Filed Your Claim – What Now??
Let’s say you have been injured overseas on a job for a U.S. contractor. You are not sure the Defense Base Act (DBA) applies to your claim. Don’t be misled – this law does not just apply to work performed on military bases. The name is a little confusing! This law actually covers a wide range of overseas employment situations. In order to be eligible for compensation benefits under the Defense Base Act, the claim must arise in relation to a contract with the United States to perform public work overseas, public work constituting government-related construction projects, work connected with the national defense, or employment under a service contract supporting either activity.
You have received initial medical attention, because an employer MUST respond to a request for treatment when they are notified of the injury. You do have the right to treatment from a doctor of your choice, but in an emergency situation, where you may not be able to choose, that is not always possible. If your employer chooses emergency medical treatment for you, once you regain your faculties, you have the right to choose your own doctor.
You have filed the initial paperwork (LS-201 Notice of Employee’s Injury or Death) with your employer within the 30 days required. (There is additional time for hearing loss and occupational diseases) What is next?
The employer is responsible for notifying its insurance carrier about the injury and filing another form, LS 202 Employers First Report of Injury, with the Office of Workers Compensation Programs (OWCP) in the appropriate district based on where in the world the injury took place. This must be filed within 10 days of notice of the injury, and there are fines for not filing in a timely manner.
Further, this form may be filed electronically, so in this day and age, geographical location should not prevent or delay filing of that report. The OWCP monitors payment of compensation and medical treatment to make sure the employer and insurance company are in compliance with the law. The OWCP also helps to resolve disputes over claims, so that settlements may be reached without formal litigation.
Here is where you must file some additional paperwork, and where the road to a successful claim can become treacherous. You must also file a written claim for compensation, LS 203 Employee’s Claim for Compensation, within one year of the date of injury or last payment of compensation, whichever is later. (Again, a longer time allowed for certain occupational disease claims). At this point it is a good idea to consult with knowledgeable and experienced DBA attorneys. They will help you obtain the maximum benefits.
Wage replacement compensation is not paid for the first 3 days of your disability. If the disability continues for more than 14 days, then compensation will be paid retroactively from the date of the injury. Generally, wage replacement benefits allows for payment of 2/3 of the worker’s pre-injury average weekly wage. This payment is subject to a maximum of 200% of the National Average Weekly Wage as determined by the Secretary of the Department of Labor. For DBA claims, there is no minimum weekly compensation rate.
In the event of permanent partial disability, compensation is paid either at a rate of 2/3 loss of earnings, or based on a schedule depending upon the type and severity of the injury. Temporary total disability is paid at 2/3 of the claimant’s pre-injury wages, subject to the weekly maximum discussed above. Temporary partial disability results in compensation of 2/3 of lost wages.
Total permanent disability can result in you not being able to work in any employment at all, not just the type of employment at the time you were injured. For total permanent disability, the benefit continues as long as the disability continues. There are annual adjustments to this amount.
There is also the possibility of vocational rehabilitation for those permanently disable employees who would not be able to return to some form of employment without assistance. Currently, these services are only available to permanently disabled employees living in the United States.
Experienced DBA Attorneys
The nuts and bolts of a claim are laid out here, but there is often much more to successfully making a claim under the DBA. If the claim is disputed, it can take a long time to obtain your benefits. (We will talk about that in another post soon!) If you have a potential claim, it will serve you and your family well to talk to experienced DBA attorneys. They have the knowledge to guide you through this difficult time with much less stress and worry on your part. They know the laws, the procedures, the manner in which claims are processed. They are your advocates, not the employer’s and certainly not the insurance company’s!