I hope you never have to ask this question, but when you’re working as a civilian contractor in a war zone, it’s not a question of if injuries will happen, it’s when they’ll happen.  I’ve scoured the internet and put together this list of ten tips that will help you prepare for filing a Defense Base Act claim, and just might answer some of the questions you may have about your coverage.

1.    DBA coverage works much differently from “normal” worker’s compensation claims.  In particular, you don’t have to actually be engaged in work at the time of you’re injured in order to be eligible for a DBA claim.  The only requirement is that you’re deployed to the theater at the time the injury occurs.  Throw out your back while lifting weights at the gym?  Slip and fall in the shower?  Guess what, you’re covered!

2.    Like with any other injury, you should immediately report the incident to your supervisor or first-line manager.  Don’t try to be a hero and suck up a “minor” injury, since this can actually hurt your credibility if the injury worsens and you’ve waited to make a claim.  Remember the importance of documentation, and retain copies of all emails and injury reports.  

3.    You should already by doing this, but make sure to keep track of all your earnings, including any bonuses or special allotments.  Your regular paystubs may be the only way that you can document your income levels, so make sure to save copies of all your paperwork.  

4.    Always remember that you’re entitled to be seen by your choice of doctors.  Your insurance carrier might recommend a physician based on your location, but you are not required to use them if you have a preferred care provider lined up.  

5.    As part of your documentation, be sure to compile a list of anyone who might have witnessed your injury, even if you do not know them very well. Try to include as much information as possible, such as the person’s telephone numbers, homes addresses and e-mail addresses. 

6.    Guess what, more documentation!  Start keeping a logbook of all the medical treatment that you received in country, to include the name of each doctor and some notes about the treatment that you received. Once you get home, it will be very hard to obtain copies of any of these records.

7.    If possible, try to gather copies of all your medical records, whether it’s from the military or the company that you work for.  You might not be able to get things like MRIs or X-Ray films, but grab them whenever they’re offered.

8.    It’s very important to be truthful with all medical personnel.  If you’re proven to be dishonest, it’s possible that your claim might be dismissed once you get back home.  This is very common with cases of pre-existing conditions, since employers are not responsible for an injury that occurred before you were an employee.  They are, however, responsible if the work that you did overseas exacerbated a pre-existing condition.  It’s incumbent upon you to explain the type of work that you did, for example, standing for ten-hour shifts with fifty pounds of gear, etc.

9.    Once you get back home, keep in mind that you’re not required to have the insurance company’s case examiner present during any of your physical examinations.  These examinations are private, and the insurance company should only need your doctor’s records to process their claims.

10.  Don’t be shy about asking for help if you feel like you’re being railroaded, or even if you have any questions about your rights.  Most DBA attorneys won’t charge you for an initial phone consultation, so you have nothing to lose and everything to gain!