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Case Study: DBA Death Claims and Fatal Heart Attack Abroad



A Case Study: Driver Suffered Fatal Heart Attack in Afghanistan

The Defense Base Act provides for death benefits to certain survivors if the injury causes death. In determining whether an injury and/or death is work-related, a claimant is aided by the DBA Presumption of Compensability.

The DBA Presumption may be invoked only after the claimant establishes a prima facie case, i.e., the claimant demonstrates that the decedent suffered a harm and that an accident occurred, or conditions existed, at work which could have caused that harm.

In order for the claimant to establish a prima facie case, and thus entitlement to invocation of the Defense Base Act Presumption, the claimant is not required to introduce affirmative medical evidence that the working conditions in fact caused, contributed to or accelerated the decedent’s disability and death; rather, the claimant must show only the existence of working conditions which could have caused or contributed to decedent’s disability and death.

In order to invoke the presumption, “a claimant must offer ‘some evidence’ of [an injury and working conditions].”

In a recent case, the Claimant’s doctor  stated: “[F]rom available information, I consider that this patient’s cardiomyopathy was more than likely than not the result of a viral myocarditis which the patient contracted in December 2006 when he was working as a driver for [employer] in Afghanistan…”

Once a claimant establishes a prima facie case, The DBA Presumption applies to relate the disability and death to the employment, and employer can rebut this presumption by producing substantial evidence that the decedent’s disability and death were not related to the employment. In this case, the Claimant’s heart condition was found to be related to the DBA employment and was therefor compensable under the Defense Base Act.

Learn more about DBA death benefits here. 


Disclaimer: Please understand these discussions and/or examples are not legal advice. All legal situations are different. This testimonial, endorsement and/or discussion does not constitute a guarantee, warranty, or prediction regarding the outcome of your legal matter, your particular case/ situation and/or this particular case/ situation.

William Turley
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