What is the Value of a Defense Base Act Case?
Our Defense Base Act attorneys are often asked the “value” of a particular injury that is compensable under the DBA. In this article our experienced DBA lawyers explain how DBA cases are valued – and why every case is different.
Comparing Apples to Apples in Defense Base Act Cases
The Defense Base Act, which became law in 1941, is an extension of the federal workers’ compensation program, expanding coverage to persons employed at US defense bases overseas. It is designed to provide medical treatment and compensation to employees of defense contractors injured in the course of their employment. When an event happens such as a large-scale accident, a bombing or mortar attack that effects multiple parties, the details of a settlement or payout become topics of conversation amongst members of these tight-knit communities. It is common for injured employees to hear of their colleagues’ DBA settlements and try to compare them to their own claim for Defense Base Act injuries.
No Formula for Defense Base Act Settlements
Unlike standard workers’ compensation settlements, Defense Base Act awards are not based on a set formula, but rather, take into consideration a number of variables that make comparing settlements nearly impossible for the lay person. DBA settlements are based on, among other things, a worker’s education, job description and responsibilities, and level of experience.
Ability + Education + Job + Geography + Injury= Your Claim Amount
Let’s look at a hypothetical situation. Imagine that two people are working on the same jobsite when an explosion occurs. Both have severe injuries that require amputation of a leg. It would seem logical that each would receive the same settlement. However, under the DBA, they could conceivably receive a substantially different amount of compensation. Let’s say that one is an attorney providing legal advice, and the other is a mechanic. The variables now include different people with different educational backgrounds, skill sets and job descriptions.
In our hypothetical, let’s say both employees received essentially identical medical treatment, including a prosthetic leg. The DBA also considers how the employee’s earning capacity is affected. For instance, the prosthetic leg is not likely to severely change the attorney’s capacity to practice law, where it would certainly do so for the mechanical worker. The claim adjuster may argue that the attorney’s earning ability has not changed, and therefore no settlement is warranted; however, the mechanical worker, who may have no other marketable skills, and possibly limited education, may, as a result of the accident, have no means of earning a living. Therefore, his or her payout would be far greater than the attorney’s, whose payout could well be zero.
Geography is another consideration. In our hypothetical, the attorney can practice law anywhere he or she is licensed to do so. The mechanic, however, is limited to jobs that require his or her specific qualification and training.
Each Defense Base Act Case is Highly Individualized
Comparing settlements under the DBA is like comparing apples to baseballs. An individual who gets a sizeable settlement may have received it because he or she has limited skills and/or education, skills that are not easily transferable, and live in an area where there are no jobs for which the employee is qualified that pay an equivalent rate of compensation. Another individual who receives essentially the same injury in the same incident, and receives virtually the same medical treatment, may receive little or nothing because his or her earning capacity is not diminished by the post-accident disability.
The one thing that is clear is that the DBA is a very complicated system. This is why it is so important to discuss your Defense Base Act case with an attorney who understands this area of law. When you consider that you are looking at how you will support yourself for the rest of your life, it is vital that you get the help you need to ensure the best possible outcome for your DBA claim.
Best Los Angeles Defense Base Act Attorneys
Our highly specialized Defense Base Act attorneys are committed to ensuring that every injured or disabled civilian employee obtains the benefits he or she has earned. We have successfully filed hundreds of Defense Base Act applications and appeals – obtaining millions of dollars in DBA benefits in over four decades of legal service.
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