How Long do DBA Claims Take to Settle?
How long do DBA claims take to settle? This is one of the most asked questions I am asked. At the risk of sounding like a lawyer, the answer is “it depends.” The Defense Base Act (DBA) is a workers’ compensation program. The Defense Base Act provides workers’ compensation protection to civilian employees, from protective security specialists to electricians and linguists (as well as many other workers) working outside the U.S. on U.S. military bases or under a contract with the U.S. government for public works or for national defense.
Filing a DBA Claim
When workers are injured, they are supposed to be taken care of by their employer, including compensation and medical care. Oftentimes, the DBA insurance carriers of the employers, such as AIG, Starr Indemnity (Gallagher Bassett DBA division), Allied World (Broadspire), Arch Insurance (ESIS), and others, engage in the practice of delaying, denying, and defending DBA claims. They should be commencing benefits right away, as they are supposed to do when workers are injured. In this case, you will need a skilled DBA attorney on your side right away. An experienced DBA attorney will work with you to quickly file your Notice of Claim (LS-203), obtain medical records, speak with witnesses, obtain incident reports and prepare your case to compel the DBA insurance carrier to do what they are supposed to.
Step 1: If the DBA Insurance Carrier Delays, Denys, and Defends DBA Claims
The first step, if the DBA insurance company is not doing what they are supposed to do, is to request an informal conference (request for intervention) by filing an LS-7 form and a position statement. That will lead to an informal conference with the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Workers’ Compensation Programs. It may take a few weeks to have the informal conference scheduled. The OWCP claims examiner will then issue a “recommendation” in a memorandum of the informal conference.
The DBA insurance company will then either agree to do what they are supposed to, not respond or deny the recommendations. If the Defense Base Act insurance carrier, or its DBA defense lawyer, denies the recommendation of the OWCP, your DBA lawyer will then file an LS-18, requesting the OWCP to send the claim up to an administrative law judge at the Office of Administrative Law Judges (OALJ) for a formal hearing.
Step 2: Sending the Claim up to the Office of Administrative Law Judges (OALJ) for a Formal Hearing
The process of resolution at the OALJ is lengthy, especially recently. After the closure of Afghanistan, many claims were filed, especially of foreign nationals, which caused an unexpected overload of cases for the OALJ. The judges have been doing all they can to work through the influx of cases. However, it may take a couple of weeks to months for the OALJ to docket the case and set it for a hearing. The hearing may be many months later.
During this time, discovery is exchanged, depositions are taken, functional capacity evaluations (FCE) are completed, etc. A proficient DBA lawyer will act fast to do what he or she needs to be done. Our DBA lawyer, Tim Nies, and his paralegals file discovery within a day of receiving the notice of docketing. We strive to quickly outwork the DBA defense lawyers hired to represent the employers and DBA insurance companies.
After the OALJ Formal Hearing
The hearing with the OALJ is not the end of the road. The administrative law judge at the OALJ may take several months to file a written order following the formal hearing.
At any point along the way, the parties may settle the claim, usually at a Defense Base Act mediation. A DBA mediation is where the parties meet, in person, or lately by Zoom, with a private mediator to settle your claim.
So, you see there are many factors that are taken into consideration when answering the question, “how long do DBA claims take to settle“. Now, if the DBA insurance companies do what they are supposed to, including authorizing and paying for medical care, and paying injured workers what they are supposed to be paid, a DBA claim could settle in 4-6 months. Remember, during this time, the injured worker is receiving medical care. The problem is that it oftentimes will take longer because these DBA insurance companies, these days, do not do what they are supposed to and have to be brought to court to force them. This is truly unfortunate.
Hire a DBA Lawyer who Will Expedite your DBA Claim
It is critical that you hire a DBA lawyer who will put in the time to push your claim forward. Your lawyer should not delay in fighting for DBA benefits. I have taken over DBA claims after clients have released their prior attorneys. These workers contacted me for help after their lawyers did nothing to push the claim forward. Either their lawyers were too busy or not experienced in DBA claims.
In a recent case, an American worker, injured at the US Embassy in Iraq, was sent home for medical care. The worker, a linguist, then spent an entire year without any DBA compensation, and without the DBA insurance company authorizing any medical care. Unfortunately, this worker’s prior DBA law firm did not file a request for the informal conference (LS-7 request for intervention) during the year, before I was hired.
The DBA claim was filed timely, however, the lawyer did not push the case forward and my client’s claim sat. Within 10 days of retaining me, I filed the request for an informal conference. I then attended the DOL informal conference and received a favorable recommendation. Within weeks of retaining me, I had the matter sent up to the OALJ. At the time of drafting this article, I am waiting on the OALJ to schedule the formal hearing (trial). During this time, the claim may be set for a DBA mediation with a DBA mediator.
I understand the importance of acting quickly because my clients are oftentimes in pain and without compensation. It is inconceivable to allow any case to sit in a file cabinet, while a client is in pain.
Cost to Hire a DBA Lawyer
It costs nothing to retain DBA lawyers. The Department of Labor must approve the fees and costs of DBA lawyers. Attorneys shall not receive contingency fees
(such as in a car accident) in Defense Base Act claims, per federal law. DBA lawyers are paid by the DBA insurance company separately after obtaining a benefit for the injured worker, such as the OALJ formal hearing, settlement, or DBA mediation. Therefore, no injured worker should go through a DBA claim alone.
For more information about the Defense Base Act and to fully answer your question of “how long do DBA claims take to settle”, contact me, Tim Nies, for free information. Contact us 24/7 through our website’s contact form, or call us at 772-283-8712 or 877-DBA-Law1. I am also available on What’s App for any worker still overseas. For more information, visit our Defense Base Act Lawyers YouTube site.
My DBA claim team cares about our clients and works together as a team when battling DBA insurance companies. Although I work with the most experienced DBA paralegals, I personally handle every DBA claim. I am available day or night on my cell phone.