In addition to providing coverage for what might be considered “typical” on-the-job injuries, Defense Base Act (DBA) Insurance also provides coverage for injuries or disorders not directly related to the work being done such as:
This includes exposure to diseases workers may contract that are prevalent in the region where the employment takes place (commonly referred to as “disease endemic to an area”). Examples include:
- Parasitic infections such as Malaria and Baghdad Boil (a skin infection caused by a parasite transmitted by sand fly bites)
- Airborne illnesses such as Tuberculosis
All of these would also be compensable DBA claims as being endemic to the Middle East.
Zone of Special Danger
The Zone of Special Danger doctrine was first applied in 1951, and modified the scope of DBA coverage to be more inclusive of deployment to war zones and other perilous locations. The doctrine states that it is not necessary for an employee to have been directly engaged in activity for his/her employer at the time of an injury or death for a claim to be compensable under DBA—that sheer presence in “zones of special danger” warrants a covered claim. Examples include:
- Reasonable recreation. Most employees will engage in typical social and recreational activities while working overseas. Claims stemming from activities not normally considered part of work are given consideration due to the hazardous living environment. However, reasonable recreational activity in a “zone of special danger” isn’t always black and white, and is usually reviewed on a case-by-case basis to determine if a particular activity is compensable if it results in a claim.
- Working conditions. Employees can be subjected to a variety of working conditions when performing their contracted duties. An assessment of one claim concluded that performing dangerous job assignments can have lasting effects, and can warrant compensation for non-occupational injuries under DBA.
Case Study: A 35-year-old employee worked for one year operating equipment that screens for explosive devices at a military base checkpoint in Iraq. The employee was diagnosed with a bleeding ulcer and, following cauterization by military doctors, was bedridden in a hotel in Jordan awaiting evacuation home to the U.S.
In order to avoid the risk of a “bleed out” during a commercial flight, the military required that the employee be medically evacuated back to the U.S., which resulted in an expense of nearly $100,000 for the employer. The DBA Insurance carrier indicated that it was not a compensable claim under DBA because the injury was not “occupational” in nature. However, after getting the perspective of other DBA Insurance carriers regarding this type of claim, and obtaining a legal opinion from a DBA Defense Attorney, it was determined that the claim was compensable under DBA. This determination was based on the fact that the bleeding ulcer was caused by not only the stress of checking vehicles for explosives on a daily basis, but also by the heat and strenuous working conditions in Iraq.
As the DBA Insurance broker for Allied World Assurance, the LATITUDE DBA Insurance team has a deep understanding of the complexities of Defense Base Act coverage. Contractors seeking DBA coverage should contact LATITUDE DBA Insurance today―we’d be happy to assist in creating an insurance plan that protects both the business and its employees against all overseas exposures.