I am an Army Ranger Veteran and have been an attorney for over 22 years. With more than a decade as a DBA attorney, I know how to maximize Defense Base Act settlements for my clients at DBA mediations. This article discusses five ways to maximize DBA settlements.
Report your Injury in Writing Immediately, and Definitely Within 30 Days:
The Defense Base Act requires injured workers to report injuries in writing within 30 days. Oftentimes, following injuries, contractors desiring to finish out their contracts will wait until they return home to report their injuries. This is a mistake. By doing so, you are giving DBA insurance companies, a reason to deny your claim. When injured, immediately report your injury in writing. I suggest not only reporting the injury in person to your supervisor but also by emailing your supervisor and keeping a copy of the email. In that email, detail how you were injured, when you were injured, and describe your injuries. You should do so even if you are hopeful that the injury is temporary.
In addition to emailing your supervisor, you should also complete this form, Notice of Employee’s Injury or Death. Include in the notice and email all pains you are feeling. For example, if you fell, and the most pain you have is in your lower back, but you also have shoulder pain, but to a much lesser degree, report both your lower back pain and shoulder pain. Remember, that in zones of conflict, all injuries are covered, whether caused by working or off-work.
Talk to a DBA lawyer Before You Leave Your Overseas Post, if Possible:
I oftentimes speak to injured contractors before they leave their overseas posts about their DBA claims.
There are many tasks that should be completed before injured workers leave the post. For example, before leaving your post to return home for medical care, you should: a) leave with all your medical records from the clinic or hospital where you received any medical care, b) keep any emails to your employer about the incident and your injuries (you will probably lose access to company email when you leave), c) print up all your payslips with your employer for the year prior to your injury (you may lose access to the site where you can print up these payslips when you return home), d) not agree to a “recorded statement” with a DBA insurance company without a DBA lawyer representing you on the call, e) take photographs of the scene of the incident if you are permitted to do so, f) write down the names, emails, and telephone numbers of anyone witnessing the incident which caused your injuries. There are many other tasks that should be completed before leaving to return home in order to maximize the settlement of your DBA claim
Select a Great Doctor for your DBA claim:
Following an injury, you are entitled to medical care for free under the Defense Base Act. The most important person in your DBA claim is not your DBA attorney, but your doctor. Under the Defense Base Act, you are entitled to select your own doctor. Do not select one provided by the DBA insurance company or from a list they provide. These may be doctors that they believe may help them out, not the injured contractors. Search online for doctors who are board-certified and have many years of experience.
For spine injuries, search for experienced neurosurgeons or spine orthopaedic surgeons. For head injuries, look for board-certified neurologists. For psychiatric injuries, such as PTSD, search for board-certified psychiatrists. For shoulder, knee, and hip injuries, search for board-certified sports medicine orthopaedic surgeons. Do not search for “workers’ compensation doctors” or “occupational medicine doctors.”
Make sure that at the first visit, your doctor, if he/she agrees, restricts you from returning to your overseas employment and writes down restrictions, such as no lifting more than 10 lbs, no overhead reaching, etc. Have your doctor fill out this form for orthopaedic (musculoskeletal) injuries: Work Capacity Evaluation for Musculoskeletal Conditions (OWCP 5-C). For psychiatric injuries, such as PTSD, have your doctor complete this form: Work Capacity Evaluation Psychiatric/Psychological Conditions (OWCP 5-A).
Don’t be Afraid to Look for Work Back Home Within your Restrictions:
If your doctor permits you to work in some capacity back home, don’t be afraid to take that job. Talk to your DBA attorney first. For example, if you sustained a shoulder injury, and your doctor restricts you from lifting no more than 10 lbs. overhead, you should be able to do work back home in the U.S. at jobs that do not require overhead work. Yes, of course, you will likely not be making the same money.
DBA insurance companies, such as Starr Indemnity (Gallagher Bassett), Allied World (Broadspire) Arch Insurance (ESIS), and others will likely eventually reduce your compensation following a Labor Market Survey by stating that you can work in some capacity. It will be better for you to already have this job in place. Further, by working, you can help establish what your wage-earning capacity (WEC) is in your DBA claim, especially if your claim will be heard at the Office of Administrative Law Judges (OALJ). Judges like it when injured workers have returned to work back home within the restrictions set by their doctors. Oftentimes, because contractors earned thousands/week overseas working, taking a job within physical restrictions, back home may not reduce your DBA compensation at all.
Keep up with All your Doctor Appointments:
It is important that you do not miss appointments with your doctor, physical therapist, etc. You want to make sure that you continue to treat with your doctor throughout your Defense Base Act claim. It does not help your case if you miss appointments or stop seeing your doctor for long periods of time. Further, we need your doctor to go to battle for you and it will not help your case if you have missed appointments.
free at 772-283-8712. There are many other tips to follow to help maximize your DBA settlement. As a DBA attorney and Army Ranger Veteran, I go to battle against the DBA insurance companies for my clients in litigation and during DBA settlement mediations.
Tim Nies, Esq.