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A Personal Injury, Workers' Compensation and Defense Base Act Law Firm Fighting for the Injured.
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Can you file a Defense Base Act Claim? How to do  you file a DBA Claim in order to receive compensation?

We will give you a general explanation on how you can file a Defense Base Act (DBA) claim for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and how to receive compensation for the injuries you have suffered. Filing a DBA claim can be a long strenuous process that if not done correctly can have a significant impact on your ability to receive the proper care you deserve as well as compensation you are owed. The Federal law requires all U.S. Government contractors and subcontractors to have insurance for their employees working overseas which is designed to protect you and your ability to earn an IMG_9968-e1496774833618-1-225x300 while working overseas for a U.S. contractor/company and which can also provide you with compensation for medical treatment. The first step in filing a Defense Base Act claim is to seek and have proof of medical treatment for any work-related injuries you may have suffered on the job. The injuries you suffered can be physical or mental health injuries or both. Generally, there is a one-year filing deadline to make a claim for benefits after the work-related injury occurred. Filing a DBA claim for PTSD can be more complicated because the symptoms may not arise until after the 1-year deadline has passed. However, PTSD is generally considered an occupational disease which can extend the filing deadline to two-years after knowing of the injury. Here is the form you can use to file your DBA claim. It is called an LS-203.

The importance of seeking medical treatment is both to receive proper treatment for your injury and to validate your claim and injuries with documentation. After receiving treatment, the law requires you to report your injury or injuries to your employer to put them on notice. The form required to file a claim is LS-203 which can be faxed to the Division of Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation (DLHWC). When your employer receives notice of your injury, they will notify the Department of Labor which will begin the timeline of events that if not adhered to can bar your right to receive compensation for your injury. Once your claim has been assigned to the Officer of Workers’ Compensation Programs (OWCP) you will provide the required documentation, details of your injury and medical diagnosis for your right to receive compensation. The amount of compensation varies from each case’s specific facts and the Claimant’s average weekly wage which we will help you calculate. Your DBA insurance will also compensate you with weekly compensation benefits in the event you’re unable to work. We understand that PTSD is a real mental health problem that will affect your daily life, family, relationships and even your ability to earn an income. Most likely, the insurance company will outright deny your right to receive any medical care which is why it is crucial you seek proper representation. If you were in a war zone and believe you may be suffering from PTSD we urge you seek treatment immediately and to contact us so that we may preserve your rights to file a claim.

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Our firm has seen a recent rise in the number of heart attack and other cardiovascular claims in the Defense Base Act whether it be a stroke, an aortic dissection (which is deadly), and heart attacks. These claims are very often denied by the insurance company, whether it be Starr or Gallagher Bassett, which seem to be handling many of the Defense Base Act claims in 2020. Our firm has handled numerous heart attack, stroke and aortic dissection claims from all over the world including South Korea, Iraq and Afghanistan. With respect to heart attack and cardiovascular injuries, these claims largely depend on good medical documentation from your doctors, so it is important to make sure you select a good doctor who will fight for you ( do not ever let the insurance company pick a doctor for you or even recommend a doctor to you).

Fortunately for the injured civilian contractor, the Defense Base Act provides numerous benefits and presumptions to help beat the insurance companies’ wrongful denial of benefits. All that we must show at the start of a claim is that the injured worker (1) sustained a harm and (2) that conditions existed or an incident occurred at work that could have caused the harm. Bath Iron Works Corp. v. Preston, 380 F.3d 597 (1st Cir. 2004). This is known as the section 20(a) presumption. Once an injured worker successfully raises the section 20(a) presumption, the burden shifts to the employer, who may rebut the presumption by producing substantial evidence that the injured workers condition was neither caused nor aggravated by his employment. It is at this point that the insurance company will send you to their doctor (who is usually “in their pocket”) to try and derail your claim.

For purposes of heart attack claims under the Defense Base Act, it does not matter that you had pre-existing conditions, such as high blood pressure or high cholesterol. “An employer is liable for employment conditions that cause an injury or aggravate or accelerate a pre-existing condition under the aggravation rule, which dictates that “the employer takes the employee as he finds him.” Hawaii Stevedores, Inc., 608 F.3d at 650.

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As we attempt to navigate through unchartered waters, the concern for most workers who return to work – whether you are a frontline worker or in the private sector and have no alternative but to work – is whether or not you will be covered under Florida Workers’ Compensation Laws if you contract Coronavirus (COVID-19).  The good news is you are covered if you are a Florida frontline employee.

Are private sector workers covered for covid? It is not easy as the private worker must prove that Covid or Coronavirus which is considered an occupational disease, was contracted due to a unique risk or exposure pic-200x300hazard at work; was contracted during employment; and that the nature of employment was the major contributing cause of the disease. Florida law 440.151.  This burden is not an easy burden to satisfy, especially for private sector worker which includes, but not limited to, grocery employees, office employees, laborers, support staff workers, restaurant employees, etc.  However, as of late, the burden for state frontline workers is no longer as stringent.

In April 2020, Florida Chief Financial Officer (CFO) and State Fire Marshal Jimmy Patronis directed the Division of Risk Management to provide workers’ compensation coverage to state frontline employees.  The directive/special rules, found in the Chief Financial Officer (CFO) Directive 2020-05,  apply only to state frontline employees and not to the private sector workers.  Directive 2020-05 states that Florida is going to honor workers’ compensation claims for state frontline employees.  Covered employees include state employees who work directly with the public such as police officers, healthcare workers, family protective services investigators and emergency responders.  The rules dictate that the burden is on the state to prove that the source of the Coronavirus is a source other than the employee’s work.  In summation, it is more likely than not that state frontline employees who contract Covid- 19 a/k/a Coronavirus can expect to receive workers’ compensation benefits without much of a fight. Continue reading →

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After your attorney files your psychological claim for the injury you sustained during your employment as a DBA security guard, what happens next? The defense attorney will schedule you to be examined by a psychologist or psychiatrist of their choosing. You’re probably wondering what to expect during the examination and what’s the purpose? This is the insurance company’s opportunity to have you examined by a doctor that they have hand-selected to determine the extent of your psychological injuries. This doctor is going to evaluate you and then write a report summarizing the results of the examination. Obviously, this report will have an impact on your case because a Judge will consider their IME doctor’s opinion when making a ruling on your case at trial. There are a few things to aware of in order to be prepared for your examination, but first understand this important nugget of information:

An administrative law judge (“ALJ”) has “the discretion to evaluate the credibility of a claimant and to arrive at an independent judgment, in light of medical findings and other evidence.”  Pietrunti v. Dir OWCP, 119 F.3d 1035 (2d Cir. 1997).  Additionally,person-in-black-pants-and-black-shoes-sitting-on-brown-4101143-2-300x200 an ALJ is not bound to believe or disbelieve the entirety of a witness’s testimony but may choose to believe only certain portions of the testimony.  Mijangos v. Avondale Shipyards, Inc., 948 F.2d 941 (5th Cir. 1991).

There are several items that can impact a Claimant’s credibility and so the injured worker must remember:

  • Testimony at trial or in deposition MUST BE consistent with past testimony or statements;
  • Claimant must have actually seen or heard the events about which the Claimant has testified (corroborating evidence helps);
  • Recalling events accurately (verify your dates before you speak);
  • Description of events seems likely; and
  • Don’t go into great detail about unrelated psychological issues such as “people say craziness runs in my family.”

Continue reading →

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Attorneys Jo Ann Hoffman & Associates is often tasked with helping individuals involved in terrorist or other violent attacks in places like Afghanistan or Iraq under the Defense Base Act. Indeed, our firm represented numerous contractors injured in the Al-Asad airbase attack by Iran in January 2020 as retaliation for the killing of Soleimani. The insurance carriers are accepting the vast majority of these Al-Asad airbase attack claims due to the wide media coverage.

From experiencing car bombings (VBIED’s) to being a victim of mortar and rocket attacks, these traumatic experiences can cause serious negative effects throughout the rest of the victim’s life. It is important for your Defense Base Act claim to properly label your injuries so that you are not limited later on the case.

What is a Psychological Injury?

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Getting COVID-19 (Coronavirus) While Working Overseas

Civilian contractors working overseas face exposure to Covid-19 and may not be able to obtain adequate medical care. The Defense Department is taking preventive measures to protect US military personnel and civilian contractors. The Defense Department has ordered everyone on DOD property to wear face masks. This includes civilian contractors.

Even if you use a mask, you may be asking yourself:

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One of the hardest and most difficult times in your work life may be when you are injured overseas. You may not know what to do, how to do it, and who to call. This firm has handled thousands of Defense Base Act cases, from initial client intake, to trial before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ), so these are our tips to make your case successful. The days following your initial injury are the most important in how the rest of your claim goes so take the following actions:

  1. soldiers-1002_1280-300x180Report your accident and injuries immediately to your supervisor. Your report should be in writing and should detail ALL body parts injured in the accident. Send an email with a bcc to yourself.
  2. If allowed by company policy, take photos of the area where you were injured, and make certain you take photos of physical injuries if the injury is one that caused bleeding to your body, visible damage to your body or clothing.
  3. Every employer we have dealt with provides medical treatment in each country, be it in Afghanistan, Iraq, or elsewhere. Make sure you are seen by a base medic and ask for a copy of your medical records which you should keep or photo. If you are not being medically evacuated, and you decide to wait until your next R&R date to treat at home, make sure you see the medic every few days, or as often as needed, and obtain the medical reports. These medical reports will be difficult if not impossible for us to obtain once you leave and return home. The Employers and insurance companies may lose or not be able to find these medical records, which makes proving the seriousness of the injury more difficult if you are not given your medical records.
  4. Related to #3, if possible, do not wait to come home until R&R if your injury is disabling. If you find it difficult to do your job, you should ask to be sent home prior to R&R.
  5. Do not “resign” from your employment– do not sign any forms indicating that you are quitting, resigning or otherwise terminating your employment with your employer. Your employer should send you home on an MLOA– medical leave of absence.
  6. List every injury in your report of injury to your employer. Leaving out an injury in your initial report may cause the insurance company to deny your claim for that part of your body. If you fail to report what is called an “unscheduled” injury, for instance, a psychological injury but you report your knee injury, your case will be negatively impacted. Unscheduled body parts give you special rights to continued compensation payments, which enhance your claim. Unscheduled body parts include the head, neck, low back, middle back, shoulders, and mental injuries.
  7. Contact a qualified attorney as soon as you can. The days following your accident are vital to quickly and efficiently opening your claim.
  8. You are entitled to your own choice of physician under the Defense Base Act. Do not let the insurance carrier pick a doctor for you or suggest a doctor to you.

Continue reading →

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Al igual que usted, hemos estado monitoreando diariamente la situación de pandemia de COVID-19 que cambia rápidamente. La salud y la seguridad de nuestro equipo, clientes, familias y amigos es la principal preocupación de nuestro Bufet. Es por eso que nuestro equipo de profesionales está trabajando de forma remota y en casa. Programaremos declaraciones juradas y otras reuniones a través de Zoom, Skype o cualquier otra aplicación de videoconferencia, o por teléfono. La comunicación regular continuará por teléfono, correo electrónico y mensaje de texto. Para su conveniencia, si desea hablar con alguien sobre su caso, envíe un correo electrónico al abogado o abogada encargado de su caso y lo llamaremos lo antes posible. Probablemente haya notado que seguimos respondiendo a los correos electrónicos. 

Hemos preparado e implementado un plan de trabajo remoto para todos nuestros empleados. Nuestro plan de trabajo remoto mantiene plenamente nuestras sólidas políticas de privacidad y ciberseguridad. Estamos seguros de que cuando envíe un correo electrónico, llame o envíe un mensaje de texto, no notará ninguna interrupción en nuestro nivel de servicio habitual. Permanecemos abiertos para atender a cada cliente, a pesar de que nuestra puerta principal está temporalmente cerrada. 

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Like you, we have been monitoring the rapidly changing COVID-19 pandemic situation on a daily basis. The health and safety of our team, clients, families, and friends is our firm’s primary concern. That is why our team of professionals is working remotely. We will schedule depositions and other meetings via Zoom, Facetime, Whats App, Skype, any other Video-Conferencing App, or by phone. Regular communication will continue via phone, email, and text.  

For your convenience, should you wish to speak to someone regarding your case, please send an email to the handling attorney and we will contact you as soon as possible.  You have probably noted, we continue to respond to emails.    

We have prepared for and implemented a remote work plan for all of our employees. Our remote work plan fully maintains our robust privacy and cybersecurity policies. We are confident that when you email, call or text message you will notice no disruption to our usual service level. We remain open to serve every client, even if our front door is temporarily closed. 

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Florida Law Requires Car Insurance BUT not Bodily Injured Liability insurance 

There is a minimum amount of insurance coverage that drivers in Florida must purchase. Florida law requires a driver to be insured for, at a minimum: 

  • PIP or personal injury protection in the amount of $10,000 per person. 
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