Steps to File a DBA Claim
Filing a Defense Base Act (DBA) claim is a significant step for contractors who have sustained injuries or developed conditions while working on U.S. military bases abroad or under a U.S. government contract. Before initiating the DBA claims process, it’s essential to take certain steps to ensure a smoother filing, which will lead to less stress for injured contractors. Here are key steps to follow before filing a Defense Base Act claim:
- Seek Immediate Medical Attention: If you have sustained an injury or developed a medical condition, seek prompt medical attention where you are stationed, whether at a clinic or a local doctor or even a medic if you do not have a clinic where you are stationed. Document, for your own health and your Defense Base Act claim, all medical treatment, diagnoses, and prescriptions related to your condition. Timely medical intervention not only contributes to your well-being but also establishes a clear connection between the injury and your work. It is important for our DBA claim to leave your base with copies of all your medical records.
- Notify Your Employer: Inform your employer about the injury or condition as soon as possible. Timely notification is crucial for compliance with DBA requirements. Provide details about the incident, when it occurred, and the resulting injuries or conditions. This notification should be in writing and include the date, time, and description of the incident. Timely notification is a key element, so make sure you keep all written communications of your injury to your employer. Note, that when you leave your post, you will probably lose access to any company email, so make sure you print up all emails regarding notification of your injury. Notification is one of the important steps to file a DBA claim. Don’t wait to you come home to notify your employer.
- Complete Employer’s Incident Report: Your employer is typically responsible for completing an incident report. Ensure that this report accurately reflects the details of the incident, including any unsafe conditions that may have contributed to the injury. Request a copy of the completed report(s) for your records to provide to your DBA lawyer.
- Gather Witness Statements: If there were witnesses to the incident, gather their statements. Witness accounts can strengthen your DBA claim by providing additional perspectives and supporting the facts surrounding the injury or condition. Collect contact information for potential witnesses. Remember, many contractors more from base to base and it may be hard to find them later.
- Keep Detailed Records: Maintain a detailed record of all relevant information, including medical records, prescriptions, and communications with your employer, supervisors, and healthcare providers. These records will serve as essential documentation during the claims process. Also, print up copies of all your wage records for at least the one year prior to the date of your injury. The more years you can obtain the better. Your DBA lawyer will need these to ensure that the DBA insurance carriers are correctly paying you.
- Consult with a DBA Attorney: Before filing a DBA claim, it’s advisable to consult with an attorney experienced in Defense Base Act cases. A Defense Base Act lawyer can provide guidance on the specific requirements, assist in compiling the necessary documentation, and help you understand your rights and options. Oftentimes, DBA insurance companies will contact injured contractors while they are still on the base shortly after an injury is reported. Do not agree to a “recorded statement” or complete a questionnaire without first speaking with a DBA attorney. Also, if you have been set up for an independent medical evaluation (IME) or a functional capacity evaluation (FCE), definitely talk to a DBA lawyer beforehand.
- Understand the Statute of Limitations: Be aware of the applicable statute of limitations for filing a Defense Base Act claim. Failure to file within the specified timeframe may result in the forfeiture of your right to benefits. Timely action is crucial in these cases. So, talk to a DBA lawyer soon after your injury.
- Document Your Work Environment: Take photographs or videos of your work environment, especially if it played a role in your injury. Documenting unsafe conditions or situations can be valuable evidence to support your claim. For example, if you are a firefighter and you fell coming down steps of a fire truck, take photos of the steps.
- Secure Supporting Documentation: Gather any additional supporting documentation, such as incident reports, safety regulations, and training records. This information can help establish the context of your work environment and the circumstances surrounding your injury.
- Prepare a Detailed Statement: Write a detailed statement describing the incident, your injuries, and the impact on your daily life and provide this to your DBA lawyer. This statement will serve as a narrative to complement the official forms and reports required for the claim. Remember, that memories fade, so writing a statement or a timeline, will assist you when it comes time for your deposition, IMEs, informal conferences and formal hearings before the Office of Administrative Law Judges.
- Select a Qualified Doctor Back Home: Under the Defense Base Act, you are entitled to a physician of your choice. Do not allow a nurse case manager or an DBA insurance company adjuster to select a doctor for you. It is important to research your doctor. Look for a board-certified doctor. For spine injuries, research neurosurgeons or orthopaedic spine surgeons. For head/brain injuries, research neurologists. For shoulder, knee, arm injuries, research orthopaedic sports medicine doctors. Make sure that your doctor lists work restrictions. Your doctor may use this form: OWCP 5-C for physical (musculoskeletal) injuries and OWCP 5-A for psychiatric injuries. Your doctor may also list work restrictions in a narrative report. keep in mind that your doctor is actually more critical to your DBA claim, and obviously your health, than your DBA lawyer.
By taking these steps before filing a Defense Base Act claim, you can better position yourself for a successful and streamlined claims process. Talk to our DBA lawyer, Tim Nies, who has been litigating injury cases for over 20 years and is a veteran of the U.S. Army’s Third Ranger Battalion. Call 772-283-8712 or email Tim Nies here. There are many other important steps to file a DBA claim. It costs nothing to talk to Tim. If you are still overseas, whether in Syria, Kuwait, Iraq, Somalia, Niger or other locations, Tim is available by Whats’ App.