Second-injury claims (claims that occur when an existing or prior injury is re-injured) are often compensable under DBA and are typically very costly. In most cases, they’re also preventable.
To help reduce the risk of re-injury claims, contractors should consider taking a precautionary step by requiring all employees to undergo a pre-deployment health screening. Vendors can be hired to perform these “fit for duty” screenings which will help to identify any pre-existing illnesses or injuries and decipher whether or not deployment for work under contract to a volatile location, such as a war zone, will exacerbate the condition. Even if the work itself does not involve physical labor, other components of overseas employment such as the necessity to wear gear designed to protect employees living in a war zone―which can weigh 60 pounds or more― could, for example, cause an older person with a pre-existing back condition further injury.
The following two claim examples demonstrate how pre-deployment screenings could have changed employee work orders:
DBA Claim Example #1: As a 51 year old male was exiting a helicopter while working overseas, his foot got caught in a hole. He immediately felt pain in his lower back, which caused him to stumble and fall. He continued working after the injury, but later reported the incident in order to seek medical attention. After two lumbar fusion surgeries and physical therapy, the paid and reserve amount of the DBA claim was nearly $500,000. Had the employer requested pre-deployment screening, the employee’s age-related lower spine arthritis may have been detected, possibly rendering the employee as “not fit for duty.”
DBA Claim Example #2: A male employee in his late 40s was assigned to field service work in Afghanistan and was required to wear 65 pounds of war zone gear as part of the job. While working, he sneezed, causing great pain in his lower back. The man also reported a work-related shoulder injury a few days later. While investigating the claims, records from a military screening performed just prior to deployment indicated the man had been involved in a vehicle accident several years earlier that had required lumbar fusion surgery of the neck and back. Because of the weight of the gear and deterioration around the fusion area, the sneeze caused a herniated disc. This claim is currently reserved at $550,000. Had the employer requested a pre-deployment screening, the employee’s prior surgeries would have been disclosed, possibly rendering the employee as “not fit for duty.”
These claim examples reveal how second-injury claims can often be compensable under DBA, and can also result in large claim expenses. Claim payouts in the hundreds of thousands of dollars will adversely affect a contractor’s loss ratio and, in turn, result in increased DBA premiums. By ensuring all employees undergo a “fit for duty” screening, contractors can help reduce the number of second-injury claims and have a better handle on their overall claims management.
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, including claims management, and can assist contractors in creating an insurance plan that protects their business and its employees against overseas exposures. Contact LATITUDE DBA Insurance today!