The World Can Be A Dangerous Place
In truth, it was always dangerous, but there was great hope that the risks of conflict would melt away after the Soviet Union dissolved in 1991. Yet a decade later or so, American military forces were engaged in wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Government contractors and civilian service workers followed troops into the greater Middle East and found themselves in a land beset by governmental collapse, ethnic warfare, and terrorist violence.
The situation isn’t much better elsewhere in the world. U.S. civilian contractors are at severe risk in parts of Asia, Africa, and Latin America; it’s just that the incidents of violence aren’t publicized as often as those in the Middle East.
The federal government already has a workers’ compensation program, the Defense Base Act, to provide a way for some civilians hurt while working abroad as contractors on U.S. projects to receive some help. While you might have heard a tad about the DBA, you might not have heard as much about the War Hazards Compensation Act.
My name is Bill Turley. My law firm is the largest DBA law firm on the west coast and one of the top two largest DBA law firms in the world that represents seriously injured overseas civilian contractors. We know the DBA. We deal with War Hazards Compensation Act cases week in and week out.
An Introduction to the War Hazards Compensation Act
The War Hazards Compensation Act (WHCA) was originally passed in 1942 as a way to complement the Defense Base Act. It has a broader reach than the Defense Base Act, however, and provides coverage to:
- Any worker who would otherwise qualify under the Defense Base Act, but is ineligible to receive benefits for some reason.
- Any civilian employee working under a federal government contract overseas who is taken prisoner, taken as a hostage, or otherwise detained.
- A civilian employee working under a federal government contract overseas who is injured or killed due to a war hazard. War hazards included armed conflicts between military forces (possibly including U.S. military forces); the discharge or explosion of munitions intended for use in war or armed conflict; the collision of aircraft or water vessels in convoy or operating without normal navigation aids; and the operation of aircraft or water vessels in war zones or zones of hostility.
The War Hazards Compensation Act provides many layers of benefits to eligible workers. Unlike the Defense Base Act, however, those benefits aren’t generally paid by employers or their insurance carriers; instead, they are paid directly from federal funds set aside for this purpose. If an employer or insurance company pays these benefits anyway, it can be reimbursed by the federal government.
The benefits provided under the War Hazards Compensation Act include:
- Medical care benefits similar to those given by the Defense Base Act.
- Disability income benefits similar to those given by the Defense Base Act for those unable to work because of their injuries.
- Death benefits similar to those provided by the Defense Base Act.
- Detention claims for people taken prisoner or detained by military forces.
Do You Need an Attorney for a War Hazards Compensation Act Claim?
Because the injured person seeking benefits isn’t necessarily in conflict with an insurance company—a pattern that is very common for Defense Base Act claims—it’s not always absolutely essential to hire an attorney for your War Hazards Compensation Act claim. However, there are three reasons why you may need to hire an experienced WHCA attorney right away:
If nobody recognizes you’re eligible under the War Hazards Compensation Act.
The WHCA is a fairly uncommon byway of the law. If you don’t hire a lawyer, or if the lawyer isn’t up to speed on overseas injury claims, you might lose access to benefits that should be yours—and lose money that could be in your pocket.
If the government tries claim you belong to a group you’re excluded from receiving benefits.
There are several categories of people who can’t claim WHCA benefits, ranging from foreign citizens who are entitled to benefits paid by another country to people convicted of subversion against the United States. If the federal government tries to deny your claim on this basis, you need a lawyer pronto.
If your injuries resulted from a terrorist act.
The War Hazards Compensation Act doesn’t specifically mention acts of terrorism, and precedent law isn’t yet clear on this area. If you have been hurt because of a terrorist act, your attorney should be prepared to argue that your injury qualifies under a specific provision of the WHCA.