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

Articles Posted in DBA Claim

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hourglass-2910948_1920-300x200Did you know that there exists time period in which you must file your Defense Base Act claim in order to be eligible for compensation checks? Have you been told by an adjuster from one of the infamous insurance companies like Gallagher Bassett or AIG that your “statute has run”?  In reality, your statute may not have expired at all! As an initial matter, there exists no time limit for medical treatment. This means that even if you had your injury 20 years ago, you are still eligible to file a claim for medical treatment! Medical treatment is never time barred (unless you settle your claim for a lump sum of money, then your medical claim usually closes forever).

There exists TWO statutes of limitations in the Defense Base Act: Sections 912 and 913.

Section 912 of the LHWCA/DBA provides that notice of an injury or death must be given within 30 days after injury or death, or within 30 days after the employee or beneficiary is aware of, or in the exercise of reasonable diligence or by reason of medical advice should have been aware of, a relationship between the injury or death and the employment. With respect to occupational diseases, such as mental injuries and PTSD, the statute provides for notice within one (1) year. PTSD is often classified as an occupational disease. Section 912 is the “nicer” statute, as there are several ways to get around it, including showing that the insurance company was not “prejudiced” (hurt) by the failure to timely file. We have won several cases by arguing that there was no harm! No harm, no foul as the saying goes.

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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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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.”

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