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

Articles Posted in Longshore and DBA claims

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By Deborah Caputo — Attorneys Jo Ann Hoffman & Associates, P.A.

You sustained injuries while working with a Defense Base Act contractor. As a result, you filed a Defense Base Act claim for benefits for your injuries. The abbreviation that will be referenced throughout this article which is “DBA” for Defense Base Act.

Your case progresses, litigation proceeds, accompanied by the scheduling of several events. Among these, one particular event, that is arranged by the attorney representing the Employer and their Insurance Carrier, is the Vocational Evaluation. This article dives into the details of vocational evaluations and mastering your approach with confidence.

What is a Vocational Evaluation?

Glad you asked. 

An injury while working for a DBA contractor not only raises medical and disability concerns (which warrant separate blog discussions) but also impacts one’s ability to earn wages. The question a vocational evaluator in its simplest form is to address whether the injured person can earn the same wages they did at the time of their injury or in another employment.

During a vocational evaluation, you, your attorney, and the vocational evaluator meet. Think of your attorney as your filter, ensuring only relevant questions are asked. The evaluator, hired by the Employer and Insurance Carrier, seeks information. The evaluation aims to establish the wage someone with your injuries would earn in the open job market under normal circumstances, and after the evaluation, the evaluator will provide a document titled, the “Labor Market Survey”.

The Labor Market Survey is essentially a list of potential jobs with each respective job detailing its responsibilities and average salary. The Labor Market Survey will be sent to all parties in the case post-evaluation.

So, this Labor Market Survey is just based on my evaluation, is that it? question-mark-300x237 Continue reading →

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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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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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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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This January, an Administrative Law Judge approved a settlement reached by Javier Ruiz, Esq. relating to home modifications needed by a client (pictured below with his consent) in a Defense Base Act (DBA) case. The case involved litigation of complex legal issues requiring expert testimony as to the modifications needed to the client’s home. For instance, a wheelchair bound injured worker will need lower light switches, doors widened, ramps created, and lower sinks.

To accomplish these necessary modifications, this firm took the depositions of engineers and accessibility experts who testified as to the necessity and cost of home modifications.  Mr. Ruiz travels the country  in his pursuit of justice and fairness for our clients. Attorneys Jo Ann Hoffman & Associates are proud to be able to help injured workers like this who are often ignored by insurance companies.


Multitude of Benefits Available Under the Defense Base Act/Longshore Act

Do you know the types of benefits available to you if you are injured in an accident covered by the Defense Base Act/Longshore Act? Broadly speaking, there are two types of benefits available under the DBA: 1) compensation benefits and 2) medical benefits. Home modification falls under medical benefits.

Many injured workers incorrectly assume that medical benefits simply means doctors visits, surgeries, medication, and physical therapy. Fortunately, the definition of medical benefits under Section 907 of the Act is very broad, so broad that it not only includes purely medical benefits like doctors visits, surgeries, medication, and physical therapy, but the definition also includes medically necessary and reasonable apparatus. Continue reading →

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La Ley de Base de Defensa, comúnmente conocida como DBA, proporciona beneficios de Compensación y Muerte del Trabajador para los empleados de contratistas del gobierno. Permítanme explicar cómo funciona hacer un reclamo bajo esta ley.

Esta firma presenta reclamaciones de indemnización y muerte contra empresas como KBR, Fluor, Dyncorp, Academi, Lockheed Martin, SES, Servicios de Ciencia e Ingeniería, Sallyport, Michael Baker, Ciencias de la Computación Raytheon, CSR, Vinnell Arabia, MPRI Ltd., Engility, Tetra Tech , Planate Management Group, SOC, Mission Essential Personnel, AECOM, Triple Canopy y Green Group en un tribunal federal. Si usted era uno de los trabajadores contratistas, puede presentar una reclamación sin tener que venir a los Estados Unidos. Debe documentar su lesión consultando a un médico por una lesión física o psicológica causada por su empleo. Los beneficios que presentamos cubiertos por la Ley incluyen atención médica y salarios perdidos y beneficios de sobrevivientes en caso de fallecimiento. Para las personas que viven fuera de los Estados Unidos, esos beneficios generalmente se ofrecen en una suma global. Nunca somos más felices que cuando entregamos un cheque de liquidación grande a nuestros clientes. Los transportistas pagan nuestros honorarios y costos por separado en estas reclamaciones de DBA.

Una vez que el empleado regresa a casa, generalmente está solo para buscar atención médica. Las lesiones físicas pueden durar años y empeorar una vez que el empleado está en casa sin tratamiento. Los empleados que estaban estacionados en zonas de guerra a menudo desarrollan lesiones psicológicas como el trastorno de estrés postraumático (PTSD, por sus siglas en inglés) que permanece sin tratamiento durante años una vez que regresan a su país de origen. El empleado debe ver a un médico en su país de origen. Este bufete de abogados paga para que estos registros médicos sean transcritos por un traductor certificado, de modo que los registros puedan presentarse ante el tribunal y se haga un reclamo para obtener los beneficios adecuados.

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We are seeing injuries in Puerto Rico occurring when linemen are restoring power and when workers are doing hurricane repairs or rebuilding. Anyone injured under a contract with an American company should consult with this firm about getting money for those injuries. All consultations are free and there is no charge unless we obtain a settlement.
Generally the insurance company is providing benefits for the linemen or worker once they return home. The lineman or injured worker then sees a local Workers compensation attorney who applies for benefits from the State workers compensation system where they live. Once the worker recovers per the treating doctor and receives a few checks, that is generally the end of the case.
But it should not be. This firm has long held the view that these are Federal Claims that must be filed in the Federal Longshore and Defense Base Act Court system.
The Division has weighed in and confirmed they have jurisdiction.
This firm anticipated this and opened our Puerto Rico office last year to handle these claims. does this firm care?
The difference to an injured person on a minor hand injury can be $50,000 in Federal Court versus $15,000 in the State Workers Compensation system for a small injury.
We are well equipped to handle these case with our Main office in South Florida and Our Satellite office in Puerto Rico.
For the Puerto Rico injured workers who came from the United States and received medical care in the States, we need you to know a few things:
You have the right to choose your doctor. Please do not sign a paper saying your choice of doctor is the one the insurance company picked for you. Why? Because we can help you pick a doctor that will help you medically and financially. Why would the insurance company help you pick a doctor that would help them pay more money? Exactly.
What to do now? Perhaps you are reading this and feel you need more information about the financial benefit and time limitation to have us file a DBA claim for you.

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Honorarios y costos de abogados son pagados por la compañía de seguro cuando al cliente se le obtiene un acuerdo legal. Nosotros tenemos un aviso en la entrada de nuestra firma: “Ayudar a los heridos es nuestra Pasión” y eso explica porque trabajamos. Estamos comprometidos a ayudarles a los trabajadores lesionados en todo el mundo que fueron heridos trabajando bajo un contrato con una empresa estadounidense. En la realización de esta larga misión, estamos constantemente escuchando las necesidades de nuestros clientes. Buscamos maneras de mejorar nuestros servicios hacia ellos y poner los servicios legales y el conocimiento a su alcance. Déjenos dejar claro: nuestras tarifas y costos dependen en que obtengamos un acuerdo para nuestros clientes de DBA. Nosotros no hacemos que los clientes paguen los costos. Cuando ganamos un caso, por ley la compañía de seguro paga nuestras honorarios y costos. También tomamos en consideración que cuando un cliente de DBA vive fuera de los Estados Unidos y hace un reclamo de beneficios, es muy probable que vaya ser negado. La razón por la cual sus beneficios pueden ser negados son los siguientes: la compañía de seguro no puede encontrar médicos en otros países al igual que pagarles en monedas internacionales para poder tratarlos.  Esto significa que el trabajador lesionado va tener que pagar todo el tratamiento médico. Generalmente, entre más tratamiento médico usted reciba, más grande va hacer su compensación.

IMG_7946-e1539370237245-1-225x300Así que usted va a obtener su propio tratamiento y nos va permitir buscar reembolso de esos gastos para usted.  Sabemos que eso puede ser un obstáculo para el tratamiento, pero también sabemos que como una persona lesionada puede ir a un hospital local por una suma razonable. Esa visita va a documentar sus lesiones siempre y cuando usted de su historia de trabajo que hizo para los contratistas Americanos y como usted fue lesionado haciendo ese trabajo. Por favor obtenga esos registros médicos para que pueda enviarlos a nosotros.

Si usted cree que ha perdido la audición en uno o ambos oídos debido a su trabajo, obtenga una prueba auditiva y solicite una copia de los resultados de esa prueba. Necesitamos sus registros médicos para solicitar sus beneficios. Juntos podemos trabajar hacia una compensación justa para usted. También empujamos para poner fondos en sus manos lo más rápido posible. Debemos traducir sus registros médicos al inglés y presentarlos a la Corte apropiada. Aquí ves una deposición que tiene lugar en nuestra oficina.

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We are committed to helping injured workers everywhere in the World who were injured working under a contract with an American company. In performing this life mission, we are constantly listening to the needs of our clients. We seek ways to upgrade our services to them and put legal services and knowledge at their fingertips.
Let us make it clear: Our fees and costs are contingent on obtaining a settlement for our DBA clients. We do not have a client pay our costs. When we win a settlement it will include having the insurance company pay our fees and costs.
We also take into consideration that when a DBA client living outside of America makes a claim for benefits, it will most likely be denied. This means the injured worker has to go to the expense of paying for his own medical treatment. Generally the more medical treatment you receive, the larger the settlement. When you live outside of the USA, your DBA case will be denied because frankly the insurance company cannot find and pay doctors in different countries and currencies to treat you.
IMG_7941-e1539367154229-1-225x300So you will pay for your own treatment and let us seek reimbursement of those expenses for you. We know that you having to pay for your medical care, can be a hindrance to treatment but we also know you as an injured person can go to your local hospital for a reasonable sum. That visit will document your injuries provided you give a history of your work for the American contractor and how you were injured doing that work. Please get a copy of those records so you can send them to us.
If you believe you have lost hearing in one or both ears due to your work, get a hearing test and ask for a copy of the results of that testing. We need your medical records to file for your benefits. Together we can work toward a fair settlement for you. This law firm fights to put settlement funds in your hands as fast as possible. We must have your records translated into English and filed with the proper Court. Only after your injuries are properly documented along with the dates of your employment will your case be ready for a settlement.
When you injured different body parts on different dates these require that separate claims be filed under the different dates of accident. Each body part needs a medical treatment record. As an example, if you hurt your foot in 2015, go see a doctor and let him know what pain or problem that foot is giving you.
What if you settled your right to shoulder treatment? If you already settled your right to shoulder treatment you cannot make any further claim for that body part as a result of the past employment under which you settled.

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