Not every lawyer is an expert on every kind of law. While there are those who engage in a general practice, most lawyers find a few areas of law to emphasize in their practice. This makes them very experienced in those areas, and this is what you want when you need an attorney. Just as you wouldn’t want an orthopedic surgeon doing brain surgery, you wouldn’t want a general legal practitioner attempting to pursue certain specialized claims. This is particularly true for Defense Base Act claims.
Defense Base Act lawyers represent those injured or the families of those killed overseas while working for U.S. contractors. There are many, many contractors working on U.S. bases, in a foreign country providing public works projects, or somewhere working on relief efforts at the behest of the U.S. government. If you are injured, or a loved one has been killed while working overseas for one of the contractors, then compensation may be available through the Defense Base Act. These benefits are not automatic, and you may need an advocate to fight for the receipt of them. Experienced Defense Base Act attorneys are those advocates.
Why do you need an experienced Defense Base Act lawyer? At the outset, the initial proceedings are administrative in nature, and you need to have someone well versed in the rules and regulations surrounding these claims. Failure to follow the procedures exactly can result in a denial or lengthy delay of your claim, and that could be catastrophic for you or your family. It would be a shame to lose your potential benefits due to a technicality of which you were unaware.
For instance, the rules require that you give your employer notice of any injury within 30 days of the event. The law also requires you file your claim for compensation within one year of any accident. The time limit is extended for certain occupational diseases to two years after the injury or exposure. However, especially with occupational diseases, such as those from exposure to asbestos or environmental toxins, the problems don’t necessarily manifest until much later than two years. Now what? An experienced Defense Base Act attorney will know how to proceed in these situations.
Also, you will be dealing with your employer’s DBA insurance carrier, and this can sometimes be difficult. The carrier may take issue with the extent of the injury or the duration of the injury, and not want to pay the full amounts to which you are entitled. Disputes often arise between the parties, which must be settled by a Federal Administrative Law judge. Your Defense Base Act attorney will make sure the insurance company is doing all that it is supposed to do under the Act and represent you in any hearings that are held to resolve the disputes.
A final thought: in most cases, if a dispute has arisen between the claimant and insurance company which requires retaining an attorney, the insurance company must pay the attorney fees if the attorney is successful in obtaining benefits for the claimant. If no benefits are obtained, generally speaking, the attorney does not earn a fee. This is not the case for every claim or even every dispute, but the fee-shifting mechanism is in place for this to happen.
If you are caught in the maze of pursuing a claim under the Defense Base Act, and you think you may need professional legal help, the attorneys at Barnett, Lerner, Karsen & Frankel, P.A. are experienced, dedicated Defense Base Act lawyers.