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

Articles Posted in Defense Base Act Benefits

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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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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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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.

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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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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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