We Are Here To Help
The days, weeks, and months following an overseas injury can be especially stressful on injury victims and their families. While the Defense Base Act entitles workers injured overseas on U.S. government installations and federal works, these claims are often denied by the employer or their insurance company. When claims are denied, the situation may become especially dire. As injured workers lose income during recovery and medical bills pile up, the employee may be unsure of the steps to take. Fortunately, the Defense Base Act lawyers of Barnett, Lerner, Karsen, Frankel & Castro, P.A. are experienced in their practice and dedicated to their clients. Our law firm prides itself in aiding the injured in their times of need and help guide clients through every step of the process.
Filing Claims With The U.S. Department Of Labor
The first step an attorney will take while representing his or her client is filing a claim with the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL). New claims will be filed with the DOL’s Central Case Creation office in New York City. This begins the administrative process of Defense Base Act injury claim.
Defense Base Act claims are administered by the DOL’s Office of Workers’ Compensation Programs (OWCP). The OWCP will maintain records of injury and review claims to determine whether necessary benefits are paid in compliance with the Defense Base Act.
Notifying Insurance Companies
Once a claim is filed the OWCP will inform the employer’s insurance company of the claim for benefits. Then employers will have to produce documents related to the case. Documents from the employer may verify that they were aware an injury took place and medical treatment was sought. Attorneys representing injured workers will request all available documents related to the claim, to determine what the employer knew about the claim and when. Attorneys will look for documents like:
● Medical records
● Clinical reports
● Incident reports
● Correspondence between the employee and employer to help verify claims and establish timelines
Will I have to go to court for my Defense Base Act claim?
Claimants and employers have the opportunity to work out claims informally before administrative hearings begin. This is usually preferred over having to take a case all the way to an Administrative Law Judge as injured workers may be able to receive benefits sooner rather than later.
Attorneys will sit down with employers, insurance adjusters, and the other side’s attorneys to try to come to an acceptable resolution of the claim. It is usually in the best interest of all parties to resolve claims as quickly as possible, but sometimes agreements cannot be reached and the worker’s attorneys may need to take the next step.
Any party in a Defense Base Act claim filed with the DOL may request an informal hearing before a District Director to help resolve claims. The District Director makes recommendations for amicable outcomes of the claim. Informal hearings are not always mandatory and parties may request the claim be heard before an administrative law judge after a designated waiting period.
Requesting Formal Defense Base Act Hearings
When Defense Base Act claims cannot be resolved between parties, the worker and his or her attorney may file a request for the claim to be heard before the Office of Administrative Law Judges (OALJ). Once the request is granted, the claim is transferred from the OWCP to the OALJ. After about one or two months, the claim will officially be added to the court’s docket and a hearing date is set. Administrative Law Judges (ALJ) typically set hearings as their dockets are filled so there could be a substantial wait before a hearing. Once the claim is added to the ALJ’s docket, a Notice of Hearing is sent to all parties. Notice of Hearings include:
● The date of the hearing
● Instructions on the hearing
● How evidence will be presented at the hearing
● Stipulation Sheets for attorneys on both sides to lay out major issues of the case
Before the hearing, discovery is performed by attorneys on both sides. Discovery is a process by which both sides ask for and exchange information surrounding the case. Important parts of the discovery process are:
● Depositions – Each side calls witnesses in the case and asks questions of them. This testimony is taken outside of courts
● Interrogatories – Written questions submitted to each side about the case. These questions must be answered and returned
Settlement is still a possibility in Defense Base Act claims, even if informal hearings do not reap a resolution and the claim has a formal hearing date set. Courts often leave the opportunity for settlement on the table as they may view it as the best alternative to a formal hearing.
If both sides agree to attempt a settlement, they may request a meeting with a Settlement Judge. Proceedings before a Settlement Judge are court sponsored mediations. Settlement Judges are also Administrative Law Judges and must remain impartial through proceedings.
Defense Base Act Lawyers
When claims are denied or ignored by insurance claims adjusters, injured workers have legal recourse to have their case heard before Administrative Law Judges and even federal courts. Claims are complex and claimants should seek seasoned and dedicated Defense Base Act attorneys to aid them in their benefits claims.
The attorneys of Barnett, Lerner, Karsen, Frankel & Castro, P.A. have the experience and resources necessary to prosecute Defense Base Act claims and help injured workers in their times of need. Contact our office for a free consultation about your case.
At a formal Defense Base Act hearing, both sides present evidence, call witnesses, and scrutinize evidence of the claim. The ALJ presides over the case and makes decisions on procedure and what is admissible.
Any recommendations made by claims administrators or District Directors are not normally part of the record. ALJs will hear the case from the beginning and make their own decision on the claim. Claims proceedings are recorded and part of public record.
Either side unhappy with an ALJ’s ruling may file an appeal with the Benefits Review Board. After adding the case to its docket, the Benefits Review Board sets a hearing date, sends a list of procedural rules, and sets out a briefing schedule. The Benefits Review Board may affirm, reverse, or modify the ALJ’s decision on the case. The Benefits Review Board may also remand the case back to an ALJ for further hearings. Decisions by the Benefits Review Board may also be appealed in Federal District Court.