DBA Attorneys Explain How to Appeal a Defense Base Act Denial
If a contractor for the U.S. military has suffered an accident on the job, or a work-related injury or illness, they have one year from the time of the injury to file a Defense Base Act Claim with the Department of Labor. Once you file your claim, one of 3 things will happen:
- The insurer may approve full benefits, which the employee will receive within a few weeks or months of the injury.
- The insurance adjuster may request additional documentation and/or challenges certain aspects of the DBA claim.
- The insurer might outright deny the claim at the DLHWC level, in which case an Appeal must be filed.
In this article, the experienced and specialized attorneys at the Law Office of Cantrell Green help civilian contractors understand what to do at each of these three steps.
When do You Need an Attorney for a Defense Base Act Case?
You are allowed to have a DBA attorney at any stage of this process. Having an experienced Defense Base Act attorney from the beginning can improve – and speed up – the employee’s chances of having their DBA claim approved from the start, so they don’t have to wait unnecessarily long for benefits.
If the insurance adjuster challenges the DBA claim and requests additional documentation, a Defense Base Act attorney can also swiftly gather the needed information – as well as submit it in the proper form – to speed up the approval process.
And, if the civilian contractor’s DBA claim is denied, they should contact a specialized Defense Base Act attorney immediately to file the Appeal. The DBA appeals process can be extensive and complicated – so having the right Defense Base Act attorney can improve a claimant’s chances of approval at earlier appeal stages.
The Defense Base Act Office of Administrative Law Judges Hearing
Remember all DBA cases start at the Division of Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation (DLHWC). But once a dispute arises – from a denied medical benefit to a total claim denial – either side may request a hearing with the Office of Administrative Law Judges (OALJ). This is done by submitting a form called the LS-18, Prehearing Statement.
The OALJ “docketing process” (getting on the hearing schedule) could take up to 2 months or longer. Then the actual trial – called a “formal hearing” – will typically not take place for another 4 to 6 months. So, it may take from 5 months to a year from the time the OALJ hearing is requested until the time that trial occurs.
Preparing for a Defense Base Act Appeal
Once the case is docketed, both sides begin “discovery” – which is the process of gathering information from the other side. The claimant will usually be asked to answer a long list of detailed written questions, called interrogatories. They will also be required to produce detailed documentation and records – and will typically have to take part in a deposition where they will have to answer several questions in person under oath. The DBA claimant is also often required to undergo multiple examinations and evaluations.
This is where the services of a skilled and specialized Defense Base Act attorney are essential. The worker’s attorney can file motions, collect and compile documentation, conduct investigations, depose witnesses and experts, and get the case prepared for trial.
During this process the attorneys for each side will usually exchange settlement demands – that is, try to negotiate terms and dollar amounts that both parties agree on. In some cases, they may go before a “mediator”. But if a settlement cannot be reached, then the matter proceeds to the scheduled appeals trial (formal hearing) before the Administrative Law Judges.
What Happens at a Defense Base Act Appeal Hearing
At the appeals trial (formal hearing) the attorneys for both sides will present evidence to support their position. The injured worker will be asked to “take the stand” and testify about their injury or illness, what caused it, and how it affects their life now.
Other topics argued before the judge during the trial will typically include the worker’s medical treatment and their ability to engage in employment. Both parties may also call medical and vocational experts to the stand, to provide opinion testimony. The administrative law judge is much like any judge in presiding over the formal hearing – they will accept evidence, rule on motions and objections, and weigh the credibility of testimony.
Unlike the trials one sees on TV or in the movies, formal DBA appeal hearings are conducted in a very civilized manner – without dramatics, shouting, or ‘surprise witnesses.’
Once the Defense Base Act Appeals trial is finished, it can take a long time to receive the administrative law judge’s decision (“ruling”). The OALJ website officially says that it takes about 5 months. But in the experience of our specialized Defense Base Act attorneys, we have seen that the facts and the complexity of a DBA case will greatly determine the length of the wait for the judge to deliver their opinion. Our DBA attorneys have seen judge’s decisions take anywhere from 3 months to as long as a year.
Defense Base Act Appeals Attorneys
The highly specialized and knowledgeable Defense Base Act attorneys at Cantrell Green are committed to ensuring that every injured or disabled civilian contractor obtains the benefits he or she has earned. We have successfully filed hundreds of Defense Base Act appeals and initial applications – and our DBA attorneys have obtained millions of dollars in benefits in over four decades of serving injured workers.
Call Cantrell Green today – or fill out the short form on this page to schedule a FREE CONSULTATION with one of our skilled and experienced Defense Base Act appeals Attorneys.
Free Consultation | Defense Base Act Appeals Attorney: 800-964-8047