Frequently Asked Questions
Questions about the Defense Base Act and their Answers
If I am injured due to an accident or occupational disease (i.e. repetitive stress, bacterial infection, etc) what do I do to protect my right to compensation under the DBA?
- The law states that you must notify your employer within 30 days of the accident of your injury. A claim for compensation must be filed with the U.S. Department of Labor within one (1) year of the accident or last payment of compensation disability benefits.
If I am injured overseas, what are my rights with respect to medical treatment?
- You are entitled to initial free choice of physician, which means either overseas or in the U.S., you are entitled to be treated by a doctor or your choice. You do not have to be treated by physician chosen by the employer or insurance company. The employer/insurance company does, however, have the right to have you examined periodically by a doctor of its choice. If you wish to change treating doctors, then you do need authorization from the employer/carrier to change doctors.
How long will I receive disability benefits?
- You receive temporary disability benefits as long as you are unable to work as verified by your physician and you are under active medical care. Once the doctor determines that further treatment will not improve your condition (maximum medical improvement), then a determination is made whether your injury has resulted in any permanent disability, and if so, the extent of such disability.
What if I am unable to return to work?
- If it is determined that you are unable to resume your duties at work, compensation benefits must be continued to be paid by the insurance company. The burden is on the employer/insurance company to offer you a lighter job at the same company or to show that there is suitable alternative work available to you within your physical or mental restrictions within a reasonable geographic area of your residence.
What compensation benefits will be paid to me if I cannot return to work?
- If you are disabled from any job, even light or sedentary work, you are entitled to permanent total disability benefits to be paid at your weekly rate of compensation.If you cannot return to your regular job but can perform light or sedentary work, and the injury is to the head, neck, shoulder, back, hip or internal injuries you will be paid permanent partial disability benefits if the alternate job pays less than what you were earning on the job when you were injured.
If I return to my regular job, am I entitled to any further compensation benefits?
- If your injury has left permanent effects to your arms, hands, fingers, legs, feet, toes, eyes, or hearing, you are entitled to additional benefits based upon the percentage of disability to that body part or system. For instance, 10% loss of use of the foot equals 20.5 weeks of compensation times your compensation rate.
How long will it take to either settle my case or conclude the case at a trial?
- The time period varies from case to case and depends upon a variety of factors. If you are disabled and the insurance company disagrees on your disability, the case may have to be heard by a Judge who will decide the issue. Such a procedure would naturally take longer than if the parties agreed on the extent of your disability.
How long am I entitled to medical treatment for my injury?
- Medical treatment, which is reasonable and necessary, is available for life, unless you enter a settlement and give up your right to future medical benefits.
If I live in a state other than the New York/New Jersey area where your office is located, will that affect your handling of my case?
- No, in fact, most of my DBA cases have involved clients from other states around the country. I have traveled to those states both to take depositions of witnesses and to represent my clients before Administration Law Judges. Where such attendance is necessary in contested case which is successfully concluded, my fee and expenses are paid by the insurance company. If my client is not awarded benefits for any reason, there is no fee.
Is the handling of DBA cases a specialized practice?
- Yes, compared with other specialties, there are few attorneys who handle theses cases. I have been representing DBA clients and clients covered under other federal compensation laws since 1976.