For some, the prospect of working overseas for a United States government contractor can be exciting and a great career move. There are many benefits to working as a civilian government contractor overseas. These include a higher rate of pay, good benefits, increased marketability, and depending on your station, an opportunity to see and experience different parts of the world. However, if you are considering working as a civilian government contractor overseas, there are many important things you should know in case you are injured on the job.
The Defense Base Act
If you are a civilian employed by a contractor doing business with the United States at an overseas location, the Defense Base Act provides citizens and foreign nationals with important workers’ compensation benefits in case they are injured on the job. Specifically, the Defense Base Act provides disability compensation, medical care, and vocational rehabilitation to those injured overseas and additional death benefits to the family of a civilian contractor who is killed during the course of his or her employment. Compliance with the Defense Base Act is overseen by the United States Department of Labor, Office of Workers’ Compensation Programs (OWCP), a Division of the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation. The OWCP not only enforces the mandates of the Defense Base Act, but also may be able to help you during the course of your claim in the event you do not receive the benefits to which you are entitled.
Before You Go
You need to know what workers’ compensation program provides you coverage while working overseas. You should first verify with your potential government contractor-employer that you have coverage under the Defense Base Act. Before undertaking an assignment, document the procedures for reporting an injury and make sure your family retains a copy of this information. You will need to note the name of the insurance company that must be contacted in the event of an injury, including its address and telephone number.
If You Have Been Injured on an Overseas Job
Unfortunately, being injured overseas can be the beginning of a long and complicated road to recovery and receiving the benefits you need. When injured overseas as a civilian contractor, you should contact an attorney for those injured overseas who has experience under the Defense Base Act. Regardless of your situation, you should take the following steps if you have been injured on an overseas job:
Get the Medical Attention You Need: Your first priority is getting the medical treatment you need. Getting care early can help manage your injury and prevent it from getting worse without treatment. Getting treatment early will also help document your case and the extent of your injury as you proceed with your claim. Under the Defense Base Act, you are entitled to select the medical professional of your choice when receiving the care you need.
Report Your Injury: As soon as time permits, you need to contact your government contractor-employer and follow their injury reporting procedure, which may include an incident report that describes how your injury occurred. If you have not been provided immediate care, you will need to obtain authorization to continue medical treatment from a medical professional of your choosing. If your injury persists for more than 72 hours you may be entitled to compensation for your disability. Within 30 days from the date of your injury or disability you need to provide written notice to your government contractor-employer and the OWCP. This written notice must be on form OWCP form LS 201 – Notice of Employee’s Injury or Death.
Gather Evidence to Support Your Claim: Working overseas as a civilian contractor comes with a variety of hazards depending on the environment and working conditions. These special circumstances make overseas injury claims different than other workers’ compensation and personal injury claims. The laws that protect injured overseas civilian contractors, including the Defense Base Act, can only help to the extent you have evidence to support your claim. The first step in gathering the evidence you need is to check for any protocols in place for the collecting of information related to your injury. Your employer may have certain steps that can un-complicate the process of obtaining the evidence necessary to support your claim. Second, be sure to write down the facts and details leading up the injury so that the details do not fade with time. Documenting and collecting other records can also help your case. Here are some examples of helpful information:
- Details on the location of the accident and the parties that may have witnessed your injury;
- Photographs of the injury and descriptions of related symptoms;
- A narrative description of what occurred with as much detail as possible;
- A timeline of events before and after your injury;
- A journal of your experience with pain related to your injury and the accident causing your disability;
- A list of any medications or treatments provided to you for your injury or disability; and
- The name of medical providers and facilities that have provided you care.
As is true in any case or dispute, the evidence you gather to support your injury claim will have a dramatic effect on how your case is handled and the compensation you may receive.
Contact a Defense Base Act Attorney: Besides proper medical treatment, getting skilled legal counsel will be one of the most important aspects of getting help for your injury. An experienced attorney can ease the burden of navigating your case through a complex administration and can provide you with the necessary experience in the nuances of the Defense Base Act. In the event of a dispute with your employer regarding your benefits an experienced Defense Base Act attorney will represent you in the claims process and work with the employer and the OWCP to work out a resolution that is fair to you. If you are unrepresented, you may not have the required knowledge to adequately prosecute your claim in the face of common obstacles of the claims process, including appealing any unfavorable determination before an administrative law judge, and subsequent courts of review.
How We Can Help
The Defense Base Act attorneys at Barnett, Lerner, Karsen & Frankel, P.A. are experienced advocates who know how to effectively pursue your rights as a civilian contractor working overseas. If you were injured while working for a government contractor, contact Barnett, Lerner, Karsen & Frankel, P.A. to get the advice and guidance you need so you receive the compensation you deserve.