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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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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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