What is My Hearing Loss Worth under the Longshore & Defense Base Act?
First: Does your hearing loss stem from your work? Many injuries can occur in the workplace, especially if you are working in a dangerous or hazardous area such as a war zone or around loud machinery. Let ‘s take an example where you are a security guard for a private American security company, and you are tasked with securing our military bases and Embassies overseas in countries like Afghanistan and Iraq. Many loud and hazardous noises can cause damage to your hearing. Employees in these kinds of positions are exposed to loud noises that include mortar attacks, rocket attacks, small arms fire, car bomb explosions, heavy machinery, and alarms. These loud sounds can often over time damage and deteriorate your hearing. Are these types of injuries covered under the Defense Base Act? Second example, assume you work on building ships in the USA and due to loud noise your hearing has declined. Eventually your spouse tells you that you can’t hear and you want to know if you can file a claim. The answer is yes.
Second: Under the Defense Base Act and/or Longshore Act, there are typically two types of injuries: scheduled and unscheduled. Scheduled injuries are injuries listed under Section 8(c) of the Act to which a fixed, or scheduled, disability award (amount of money) is determined and paid. Hearing loss falls under Section 8(c)(13) as a scheduled injury and has a fixed compensation determination. You need to get your hearing tested and use that report to file a claim for monetary benefits.
Third: What is my hearing loss worth? Compensation for total loss of hearing in one ear is fifty-two (52) weeks and compensation for total loss of hearing in both ears is two hundred (200) weeks. How much loss you have in your hearing can be determined by the results of an audiogram. Next the calculation is made to find out how much compensation you could be entitled to based on your average weekly wage while working for your employer. Let us say for example you worked earning roughly $1,000.00 per month. This would result in an average weekly wage of roughly $230.77 ($12,000 per year divided by 52 weeks). The proper compensation rate would be two-thirds of your average weekly wage, so in this example, the compensation rate would be $153.85. Now let us say, by calculating your audiogram, that you have suffered a 30% loss in both of your ears, also known as binaural hearing loss. To determine how much you could be entitled to for compensation, you would take the 200 weeks (as indicated by the scheduled list in Section (8) of the Act) and multiply by 30% which would equal 60 weeks. This means you could be entitled to 60 weeks’ worth of compensation at a rate of $153.85, which would equal roughly $9,230.40. We also litigate to get you hearing aids if you want them. This firm prefers to have the benefits paid in a lump sum rather than every two weeks.
Timely Filing for a Hearing Loss Injury is ONE YEAR from the date of the audiogram: Section 13(a) of the Defense Base Act provides that “Except as otherwise provided in this section, the right to compensation for disability or death under this chapter shall be barred unless a claim therefore is filed within one year after the injury or death.” Now this would typically mean that once you notice a loss of your hearing, you would then have to file a claim for that loss within one year. However, Section 8(c)(13)(D) provides that “The time for filing a notice of injury, under section 912 of this title, or a claim for compensation, under section 913 of this title, shall not begin to run in connection with any claim for loss of hearing under this section, until the employee has received an audiogram, with the accompanying report thereon, which indicates that the employee has suffered a loss of hearing.” So, let’s say that you last worked for an employer in 2018, but did not receive an audiogram and was not made aware of your hearing loss and the connection to your employment until 2020; the argument could then be made that the statue of limitations did not begin until you received that audiogram, thus making your claim timely filed if within one year of your testing. Courts have held consistently that “the employee must both receive an audiogram and be aware of the connection between their disability and the employment before the statute of limitations begins to run.” Alabama Dry Dock & Shipbuilding Corp. v. Sowell, 933 F.2d 1561, 24 BRBS 229(CRT) (11th Cir. 1991).
Attorneys Jo Ann Hoffman & Associates, P.A., have a dedicated Defense Base Act team of attorneys and staff that have handled hundreds of hearing loss cases. We file to obtain the benefits you deserve for your hearing loss injury. Our goal is for the injured worker to receive medical treatment and a lump sum settlement, so that the money may be used to better your life. Helping the injured is our passion!