Employees working for private companies under U.S. government contracts overseas are entitled to their own form of workers’ compensation. Most employees in the U.S. fall under an individual state’s laws, but it’s different for those working in Iraq, Afghanistan and other foreign countries where the U.S. has a presence. These employees, although working for private companies, fall under the broad category of national defense or security.
The most common examples are those working on U.S. military bases abroad. The law also includes employees working on infrastructure projects for the U.S., such as building roads and schools in war-torn areas, as well as those working for “morale” or “welfare” organizations such as the USO or American Red Cross.
What this all means is that if you are an employee in one of these categories, and you get hurt on the job, then you are entitled to certain benefits under a federal law called the Defense Base Act. This law promises injured workers coverage of medical bills, payment for lost wages, ongoing compensation for permanent injury, and death benefits for families of workers who suffer fatal work injuries. We don’t handle these cases in house, but through the network I’ve created of like-minded, hard working attorneys, I do know firms that can help with these claims.
Virtually all government contracts require employers to have Defense Base Act insurance for their employees. The employer’s insurance company pays out benefits. If you are injured doing one of the jobs that fall under this law, then you have to file a claim for benefits with the insurer. There are some strict deadlines. You generally only have one year from the date of your injury to file a claim. There are some exceptions, so check with an attorney. Also, the law requires you to notify your employer of an injury within 30 days. There is a specific form for doing this. In many cases, an injury can and should be reported immediately so medical care can be provided.
The law includes coverage of medical bills. However, there is a restriction on the number of doctors you can see. You are allowed to choose your own doctor but only once. Any referrals to specialists or physical therapy from that one doctor are allowed, but you can’t choose another primary doctor. This is meant to prevent workers from shopping around for a doctor who gives them the diagnosis they’re looking for. On the flip side, don’t let the insurance company trick you into choosing their doctor as your one choice. You don’t want a doctor who is in bed with the insurance company.
You don’t have to navigate this alone. We don’t suggest dealing with the insurance company without an attorney. The insurance company’s best interests are not the same as yours, so even if they seem nice and helpful, they can’t possibly be on your side. They make money by denying claims and turning down requests for medical treatment.
The good news is that you can hire an attorney who has a lot of experience in Defense Base Act cases, who knows how the insurance companies work and who knows the best way to ensure you’re getting all of your benefits. What’s even better is that the insurance company is the one paying for your attorney. If you have questions about whether your job and injury fit within the Defense Base Act, or if you need help finding a lawyer who is known for their success in handling these cases, whether it’s for you or a loved one, feel free to give us a call. We will do whatever we can to point you in the right direction.