March 2015 Newsletter


We are proud to announce our website has undergone an extensive upgrade, and it is now available online! We worked closely with our web designers to produce a fresh web experience, integrating many new behind-the-scenes enhancements that allow visitors an opportunity to follow us on social media, read our blogs, and read our Facebook and Forum Feeds. Visitors are still able to send us a message directly through the website and hire the firm online with a streamlined application process. If you use a smartphone or tablet, you can pin the website to your home page, too!

The new website also offers information on the Defense Base Act and other maritime laws, refreshed biographies on the attorneys and staff members in the firm, and links to informational videos on YouTube. We also provide links to various forms commonly used in DBA and Longshore claims to make the legal process easier for you, including LS-203 Claims for Compensation, LS-200 Report of Earnings, and medical evaluation forms for your doctors. We believe this new website can answer many of your questions and help make the claims process a little easier for you.

Success Stories

D.S. v. Mantech International and Zurich American Insurance Company, 2013-LDA-00160 (Feb. 27, 2015).

Mr. Brian Karsen of the firm recently secured an Order awarding benefits to our client, a MRAP mechanic, for a cardiological injury. The Employer/Carrier completely denied that our client’s injuries were caused or aggravated in any manner by his work activities, and refused to provide medical treatment and pay compensation benefits. Our client’s physician, with whom he treated through his own health insurance during the pendency of the litigation, testified that the specific physical demands of his position and the mental stress of the work environment aggravated and accelerated underlying cardiovascular disease. This led to the onset of symptoms and the need for a medical evacuation to the U.S. – and ultimately emergency heart surgery. Mr. Karsen was also able to obtain testimony from the Employer/Carrier’s retained medical expert acknowledging that our client’s work activities and environment could have placed increased demands on the heart, and which could have further led to the development of the specific symptoms requiring emergency medical evacuation. In addition to the medical issues, vocational issues were addressed at the trial in Washington, D.C. and, ultimately, Judge Daniel F. Solomon awarded our client permanent compensation benefits at the maximum rate for the rest of his life. In doing so, the Judge accepted the evidence developed by Mr. Karsen and the opinions presented by our retained vocational specialist, while specifically rejecting the vocational evidence presented by the Employer/Carrier.

Lessons Learned: In this case, the Claimant had pre-existing coronary artery disease that was not causing any problems before he went to work in Afghanistan, and he was able to pass a pre-deployment physical exam. However, his continued work in a war zone, exposed to physical exertion and mental stress, aggravated or accelerated his cardiac condition, leading to symptoms that required medical care. The Claimant was not alleging the employment caused the coronary artery disease – but rather the employment aggravated or accelerated this condition, resulting in various symptoms (chest pain, shortness of breath, and left arm pain) requiring medical care and surgery. The lesson to be learned is a pre-existing condition may be compensable under the Defense Base Act if the employment in any manner aggravates that medical condition, or accelerates the need for medical care for that condition.

E.C. v. Exelis Systems Corp. and Zurich American Ins. Co., 2014-LDA-00609 (Mar. 5, 2015).

In a recent case tried by Mr. Brian Karsen, the Judge awarded ongoing medical benefits for a neck injury the Claimant suffered overseas. However, the Judge denied a specific request for authorization of neck surgery recommended by our client’s treating physician. All of the Claimant’s treatment was in Kuwait, and the only medical evidence available consisted of the Kuwaiti medical records. In denying the recommended surgery by the Claimant’s treating doctor, the Judge found the Kuwaiti medical records were inadequate to support the surgical recommendation, because the records did not thoroughly document and explain the diagnostic test results or the conservative treatment exhausted prior to the surgical recommendation. Although the treating physician provided one medical report summarizing these issues, there were no contemporaneous medical records prepared by the medical professionals to support the summary. Moreover, the Claimant’s treating doctor refused to cooperate with our office or his own patient, refusing to prepare any further reports, sit for deposition, or even have a telephone conference. Without medical records created at the time of the diagnostic tests and conservative treatment, the Judge found the treating doctor’s summary insufficient to support the medical necessity of neck surgery.

Lessons Learned: It is imperative to have thorough medical records, not only outlining the opinions of the medical professionals, but also to have records that document the treatment history at the time of the medical care. These records also must justify why the testing and treatment is medically necessary and related to your work injury. Many foreign doctors do not keep records in the same way American doctors do, and it is clear certain Judges will not give any leeway for this when weighing the evidence. Lastly, it is imperative your doctors cooperate with the legal process. Many doctors only want to practice medicine, and refuse to participate in litigation. You must be aware of this early on, and you must work with your doctors so they know their assistance may be necessary to ensure benefits are paid – including their own bills!