Last month, the Pentagon released a report regarding the war in Afghanistan that revealed bleak statistics – Improvised Explosive Device (IED) attacks have increased 56% since 2009, insider attacks are used with higher frequency, and 18,188 have been injured and 2,162 killed since the beginning of the war. At the end of December, an American contractor was killed at Kabul police headquarters by an inside attack, and a car bomb exploded near an American base killing 3 people and injuring civilians.
Federal law requires all U.S. government contractors and subcontractors to secure workers’ compensation insurance for their employees working overseas. The Defense Base Act (DBA) provides disability, medical, and death benefits to covered employees injured or killed in the course of employment. If you have been injured overseas, or have lost a family member employed as a contractor, and need assistance filing a claim, contact a DBA lawyer at Friedman, Rodman, & Frank, P.A. Our experienced South Florida attorneys will work to get the compensation you need during your time of hardship.
Obtaining money from a Defense Base Act insurer is not always simple and straightforward. In the recent decision from the 1st Circuit Court of Appeals, Terri Truczinskas v. Office of Workers’ Comp.Programs, et al., the widow of a contract worker was denied benefits under DBA after her husband’s death. She argued that his death resulted from working at a job that was in a “special zone of danger” in Saudi Arabia. While the DBA provides a statutory presumption in favor of the claimant receiving coverage, the presumption can be rebutted by the insurance company. In this case, the insurance company relied on evidence of suicide to overcome the presumption and deny her claim.
The widow attempted to show that the denial of the claim was unreasonable by countering with allegations that her husband could have been killed by conservative Muslims vigilantes who were offended by his cross-dressing or extra-marital affair, that he was killed by Saudis he investigated as a possible threat, or that a co-worker killed her husband after he uncovered arms smuggling. The Review Board and the Court of Appeals both thought that she did not provide enough evidence to outweigh the insurance company’s rebuttal that his actions leading to his death were outside the coverage provided.
Ultimately, to be satisfied that her husband’s death was covered by his DBA-mandated insurance, the widow needed to show that his death occurred a result of his employment in the “special zone of danger” in Saudi Arabia. She did not have to show that his death was a direct result of the danger, but that it was present. All that is required by the courts is that the “obligation or condition” of employment creates the “special zone of danger” out of which the injury arose. (See Self v. Hanson, 305 F.2d 699, 1962.)