Defending Those Who Defend Us®

Exclusive 5 Part Series: What is the Defense Base Act? Part 1 of 5

The Defense Base Act (“DBA”) is a federal law mandating that all U.S. Government contractors and subcontractors provide workers’ compensation insurance to their employees working overseas, no matter what nationality the worker may be. The Defense Base Act covers the following employment activities:

  • Working for private employers on U.S. military bases or on any lands used by the U.S. for military purposes outside of the United States, including those in U.S. Territories and possessions;
  • Working on public work contracts with any U.S. government agency, including construction and service contracts in connection with national defense or with war activities outside the United States;
  • Working on contracts approved and funded by the U.S. under the Foreign Assistance Act, generally providing for cash sale of military equipment, materials, and services to its allies, if the contract is performed outside of the United States;
  • Working for American employers providing welfare or similar services outside of the United States for the benefit of the Armed Forces, e.g. the USO.

If any one of the above criteria is met, all employees engaged in such employment, regardless of nationality, are covered under the Act.

The DBA provides coverage for disability, medical treatments, and death benefits to any employee injured in the course of employment and may cover death or injuries that did not occur while the employee was at work or travelling to and from the job. In other words, unlike standard workers’ compensation employment, the DBA covers employees who were killed or injured at any time while they were employed by the contractor. The DBA covers injuries and illnesses with immediate onset as well as injuries and illnesses that do not immediately cause injury but may manifest later—like psychological injuries or certain lung injuries that might be diagnosed years after the employment.

The DBA does have time limits for filing a claim – an employee has 30 days to notify the employer of injury and has one year to file a claim. Those timelines, however, do not apply to medical benefits—there are no time limits for reporting or filing a claim for medical benefit. Additionally, if the injury or illness did not have immediate onset, the timelines for reporting and filing a claim are greatly relaxed.

Why do I need an attorney?

The simple answer is that the insurance company will always try to save money on your claim—they will never pay you what you actually deserve. The insurance companies are huge, multi-national corporations with billions of dollars in assets and well-trained attorneys and adjusters whose job it is to fight your claim and pay the smallest settlement possible. Our attorneys are well versed in the DBA and we deal with the insurance companies every day. You need an expert to help you navigate your claim because your employer and the insurance company are not looking out for your best interests. Let us assist you with the process.

I can’t afford an attorney. If I hire an attorney to assist me, how will I pay my legal fees?

You can’t afford not to have an attorney because, generally speaking, the DBA requires the insurance company to pay your attorney’s fees. There are possible exceptions where the attorney’s fees might come out of your settlement, but these exceptions are very rare. In all cases, the United States Department of Labor must approve any fees for your attorney. The bottom line is simple—we will never ask you for any money to pursue your claim and if your claim fails for any reason, you owe us nothing!

If you have questions about the DBA or would like to speak with an attorney regarding a possible case, contact us today.

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