What Is the Defense Base Act - morgan and morgan
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What Is the Defense Base Act?

What Is the Defense Base Act?

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What Is the Defense Base Act?

The Defense Base Act (DBA) was enacted on August 16th, 1941, extending the federal workers' compensation program that protects longshoremen and harbor workers. The program, which is administered by the United States Department of Labor (DOL), was extended to provide medical care and award workers' compensation benefits to civilian employees of defense contractors injured during the scope of their work at overseas United States defense bases and other public works.

The extension covering employees of defense contractors was passed in December 1942 as the War Hazards Compensation Act (WHCA.) The WHCA recognizes that the citizens of the United States should bear the cost of war risk injuries and deaths.

The DOL administers the DBA through three Districts in the U.S., which are the Eastern, Southern, and Western Districts which have sub-offices in major U.S. cities. Here is more information to cover questions concerning, "What is the Defense Base Act?"

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  • Who is eligible for DBA claims?

    1. Employees who are employed by private contractors doing work on U.S. military bases or any other lands where the U.S. is engaging in military objectives outside of the United States, including work in U.S. Territories or its possessions.
    2. Employees who are working on public work contracts with any U.S. government agency connected with national defense or war-related activities outside of the United States.
    3. Employees who are doing work outside of the United States on approved and U.S. funded contracts under the Foreign Assistance Act, which provides services to U.S. allies.
    4. Employees of American companies that provide welfare services to benefit the United States Armed Services outside of the United States, such as the non-profit, charitable United Service Organization.
    5. Additionally, employees of any subcontractors engaged in works as previously detailed, including non-U.S. citizens.
    6. Finally, employees engaged in overseas public works for the benefit of the United States, such as the American Red Cross and The Salvation Army. 

    Unlike regular workers' compensation, DBA coverage applies to workers injured under the "obligations and conditions" of employment. That means that the employee's injuries don't have to be the direct result of performing the work; instead, they are covered for any injury incurred as a result of being in a "Zone of Special Danger."

    Contractors and employers are required to carry DBA Insurance to ensure their workers are protected should they be injured on the job. Failure to do so results in severe penalties but also civil liability claims for their negligent practices. Even if the government contract does not include language that DBA Insurance must be purchased, the employer is still on the hook for failing to have this coverage.

  • What is the procedure for filing and DBA claims?

    Similar to regular worker's compensation filing procedures, the first requirement is to inform an immediate supervisor of the injury. An official notice of the injury should be documented in written form called the LS 201. Afterward, medical treatment should be offered to the injured employee. Employees are entitled to choose a physician of their choice. They should ask their employer for a Form LS-1 which authorizes medical treatment. The employee is further required to file the claim form LS 203 with the Office of Workers' Compensation Program within one year of the date of the injury or the last workers' comp payment, whichever is later.

    Suppose an employee incurs an occupational illness, such as comes from exposure to toxic substances, for example. In that case, the employee has a deadline of two years from the date the employee discovers the illness is connected to their employment to file a claim.

    The required forms to fill out for DBA claims can be accessed at the Department of Labor at the Longshore and Harbor Workers' Forms Page. Filing a claim and getting full compensation is a long and arduous process that can take years to resolve. If you are having difficulties getting through the process, one of our Maritime Admiralty lawyers may be able to help. You can contact one of our experts for a free, no-risk case evaluation.

  • What kinds of benefits are available under the DBA?

    DBA benefits include disability and medical compensation for employees injured during the scope of their work performed on behalf of defense contractors working for U.S. interests outside of the United States. Death benefits are also available for eligible survivors of the deceased if they die during the course of their employment.

    Total disability compensation is two-thirds of the employee's average weekly earrings but is capped at a maximum weekly rate. Maximum weekly rates are adjusted upwards with every fiscal year. Partial loss of earnings is also compensable under the DBA.

    Death benefits to the surviving spouse and one child are paid at the rate of one-half the deceased average weekly earnings. Larger families are eligible for two-thirds of the average weekly rate if there are two or more eligible survivors, but this is also capped at the maximum weekly rate.

    The Longshore and Harbor Workers' Compensations Act (LHWCA) has a provision for funeral expenses up to $3000; however, the LHWCA minimum benefits rate is not applicable to DBA claims. 

  • How are compensation rates determined?

    Two-thirds of the average weekly wage of the injured employee are calculated by considering documents like the employee's contract with the employer, payroll stubs, W-2 tax forms, and Social Security records. The goal is to compensate the employee with an amount that generally represents their yearly earning capacity. 

    Furthermore, overseas allowances such as cost of living adjustments and foreign housing are generally included in the rates awarded. Bonuses, vacation and holiday pay, as well as overtime and per diem allowances, can also be considered as long as the compensation isn't covered in their average weekly wage.

  • When should I get compensation for my disability?

    Your payments should be issued 14 days from the time your employer had notice of your loss in wages if you are disabled for more than three days. However, you should know that payments are not considered late until 14 days after that date. That means the insurance company has 28 days to provide the first payment. Once payments commence, you should receive payments bi-weekly unless the employer or insurance company disputes liability for your injury. In that case, they will file a Notice of Controversion of Rights to Compensation, an official statement including the reasons for denial of coverage. You should receive a copy of this notice. 

    It may be that you've been denied simply because your employer or their insurance carrier hasn't received the correct paperwork. The first step would be to contact them to see what additional paperwork they need. If you're still denied benefits, you have the right to contact the Longshore Claims Examiner responsible for your claim to get help.

    Be prepared to submit evidence as to why your claim is valid, like doctor's reports and findings regarding your injury and earning records, along with your personal take on why you should be eligible for benefits. Make sure to keep copies of everything you submit and document any conversations.

  • My DBA claim is still denied; what's next?

    The Office of Workers' Compensation Programs (OWCP) maintains records of injuries and deaths reported under the DBA and provides assistance to the injured employees to make sure benefits are paid accurately and promptly.

    When disputes arise between injured parties and their employer or the insurance carrier, the OWCP works to help resolve these differences through informal conferences and written recommendations. However, these are not legally binding to either party. When either party cannot come to a resolution, they may request a formal hearing before the Office of Administrative Law Judges (OALJ), in which case, the OWCP refers to the party.

    Suppose either party objects to the decisions of the OALJ. In that case, they can then appeal to the Benefits Review Board (BRB) and further up the chain to the U.S. District Court or the U.S. Court of Appeals, whichever has jurisdiction over the claim. 

  • I found out my employer didn't carry insurance and didn't have the authorization to be self-insured; what can I do?

    First of all, your employer is subject to criminal prosecution and may face prison time and huge fines for their negligence. However, that doesn't help your predicament. You may be able to sue the president, secretary, and treasurer of a corporation personally for your compensation under general tort law. 

    With regular workers' compensation claims, employers have defenses such as a worker contributed to their own injury or was negligent, and that's how they got hurt. However, these defenses are invalid under general tort law. 

  • How can a Maritime Admiralty attorney help me with my DBA claim?

    Defense Base Act injury claims are not the same as regular workers' compensation claims. This area of the law is complicated, and the hoops to jump through are many. Our Defense Base Act lawyers are familiar with what it takes to make your claim successful. With our experience, we know that using precedents of past similar cases will help make your case stronger. Furthermore, we understand the laws that protect your rights as an employee of a defense contractor.

    Not only that, we know the games that insurance companies play to avoid paying out on valid claims and are able to fight fire with fire. There's no need to settle for less than what your claim is worth with the right lawyer by your side. And when we say lawyer, you don't just have legal representation. Your Morgan & Morgan lawyer will have access to a literal army of staff and the resources to hire whatever supporting experts are needed, such as investigators and accident reconstructionists. 

    We can help you from the start to the finish of your DBA claim, from filing the correct paperwork to ensuring your documentation is filed on time. We work with you to compile supporting evidence and prepare you for hearings. Most importantly, we work to preserve your rights and negotiate for a favorable settlement on your behalf. 

    Suppose you're asking the question, "what is the defense base act," and aren't sure where to turn after being injured far away from home. In that case, our Defense Base Act lawyers are ready to help make sure you get the compensation owed to you. Contact us today. Our case evaluation is free and confidential. 

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