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Civilian Contractor Injury Claims & The Defense Base Act

| Jon Montagna |

Civilian Contractors serve our country during and after war and conflict, and they are often at great risk when providing services to support American efforts overseas.  They have tough jobs in zones of danger, often on foreign bases, where they worry about both workplace safety and whether their workplace is safe from outside dangers.    The Defense Base Act (DBA) provides enhanced coverage and workers’ compensation for civilian contractors working in zones of danger and risk, and knowing the provisions made for DBA claims, benefits and awards is critical to workers who have been injured in danger zones.

The Defense Base Act, contained in US Code 42 Chapter 11 provides “compensation for disability, or death to persons employed at military, air and naval bases outside the United States” (42 U.S. Code 11).  Administered by the United States Department of Labor, the Defense Base Act of 1941 is an extension of the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act, also known as the Jones Act, of 1927.  The DBA places stringent requirements upon the federal government to deliver compensation “in respect to the injury or death of any employee engaged in any employment” by, or as, a civilian contractor at a foreign base (42 US Code Chapter 11§1651).  Civilian employees are usually afforded DBA compensation beyond the normal parameters of workers’ comp coverage, in keeping with both provisions for Defense Base Act claims and Jones Act claims.

Civilian Employees in danger zones and their Defense Base Act Attorneys must be prepared to effectively delve through the DBA’s authorized compensation and determine how DBA awards can be obtained.  This is where gray areas develop in DBA cases and a substantial degree of “interrelated knowledge is necessary to sort out the issues, identify responsible parties, and pursue” the civilian employee’s compensation case aggressively.  Gregory E. Camden of Montagna Klein Camden, LLP further explains that the insurance companies responsible for paying DBA claims to civilian contractors “may not be sufficiently aware of the extent of your injuries, the side effects, or your ongoing needs.”  This can lead to the absence of proper Defense Base Act awards and benefits.

Defense Base Act Attorneys play a critical role in supporting civilian contractors who have been injured and are pursuing their Defense Base Act claims, which have turned into DBA cases.  Many civilian contractors who are serving our country abroad are knowledgeable about their rights and benefits as civilian employees and citizens.  The Defense Base Act draws from and extends various legal rights and provisions beyond the scope of conventional workers’ compensation attorneys.  This can place civilian contractors in a legally disadvantaged position when attempting to find the right DBA case attorney to sift through co-related sections of US Code.  A law firm with strong knowledge and a history of practice in all areas of law related to the Defense Base Act will help any injured civilian contractors obtain their deserved DBA award.

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