Below are 10 tips that will help injured contractors with their claims and hopefully answer some questions about the Defense Base Act.
1. You do not have to be actually physically working at the time of your injury for the Defense Base Act to apply if you are deployed to a war zone, like Iraq or Afghanistan. For example, you are covered if you slip in a shower or are injured lifting weights. You have 24 hour coverage. As soon as possible after your injury, document the event - make notes and take photographs and retain these until you have spoken with a Defense Base Act attorney.
2. As soon as you are injured, immediately report the injury to your supervisor. I suggest that you inform your supervisor in person if you can, but also e-mail or fax him/her and keep a copy of the e-mail or fax. This way there can be no dispute by the insurance company that you indeed notified your employer.
3. Keep track of all your wage records, including all bonuses. If you have not done so prior to being injured, gather all your wage records immediately.
4. Make sure you treat with the doctor of your choosing. Do not treat with a doctor recommended by the insurance company. You are entitled to the doctor of your choice. I would suggest going to the best doctor close to your home.
5. Make a list of all who witnessed your injury. Include his or her home and cellular numbers, addresses and e-mails. It is not uncommon to have difficulty finding these witnesses once you are back in the U.S.
6. Keep a diary of all the medical treatment you received overseas before returning home, including the names of each hospital and doctor, and a summary of the treatment received.
7. Obtain copies of all medical records from all overseas medical providers as well as copies of any x-rays, MRIs, etc. It is not easy to obtain these records overseas,especially from foreign hospitals.
8. Be truthful and upfront with all doctors. Your claim may be dismissed if the Department of Labor Administrative Law Judge finds that you have lied. Having a previous injury does not mean that your employer is not responsible for your injury. They are responsible even if the injury overseas exacerbated your previous injury. Explain to your doctor the type of work you did overseas, that you must wear body armor, carry weapons, etc. Most doctors do not understand the type of work you did overseas.
9. Do not allow the insurance company's "nurse case manager" to be in the examining room when you are being treated by your physician. Tell them to wait in the waiting room. Remember, they are paid by the insurance company.
10. Contact an attorney, or have a family member contact an attorney, as soon as you are injured for free legal advice. Attorneys practicing in Defense Base Act claims can represent military contractors throughout the U.S.
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