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Psychological Injuries under the Defense Base Act


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?

Psychological injury is generally defined as a cognitive or emotional symptom that effects a person’s life, affecting how they think, feel and behave. Also known as mental injury, psychological injuries includes, but is NOT limited to depression, post-traumatic stress disorder and anxiety.

What are the customary signs and symptoms of a psychological Injury?

If you are experiencing any of the following symptoms during or after completion of your contracted overseas job, you may have a psychological injury and should seek help from a trained psychologist or psychiatrist:

• Intrusive thoughts of the event that may occur out of the blue
• Nightmares
• Visual images of the event
• Loss of memory and concentration abilities
• Disorientation
• Confusion
• Mood swings

• Avoidance of activities or places that trigger memories of the event
• Social isolation and withdrawal
• Lack of interest in previously-enjoyable activities

• Easily startled
• Insomnia
• Extreme alertness; always on the lookout for warnings of potential danger

• Overwhelming fear
• Detachment from other people and emotions
• Depression
• Guilt – especially if one lived while others perished
• Shame
• Emotional shock
• Irritability
• Anger
• Anxiety
• Panic attacks

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a subset of a psychological injury, and as will be talked about below, it is very important to not box yourself in to a very narrow category of a psychological injury.

Are Psychological Injuries Covered under the Defense Base Act?

Yes! Psychological injuries are a covered injury under the Defense Base Act (DBA). However, just because psychological injuries are covered under the DBA does not mean that the insurance carrier will agree to compensate you for your psychological injuries, or even pay for medical treatment.

Psychological injuries are considered “unscheduled” injuries under the DBA which means that you would be entitled to compensation for as long as you experience a loss of wage-earning capacity and assuming you are prevented from working in your usual/former job. For example, you would be owed compensation if you were unable to return to your former overseas employment as a result of your psychological injuries.

What About PTSD?

As noted above, Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a subset of a psychological injury. If you report your claim as solely a “PTSD” injury, be prepared for a fight from the insurance company! Unlike a general psychological injury, a PTSD diagnoses requires that the injured person satisfy EIGHT (8) very specific criteria—failing to meet a single criterion means that under the guidelines you do not have PTSD.

That is why it is important to talk to an attorney before filing a claim under the DBA!

We here at Attorneys Jo Ann Hoffman & Associates would love to help you with your claims process. Feel free to reach out for a free consultation! 954-772-2644.

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