In September 2017 the Caribbean and parts of the U.S. mainland were hit by Hurricanes Irma and Maria. Puerto Rico was hit particularly hard, resulting in a near total loss of water, electricity, telecommunications, and transportation systems. At the time of the hurricanes, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico had approximately 3.3 million people. Every single person was affected by the storms, prompting one of the longest and largest domestic federal disaster responses in U.S. history.
To help facilitate the recovery efforts, FEMA and other government agencies awarded millions of dollars in contracts to assisting in the recovery and rebuilding effort. Companies awarded these U.S. government contracts are required to secure insurance for their workers under the Defense Base Act. According to Department of Labor Industry Notice No. 169, October 15, 2018, “The Defense Base Act (DBA) requires private contractors performing work under a U.S. government contract to purchase DBA insurance to cover their employees working in Puerto Rico.” The insurance applies to U.S. workers, local workers, and foreign national workers in Puerto Rico.
As you might expect, the rebuilding effort in Puerto Rico is quite dangerous, particularly for linemen restoring the electrical grid and other workers repairing the Commonwealth’s infrastructure. When injuries occur, workers should report them immediately to a supervisor and seek medical care. The process for filing and pursuing a Defense Base Act claim for injuries arising in Puerto Rico is the same as DBA claims in other overseas areas – report an injury, seek medical care, and ensure a claim is filed timely with the Department of Labor. A consultation with an attorney can help you navigate this process.
Barnett, Lerner, Karsen, Frankel, & Castro, P.A. is well suited to assist people in Puerto Rico due to our primary location in Fort Lauderdale, Florida and our Spanish-speaking attorneys and staff members. If you or someone you know was injured working under a U.S. government contract in Puerto Rico, you may contact our office for a free consultation. We can also be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you prefer to speak directly to one of our experienced attorneys, please feel free to call us at 954-920-7400.