numbers and be on your way. You can deal with this later, right? NO. You must protect yourself after a car accident, starting immediately. The following steps explain what to do – and what not to do – after a car crash.

  1. At the scene of the crash.

Call the police! Yes, you should. Getting a police report helps you begin documenting what happened most accurately. It will also make sure you have all the necessary information about the driver who hit you, their vehicle, and the vehicle’s insurance. Most police agencies now require their officers to wear body cameras, which may capture valuable information about the scene as well.

Check for injuries! If you or your passengers need to go to the hospital, the officer can call for an ambulance if you haven’t already. Document your pain by telling officers and paramedics what you are feeling.

Take pictures! You can take an unlimited number of pictures on your phone, so take multiple pictures of your vehicle, the vehicle that hit you, and anything else on scene that may be helpful. Take pictures from far away to show the entire scene and closeups to show details of any damage. The police can help get your vehicle towed if necessary.

Stay calm! This is not the time to argue about what happened or apologize for anything you feel you could have done differently. Anything you say can later be used against you, so don’t put yourself in that position.

Locate witnesses! If anyone saw the crash happen, be sure to get their information. If a dispute arises, it will help you to have an independent witness explain what they saw.michael-jin-ipHlSSaC3vk-unsplash-300x200

  1. Hiring an attorney.

Don’t delay hiring an attorney! An experienced personal injury attorney will help you through the claims process, present the strongest demand to the insurance company, and fight for you to achieve the highest possible compensation. Even minor crashes are best handled with competent legal representation.

  1. Reporting the crash.

Report the crash to your insurance company either over the phone or online. They will give you a claim number and help start the process. If you have already hired your attorney, they will help you with this too.

The other driver’s insurance company may call you and ask for a statement. Do not agree to this until you have discussed it with your lawyer. Again, anything you say can later be used against you, so remember that less is more. This statement may not be necessary at all, but if it is your attorney will have the opportunity to advise you. Continue reading →

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Once you or your attorney has filed your claim for benefits under the Defense Base Act for an injury you sustained during your employment with a DBA contractor, everything that you say or do can and will be used against you. The most important thing to remember when going through the litigation process is to be consistent in your reporting. This means whenever you give a statement on the record, report your injuries to your doctor, report your injuries to an independent medical examination doctor, or even during written discovery; everything needs to line up and stay true. The best way to stay consistent is to be completely honest during the whole process.

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Self-Reporting of Your Injuries and Experiences to Medical Professionals 

Usually, before filing a claim for an injury under the Defense Base Act, you would have spoken to a doctor about your symptoms/injuries and what could have caused it during your employment with your DBA contractor. This is where the consistency starts. From the very beginning, your self-reporting of your symptoms/injuries will be recorded in your doctor’s medical reports. These reports will be used to establish your injury and its link to your former employment. These records will be investigated by the defense attorney, and should your case go to trial, they will be presented to the Judge as well. Your words in these records will be compared to your words during other stages of litigation. Should you be subjected to an independent medical examination with a doctor of the defense’s choosing, that doctor will also be cross referencing your self-reports in your medical records to what you are self-reporting on that day. Additionally, this doctor will likely subject you to malingering tests wherein you’ll be tested to determine if you are feigning or overexaggerating your symptoms/injuries. Therefore, it is imperative to remain honest and consistent during the entire process. Continue reading →

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Dear Injured Client,
We want you to know that we are here for you. We feel your pain from your physical or psychological injury. We feel your anxiety and emotional worry about how you will be able to work. We know you wake up at night worried about how you will take care of your family, yourself, buy goods, pay your bills and recover.

Your injuries may wake you up at night and keep you from sleeping; they may be there when you lash out in anger at your spouse, partner, friend, or  child.

You are not alone. The US Dept of Veterans estimated 15 million people suffer from PTSD and emotional injuries this year alone. Post traumatic stress disease dwells in your body and it’s difficult to treat. It is an unseen condition. Fighters who have seen the worst in man, witnessing war, killing and bomb blasts have a difficult time returning to a normal society. It is a disease and it needs to be healed. The medical resources for it are insufficient. You may feel that you are battling alone and that you are out of place in this new world. PTSD is not like an arm wound where you look down and see how it is healing. With PTSD, you have to try to reduce your mental suffering and it’s difficult to figure out if you are succeeding. Know you are not alone.

UNADJUSTEDNONRAW_thumb_646d-e1632415348234-300x218Our goal: We seek to get your treatment. The treatment can include medication, psychological care, and settlement funds to return you to gainful employment. We apply for benefits for you through filing an LS 203 if your injury is under the Defense Base Act.

Never give up hope.  Our prayer for you is that you identify your injuries, know which are physical and which are psychological,  acknowledge you need help, find help, get the treatment you need, get better, seek a settlement,  use the funds to go proudly forward. Know we are by your side as we lead you through the uncertainty.

The path is strewn with difficulty. The insurance  companies may label you a malingerer, they will deny you benefits, they will attack your memory. Do not doubt yourself. We are well positioned to work for you. We fight for you while you focus on your return to health and work.
Continue reading →

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We Help Injured Contractors who worked in Afghanistan

We know this Afghanistan war has been drawn out since the USA first deployed in the fall of 2001. That is 20 years ago. USA Military and contractors are still hard at work trying to evacuate our contract workers and Americans. If you or a loved one were working for a defense contractor in Afghanistan and were injured,  we may be able to obtain federal workers compensation benefits under the Defense Base Act. International workers injured while working for American companies, have rights.

Our law firm is committed to filing claims for injured workers in Afghanistan. We recognize the extreme danger to individuals left behind in the country given the Taliban brutal practices.  If an attorney files a claim for an Afghan person the attorney should have the Judge redact the name of the claimant and use only initials as the person’s family could face retribution. Also the Judge should seal the papers leading to the change of identification.defense-base-act-dba-service-page-300x145

Under the Defense Base Act, citizenship is irrelevant. If you were working for a U.S. defense contractor, you may be entitled to benefits under the Defense Base Act. If you or a loved one was injured or killed in this attack, it is important you contact an attorney who specializes in Defense Base Act cases.

It is critical that the people who helped our military can be evacuated and resettled to safe locations once they are flown from the Kabul International Airport. Those arriving at new locations in the United States will need help with housing, food, education, medical treatment, and eventually jobs.  People helping people are what we are about. We work toward getting medical benefits and lost wages for relocated contract workers. Coming to a new country with only the clothes on your back is not going to help a person thrive. We can provide services that can help stabilize your future and the future of your family.

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Is a Non-FDA drug or service authorized under FS 440 et seq

My workers compensation authorized treating doctor (ATP) has recommended a non-FDA approved experimental drug; however this has been denied by Worker’s Compensation —  is this par for the course?  The response to most legal questions is “it depends” and in this situation it truly does depend on several factors.

Pursuant to FS 440 et seq, compensable medical care does not include services or medication that are experimental, investigative in nature or part of a research project.    However, an exception arises if the Department of Financial Services (DFS) gives prior approval.  The Department must decide each situation on a case-by case basis as no two cases are alike.  Keep in mind, prior to January 1994, this was the responsibility of the DFS however effective October 2003, the legislature repealed the exception noting that experimental or investigative services are not compensable.

jar-2338584_1920-1-300x200Now the term “experimental” includes medical services, procedures, drugs, equipment, or supplies. These are considered experimental if their efficacy has not been proven for a particular diagnosis, or if their safety and validity is unclear or unknown.  Likewise, the term investigative includes these same services and devices when they are known to be safe but their efficacy is still under investigation. Before denying a claim for medical treatment on the argument that the treatment is experimental or investigative the carrier must first refer the request for treatment to the Department of Financial Services.

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Florida Workers Compensation Lien

The workers’ compensation system is designed to provide injured employees with medical and wage loss benefits. Jones v. Martin Elecs., Inc., 932 So.2d, 1104 (Fla.2006).

If you are injured on the job or in the scope of your employment you may have a worker’s compensation claim against your employer/insurance company and you may also have a claim any negligent third-parties.

The injured employee has one year from the date of accident/injury to file a lawsuit against the negligent third-party. The employer, the party paying the worker’ compensation benefits has two years to bring suit. “At the end of the second year, the rights of action revert to the employee, but are (as before) subject to the employer or insurer’s subrogation and lien rights.” Luscomb v. Liberty Mut. Ins. Co., 967 So. 2d 379, 381 (Fla. Dist. Ct. App. 2007).

Although, you may have a workers’ compensation claim against your employer and a claim against any negligent third-party you will not be able to double dip. Florida Statute 440.39 (2020); Jones v. Martin Elecs., Inc., 932 So.2d 1100, 1108 (Fla.2006).

posterwithcaption-1-300x248 Florida Statute 440.39 (2020) mandates that an employer who has provided benefits to an injured employee is entitled to place a lien on a settlement from a third-party for the amount that the employer has paid in benefits.  The employer can also elect to waive the lien. An employer providing workers’ compensation benefits to an injured employee can place a lien on any monies paid out for medical, wage loss benefits as well as future medical benefits that are part of an employee’s settlement with a negligent third-party. City of Lakeland v. Stapleton, 875 So. 2d 784 (Fla. Dist. Ct. App. 2004).

 

 

 

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How to prepare for your Defense Base Act Deposition

Your Defense Base Act claim for benefits for your injuries has been filed. You sustained injuries while working with a DBA contractor and now you have been scheduled to have your deposition taken. If you have never had your deposition taken before, then you are probably wondering what to expect. A deposition is an informal court setting where the attorney for your former employer will question you about your claim. This is essentially your opportunity to tell your story. Even though this is an informal proceeding, you will be sworn in by a court reporter and will answer all the questions under oath. This means that your testimony will have the same force and effect as if you were sitting in an actual court room before Judge.  This is why all of your testimony must be one hundred percent truthful and to the absolute best of your knowledge. Do NOT guess!

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The attorney for the employer and insurance company will ask you questions about a variety of topics. These topics will include some of your background information (questions about your family, residence, education, etc.), your employment history up to the date of your injury, your employment history since your injury, and your entire medical history. All of these questions are an effort by the defense attorney to obtain as much information as possible from your own words. This is why it’s very important to know what to expect and how to respond in a deposition. All of your testimony will be presented to the Judge, should your case go to trial, and the Judge will determine whether or not you are credible based upon your testimony. Therefore, it is imperative that you tell the truth and do not guess when responding to the attorney’s questions. When it comes to dates, times, quantities of measurement; it is okay to approximate as long as you let the attorney know you are doing so. It is perfectly fine to say “I don’t remember” or “I’m not sure.” It is not okay to state an answer is absolutely correct if you only “think” it is correct. Continue reading →

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Never Forgotten…We Help Injured Contractors in Iraq

We know this occupation has been drawn out since the USA led invasion in 2003. Military contractors are still hard at work in Iraq. If you or a loved one were working as a defense contractor in Erbil and were injured in the recent attack in Iraq, you may be able to obtain federal workers compensation benefits under the Defense Base Act.

On February 15, 2021, terrorists carried out a rocket attack on a U.S. military base in the capital of Kurdistan, in northern Iraq. Because of the excellent service  KBR provides to our country through contract workers, they had workers injured in these dangerous locations. Defense One reports the insurgents claim to have fired 24 rockets in this attack killing at least one defense contractor, one U.S. military official, and one local civilian. In addition to the three reported deaths, at least six other civilian contractors were injured in the attack this week. At this time, the citizenship of all those wounded or killed in the attack is unknown.defense-base-act-dba-service-page-300x145

Under the Defense Base Act, your citizenship is irrelevant. If you were working for a U.S. defense contractor, you may be entitled to benefits under the Defense Base Act. If you or a loved one was injured or killed in this attack, it is important you contact an attorney who specializes in Defense Base Act cases.

While three deaths have been reported so far, it is unknown what injuries the other contractors suffered in the attack on Monday.  Reuters reported that its staff “heard several loud explosions and saw a fire break out near the airport.” ABC News reported that three rockets struck military housing located at the Erbil International Airport.

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