Barnett, Lerner & Karsen, P.A.
WELCOME TO THE DBA NEWSLETTER, PREPARED BY BARNETT, LERNER & KARSEN, P.A. IN OUR ONGOING EFFORT TO EDUCATE AND INFORM OUR CLIENTS, BELOW IS INFORMATION REGARDING THE CURRENT GOVERNMENT SHUTDOWN. WE HOPE THIS WILL HELP YOU LEARN MORE ABOUT THE DEFENSE BASE ACT AND YOUR LEGAL RIGHTS.
U.S. GOVERNMENT SHUTDOWN
HOW IT EFFECTS YOUR CASE
By now everyone will mostly likely know the U.S. federal government is in a partial shutdown. All non-essential civilian personnel have been furloughed effective October 1, 2013, and most government agencies are running on a skeleton crew, if running at all. This shutdown also includes the U.S. Department of Labor, the agency through which all Longshore and Defense Base Act claims are processed, monitored, and ultimately resolved.
The Department of Labor’s Chief Administrative Law Judge has published the following Order:
What does this mean to our clients? All trials scheduled during the shutdown have been cancelled. As the shutdown endures, trials will continue to be cancelled. Once the shutdown ends, it is unclear how the Office of Administrative Law Judges will treat cancelled trials, and any pending trial dates. In our opinion, we expect that ALL trial dates will be delayed regardless of when the government restores funding to the Department of Labor – at least through the end of the year. Although our office continues to prepare cases for trial, we expect Employer/Carriers may request continuances, using the shutdown as the excuse. The Judges will most likely oblige, to allow them time to sort through their dockets. As you can imagine, both the District Directors (who process new claims) and the Office of Administrative Law Judges (who docket and schedule claims for trial) will have a TREMENDOUS backlog of mail to open, sort, deliver, and schedule events such as Informal Conferences, approve settlements, and schedule trials.
NO SETTLEMENTS SUBMITTED TO THE COURT OR THE DISTRICT DIRECTOR AFTER OCTOBER 1, 2013 WILL BE APPROVED UNTIL THE SHUTDOWN ENDS. There simply is no one in the offices to open the mail. Once funding is restored and the Department of Labor employees return to work, the approval process will resume, but may be very, very slow. Another consequence of this shutdown is the reluctance of Employer/Carriers to discuss settling a case. Without an approval mechanism in place, the Employer/Carriers are putting most settlement discussions on hold.
ANY SETTLEMENTS SUBMITTED BEFORE SEPTEMBER 30, 2013 MAY BE DEEMED APPROVED. Federal regulations deem settlements automatically approved if not specifically disapproved within 30 days of receipt by the District Director or the Administrative Law Judge. 20 C.F.R. §702.243. It is our office’s policy to track and urge Employer/Carriers, who have submitted settlements before September 30, 2013, to issue payment within the timeframes set forth in the applicable statutes and regulations. By the 30th day after submission, the Employer/Carrier has 10 days to issue payment. This is a gray area, however, and without proof of delivery to the District Director or the Administrative Law Judge (because no one is working in the mail rooms to receive certified mail), Employer/Carriers may argue the settlement documents have not officially been “delivered” to start the 30 day timeframe.
Again, it is our policy to urge the Employer/Carriers to treat settlements in this gray area as submitted the date they were mailed, to ensure our clients are paid, and to avoid any possible penalty issues the insurance company may incur.
We know this partial government shutdown is a major inconvenience to our clients. Our office is doing everything we can to make sure each and every case is prepared and ready to move forward once the federal government re-opens the Department of Labor. You can help us by continuing to keep our office up to date with your medical care, submission of reimbursements and mileage forms, and any changes to your address or telephone number.
We look forward to answering any questions you may have during this difficult time.