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A Personal Injury, Workers' Compensation and Defense Base Act Law Firm Fighting for the Injured.
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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.

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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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Know your rights.

You need to know your injuries are covered under the Defense Base Act if you were working as a civilian contractor in Iraq.

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Civilian Contractors Injured in Iraq in the Iran Missile Attack

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Can you sue a Third Party?

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Photo by Nicolas J Leclercq on Unsplash

If you were a construction worker who has been injured on the job, you can apply for and receive workers compensation benefits.

But can you make a claim against a third party other than your Employer?

The workers compensation law in Florida under FSA 440.11(e) grants immunity from civil claims by these words:

(e) A subcontractor providing services in conjunction with a contractor on the same project or contract work is not liable for the payment of compensation to the employees of another subcontractor or the contractor on such contract work and is protected by the exclusiveness-of-liability provisions of s. 440.11 from any action at law or in admiralty on account of injury to an employee of another subcontractor, or of the contractor, provided that:

1. The subcontractor has secured workers’ compensation insurance for its employees or the contractor has secured such insurance on behalf of the subcontractor and its employees in accordance with paragraph (b); and

2. The subcontractor’s own gross negligence was not the major contributing cause of the injury.

 

No contract = No immunity

If your employer and third party were NOT under contract with each other or under contract with the contractor, you can sue. As the court stated in Derogatis v.Fawcett Memorial Hospital:  In order for the (third party) to be considered a contractor pursuant to an immunity defense under FSA 440.11, its “primary obligation in performing a job or providing a service must arise out of a contract.”

CAUTION: Be sure you don’t sign a release of “all parties” in your Workers’ Compensation case. The Florida Second DCA ruled in Leonirez Heredia v. John Beach Associates, Inc., et al.: Case Number 2D18-4127 (Fla. 2d DCA July 24, 2019) that if a contractor acted as both the property owner and as a general contractor at the same time and there was no contract with a third party, there was no immunity when a subcontractor’s employee was injured.

Since he was acting for his own benefit as a private homeowner, he was not considered a contractor under Florida law in this situation. Therefore, the contractor in Heredia could not enjoy immunity under workers compensation.

 

Thus, an injured worker could sue the contractor as the property owner in civil court.

If you file a lawsuit for injuries in civil court outside of workers compensation, you may be able to seek additional compensation for your pain and suffering as well as loss of earning capacity in the future. In workers compensation cases, you are limited to medical treatment with workers’ compensation doctors and lost wages at 2/3rd of your weekly pay until re-employed. Continue reading →

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We know War is dangerous but we tend to think of the injuries as being physical injuries from bombs or weapons.  When the worker returns home, we give a sigh of relief and life goes on.  Or does it?  On a return visit to Peru, we went to the hospital and checked on a former client for whom we obtained a settlement and we learned he was fighting cancer. Initially we saw this as an isolated case.  Even when we were contacted by a different individual who had worked for contractors in the Iraq and/or Afghanistan war zones, and had contracted cancer, we were initially skeptical that the cancer was related to their deployment.  Then we heard our former client died. This was not a “normal” cancer. It was, as the Doctor in Peru said, “like nothing we have ever seen.”

Almost everyone I speak to about those Wars, tells me they did not realize we fought those wars with foreign workers. They did not realize that American companies hired our fighters from far off places. Yes, we fought those wars with workers from Peru, Chile, Honduras, Uganda and Columbia.  Why? Cheap labor for sure and when they were injured, we sent them home. They would have to rely on medical care in their own country.

Both US Military and foreign contract workers suffered stomach or lung problems after returning home. For the foreign contract workers, visits to their community hospitals turned up odd findings on Xrays. Yet there is little cancer treatment in these third world countries where the doctor might give out ibuprofen as treatment. Given the patient’s downward deterioration or consistent weight loss, returning workers gradually died. The doctors in local communities had never been to war zones and were not aware that an illness months later could be a manifestation of a war they knew little about.

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During the US wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, there were thousands of deaths and serious injuries both to US Military and to Defense Base private Military contractors.  It is documented that in the Iraq War, the private Military contractors were regarded as no different from the US Military to the Taliban or Enemy which means they must die alongside the US Military personnel.

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This is the story of our Defense Base Act Hero.  A few months ago, our law firm honored people we had the privilege to represent by taking them on a night cruise on the Summerwind Yacht, a smaller, older yacht which holds 55 people max. Because of the boat’s age, it is not a handicap accessible yacht.
David, our client, wanted to go. There was no way his wheelchair would fit up the small steps so ….Carlos and Javier (our Paralegal and our Attorney) carried David sideways onto the boat and then carried his wheelchair on board the yacht. Up front on the bow of the yacht, he sat on a cushion with his dog with his wheelchair by his side.  I checked on the other guests and half way through the cruise, I went up front to check on David. Christie, our bookkeeper was by his side and he was telling her the story of his life and his travels.
You could see in the dim moonlight the original young David before this bomb blast and, as he spoke his eyes focused on the beauty of the water and the homes. He spoke of his years in the military before he signed up to work for Lockheed Martin. How once he was stationed in Afghanistan, the Taliban told his group that they would kill them, how most men quit and returned home except for 10 men in his troop who stayed. Those ten men were killed and David survived. David was sent to Walter Reed Hospital for medical treatment.
There it was explained to  him that most people who suffer these types of injuries are dead within 5 years.  Either drugs or depression would take its toll.  The only choice should he choose to “Master his Disaster” was to get beyond the severity of what happened, focus on going forward, and ACCEPT this was his fate.  Otherwise he would perish.
If he chose to accept what happened as his fate, at Walter Reed Hospital, they would teach him to become self sufficient and need no one. He was in classes with people with no legs and no arms. One person had lost an eye.  David became thankful he had his arms to brush his teeth and wash his hair. He said they told him he could forget his friends as one by one they would all leave him. People are not good with being around people with these disabling injuries.  They said he would not have a social life, no invitations to dinners or parties… that was over. Those predictions all became true.
So when he received our invitation to our event, he came. Driving 5 hours was not a deterrent. That night when the yacht docked, David was the first one off carried by Carlos and Javier.  Truly a night to remember and a wonderful talented group of people at our firm making a difference in the world one person at a time.
This is what we do. We honor those who served our county.  Our firm files claims to obtain medical treatment and lost wages for injured workers.  Many have injuries from their war zone work with SOC, Triple Canopy now Constellis, Blackwater now Academi, and others. Think about it, with disabling injuries, how can you safely travel, if you don’t have an accessible van, a ramp to your house, and an accessible kitchen and bathroom?  Of course an Employee Claim for Compensation must be filed. It is not easy. We file claims for US civilians, and we are proud of our work which will continue.
Can you imagine if you lived in Africa?  I have to believe it would be even harder considering many villages have no internet.  Clients have to walk twelve hours to get medical treatment. They have to walk back and wait days to get their medical records so that we can file a claim.

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Burn PitWhen the American government goes to war, it needs a ton of supplies for support.  Well, what happens when those supplies get used and need to be destroyed? They burn it.  The American military used large burn pits to destroy huge amounts of waste.  The types of waste disposed of in a burn pit can include chemicals, plastics, oil, human and medical waste, explosives, dead animals, tires, and are burnt for hours creating toxic fumes.  These burn pits are used at military bases all over the world in countries like Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, and Djibouti, Africa.

Toxins from the burn pit smoke created long-term adverse health effects for our U.S. Soldiers and the American contractor employees working alongside them.  Exposure to burn pit toxins have caused serious diseases such as constrictive bronchitis, a disease of the respiratory system, and even cancer, and can even lead to death.  Our military veterans who developed these diseases filed suit to hold the American contractor companies liable, but the U.S. Supreme Court dismissed that case.  Now, the Department of U.S. Veterans Affairs has a burn pit registry where U.S. veterans and service members can report their health concerns, but what about the American contractor workers? Where can they go to get help? Our firm.

The Defense Base Act, an extension of the Federal Longshore and Harbor Worker’s Compensation Act, provides coverage benefits for injured workers with adverse health effects caused by exposure to burn pit toxins and fumes.  This firm files for medical care and lost wages and survivor benefits in case of a death.  We recognize that a certain number of workers have passed away or developed cancer from these toxic fumes.  The adverse health effects caused by the toxic fumes are classified as occupational diseases.  A claim for a disability due to these occupational diseases must be filed within two years from the time the employee became aware of the relationship between the disease and his or her employment overseas.  This usually means within 2 years of when a doctor diagnoses the condition.

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Nuestra firma representa a varios trabajadores extranjeros que fueron heridos en zonas de Guerra. Trabajaron para contratistas americanos que los volaban de sus hogares en países diferentes incluyendo Perú, Colombia, y Honduras para servir como guardias de seguridad en zonas de guerra para asistir a nuestro ejército. Estos guardias de seguridad sirvieron junto con nuestro ejército estadounidense y sufrieron lesiones en estas zonas de guerra incluyendo lesiones psicológicas. Si algún guardia ha sufrido lesiones psicológicas, debe tomar ciertas acciones.

Antes de que un guardia pueda presentar una lesión, debe buscar atención médica por su cuenta en su propio país con un médico. Tiene un año a partir del tiempo de ese informe médico que une su condición psicológica a su empleo en la zona de guerra para presentar un reclamo de compensación del trabajador en las cortes federales en los Estados Unidos.

JoAnn-Hoffman-300x288El informe medico tendrá que ser traducido al ingles para que la persona que lo vaya a leer lo pueda entender. El abogado del empleador puede programar un examen medico de defensa con el medico que ellos deseen. Si ese informe es favorable para el trabajador lesionado, entonces tiene una mejor oportunidad de ganar su reclamo por su lesión psicológica relacionada con su empleo.

¿Pero qué pasa si gana su caso? Esto no requiere que el empleador ni la compañía del seguro le pague un solo pago. Se puede recibir un solo pago siempre y cuando las dos partes lleguen a un acuerdo de un numero para resolver el reclamo. Si eso ocurre, el trabajador lesionado abandona su derecho a recibir atención médica y salarios perdidos relacionados con esa lesión en el futuro y se queda con la suma de dinero acordada.

En nuestra firma siempre se hace que la compañía de seguro page por los honorarios de abogados y costos por separado del dinero otorgado a la persona lesionada.

Es muy importante para nosotros que la persona lesionada entienda cómo procede un caso y qué medidas pueden tomar para mejorar el caso.

Primero, necesitan determinar si tienen alguno de los síntomas que usualmente van junto con el trastorno de estrés postraumático. A continuación, necesitan ver al médico en varias ocasiones y someterse a un tratamiento adecuado para documentar la severidad de sus lesiones. Simplemente indicado, una persona que ve al médico varias veces para el tratamiento se espera que sea más lesionado que alguien que ve a un médico una vez.

Con respecto a saber cuánto deben resolver el caso para el trabajador extranjero necesita entender que no se le permitirá entrar en los Estados Unidos para aparecer ante el juez. Nuestras leyes de inmigración no permitirán esto. Por lo tanto, el juez tendrá que tomar una decisión basada en las pruebas de registro antes de él, que por lo general incluye deposiciones. Desde el momento en que una reclamación se presenta hasta que un juez decida tarda unos 18 meses. Continue reading →

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