The Defense Base Act provides workers’ compensation benefits to employees working for defense contractors outside the continental United States. In recent years, there have been thousands of Defense Base Act workers seriously injured in Iraq and Afghanistan. This article is by a Defense Base Act Attorney.
The DBA Is Liberally Interpreted
U.S. courts have interpreted the DBA as being “liberally construed in conformance with [the LHWCA’s] purpose, and in a way which avoids harsh and incongruous results.” However, the Defense Base Act insurance companies play a far different game.
Instead, the DBA insurance companies are allowed to “game” the system by not paying benefits and trying to force DBA claimants to settle cheap. While the case law may be liberally interpreted, the DBA procedural quagmire allows DBA carriers to stop paying benefits and effectively force DBA workers to “die on the vine.”
The DBA System of Attrition
Attrition: A wearing down or weakening of resistance, especially as a result of continuous pressure or harassment.
Under the DBA system, seriously injured DBA workers must outlast long litigation delays in order to receive the workers’ compensation benefits which the Defense Base Act provides. In essence, there is little downside to DBA insurance carriers to simply try and out-wait DBA claimants. So, time and again, seriously injured DBA claimants are forced to live years without benefits waiting for a trial and an Order compelling the DBA insurance company to provide DBA benefits.
The system is seriously broken. However, seriously injured DBA workers need to know the reality which they are facing. It is a system of attrition.
Your Long Term Strategy
In order to prevail, you must develop a three part strategy. First, you need to develop the evidence needed to prevail over the issues which the DBA carrier is denying your claim. Focus on why the DBA carrier is not providing you benefits. Usually, but not always, the DBA carrier will controvert your DBA claim and not provide benefits over some element of the evidence.
Sometimes, this strategy will either persuade the DBA carrier to reinstate your benefits or offer a more fair lump-sum settlement.
Second, you need to develop a strategy on how you and your family are going to survive over the long haul. That is, how to win the war of attrition. Don’t think that just because you have a legitimate claim that the DBA carrier is going to pay you the Defense Base Act benefits which you are entitled. Instead, you need to be planning how you are going to survive the many months without receiving any benefits.
Third, you need to have a Defense Base Act attorney that is going to advance your DBA claim as quickly as possible. That is, marshaling the evidence, requesting and then holding an emergency informal conference, getting recommendations issued, filing an LS-18, and then proceeding to trial as quickly as possible.