A little over a year into his presidency, Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani became the first leader of a Persian Gulf nation to meet with President Joe Biden when he arrived in the U.S. capital in January 2022.
Biden asked al-Thani if hsi government would be willing to divert natural gas away from existing customers to Europe if a Russia-Ukraine conflict disrupts supply. Reportedly, he would be willing to do so, if the United States did the asking. Qatar controls two-thirds of a vast natural gas field under the Persian Gulf. Qatar, the headquarters of the U.S. Central Command, is one of the most reliable American allies in the region. “Our relationship with the United States has been strong for a long time” because we “can help, support, share views and deliver,” remarked one Qatari official.
Al-Thani also plans to speak with Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin about a stalled Qatari purchase of armed drones. Meetings with other officials are on the agenda, as well.
Situation in Qatar
Foreign expatriates outnumber native Qataris by about eight to one. So, although things are mostly quiet in Qatar most of the time, the situation could change rapidly. That is especially true since most of these expats are used to living in plural democracies that guarantee basic freedoms. For all intents and purposes, Qatar is one of the few remaining absolute monarchies in the world.
Nevertheless, Qatar is one of the most open Gulf Coast countries. In the 1990s, Emir Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani launched the still-controversial Al Jazeera television network. He also endorsed female suffrage. 29 women ran for a seat in the National Assembly in 2021, but none of them won. Furthermore, the Catholic Church became legal in 2008. These things may not seem like much to us. But in the traditional Arab world, they are earth-shattering.
Qatar has strategic importance, as well. As mentioned, the emirate controls two-thirds of the world’s largest natural gas field. Since natural gas pipeline technology has improved so much since the 1990s, Qatar can send this fuel almost anywhere in the world almost overnight.
Militarily, Qatar was an important Coalition staging area during the 1991 Persian Gulf War. Since then, it has become one of the closest American allies in the region. Qatar was an even more important staging area during the Iraq War. Many of the American assets deployed there remain in place. More recently, the Qataris furnished weapons to American-backed Syrian rebels, partnered with NATO during its military operations in Libya, and hosted many of the U.S.-Taliban peace talks which eventually ended the Afghanistan War.
Not everyone in Qatar is happy about this pro-American stance. In 2005, a suicide bomber killed a British schoolteacher at a Doha theater. The bomber was an Egyptian national with ties to al Qaeda. Observers and officials worry that there may be other disaffected expats in Qatar.
Construction Contractors in Qatar
The Iraq War is over, but tensions with Iran and China are simmering. In the event of a conflict, Qatar would probably reprise its role as an American staging area. To keep pace with these changing needs, American military facilities in Qatar need constant updates. The DoD has construction engineers, like the Seabees. But these groups are more well-suited for combat projects, like building temporary facilities under fire. For projects like runway expansion and barracks renovation, the DoD relies almost exclusively on contractors.
Construction work is inherently dangerous. It is especially dangerous in Qatar. As mentioned, most people are expats. Traditional monarchies like Qatar usually have little regard for such people. Additionally, workplace safety laws, like the ones in the United States, are nonexistent in Qatar. As a result, various construction injuries are common, such as:
- Falls: These injuries, which could be a fall from a height or a slip-and-fall, are usually related to a lack of safety precautions. Things like rails and harnesses could prevent most or all falls. Instead, these incidents are usually the leading cause of work-related deaths at construction sites.
- Struck By: If Bill is standing next to Ted when he drops a hammer on Ted’s foot, the resulting injury is minimal. If Bill is standing four stories above Ted when he drops a hammer, the resulting injury is most likely catastrophic. Furthermore, thin hard hats offer little protection against head injuries in such situations.
- Caught Between: Similar lack-of-protection issues affect caught between injuries. Typically, a pedestrian is “caught between” a heavy construction vehicle and a fixed object, like a retaining wall. Making matters worse, many workers who are behind the wheel have little experience driving these machines.
- Electrocution: Frequently, construction contractors speak a number of different languages, especially in high-expat population areas like Qatar. These individuals often cannot read Arabic warning signs about live wires. The energy that passes through these wires is hotter than the surface of the sun.
Since 2010, when FIFA awarded the 2022 World Cup Finals to Qatar, roughly 6,500 migrant construction workers have died on the job.
Injury Compensation Available
Construction injury victims are usually entitled to compensation for their lost wages and medical bills, even if they were partially at fault for the accident. However, the Defense Base Act insurance company does not simply give these benefits away.
Strict time deadlines usually apply in these cases. Reporting deadlines are usually not a problem in the aforementioned trauma injury cases. Even after a relatively minor incident, most victims see doctors and file reports. Occupational disease claims, like breathing problems or joint problems, are different. Most people do not see doctors the first time they feel elbow pain. So, by the time they file reports, the claims deadline has passed.
Normally, these victims still have legal options, thanks to the delayed discovery rule. However, the claim is much more complex.
Additionally, injured contractors do not have to see a company doctor. In most cases, they may see the doctor of their choice. So, their medical bills are often higher, mostly because a company doctor only does the minimum necessary.
As a result, most DBA claims do not settle quickly. Instead, they proceed to a settlement conference. A third-party mediator reviews the medical records and other paperwork in the file. Then, the mediator tries to facilitate a settlement between the two sides.
Since this conference happens so early in the process, it rarely succeeds. So, most claims proceed to a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge.
An ALJ hearing is basically a private, non-jury trial. The ALJ, who serves as both legal referee and fact finder, is usually a Department of Labor employee or contractor. So, the ALJ is reasonably independent. Furthermore, at this hearing, lawyers may challenge evidence, introduce evidence, and make legal arguments. This combination usually encourages DBA insurance companies to settle these claims on victim-friendly terms.
For more information about DBA benefits, contact Barnett, Lerner, Karsen, Frankel & Castro, P.A.