7 Key Skills for Aspiring LawyersNovember 28, 2021
Virtual law firmsNovember 29, 2021
Military members aren’t the only people who work to protect the United States. The U.S. government also contracts with private companies that send civilian employees overseas to work on U.S. military bases or in other roles. Recent estimates show that there are approximately 50,000 defense contractors working overseas. Often, these civilian contractors work in dangerous settings, such as warzones and hostile environments. However, they lack military benefits in the event of a workplace injury or death.
What Is the Defense Base Act?
To protect civilian defense contractors, Congress enacted the Defense Base Act in 1941, which functions like workers’ compensation. A Defense Base Act lawyer uses this legal mechanism to pursue compensation for injured or killed civilian contractors and their families. An injured worker or grieving family members may feel overwhelmed when a workplace injury occurs overseas. A skilled attorney can assist the worker and their family during this time, directing them through the necessary steps to get medical treatment and recover financial losses.
Evaluating Whether the Worker Has a Claim
After meeting with a potential client and listening to their story, a Defense Base Act attorney evaluates whether a client has a claim under the act based on these criteria:
- The person was seriously injured or killed on the job;
- The person was working outside the U.S. for a private employer on a government contract;
- The person immediately reported the injury to a supervisor; and
- The person is a U.S. citizen or resident, host country national, or third-country national.
Next, the attorney gathers evidence to support the worker’s claim. Accident reports, medical evaluations, witness statements, and photographs all help validate a claim. The injured worker should bring all available evidence to the lawyer, who will then investigate to fill in any gaps.
Determining Compensation the Worker Should Request
Then, the attorney calculates the injured worker’s financial losses to request compensation from the employer’s insurance. A Defense Base Act lawyer seeks the following compensation for injured workers:
- Medical treatment expenses at the worker’s choice of physician,
- Lifetime disability benefits for permanent injuries, and
- Vocational rehabilitation to train the injured worker for a new job.
If a contractor is killed on the job, a Defense Base Act lawyer can help the family file a claim for:
- Burial expenses,
- Spousal death benefit, and
- Child death benefit.
The deceased worker’s spouse or child can recover up to two-thirds of the worker’s average weekly earnings as a death benefit.
Appealing Unfair Insurance Company Decisions
Ideally, the employer’s insurance company will cooperate and quickly send the employee compensation. However, some insurance companies use stall tactics or deceptive strategies to avoid paying claims. If the insurance company tries to avoid responsibility for payment, a Defense Base Act attorney can refer the claim to the Office of Administrative Law Judges (OALJ) for a formal hearing. If the OALJ’s decision does not favor the employee, the attorney can appeal the claim to the Benefits Review Board (BRB) and then, depending on where the claim is administered, to the U.S. District Court or the U.S. Court of Appeals.
Ultimately, through the U.S. legal process, a Defense Base Act attorney seeks to recover financial compensation for an injured worker or for the family of a worker who was killed while performing services for the government. These defense contractors assume great risk to protect the citizens of the United States, and a skilled attorney can help workers obtain the payment they deserve for injuries received on this dangerous job.