Brian Wiklendt is a defense base act and longshore act attorney in Maitland Florida with the law firm Garfinkel Schwartz. Brian talked recently with a journalist and explained that the DBA Law Covers Contractors Around the World.
Brian shared some alarming information after receiving a call from overseas which Garfinkel Schwartz often does. Garfinkel Schwartz helps people around the world receive their benefits from the Defense Base Act law and Brian thanks for talking with me today.
Complex Chain of Employers
Brian explains who is hiring whom regarding contractors overseas. If we would start at the top it’s the United States Department of Defense. And they go and they hire subcontractors and contractors, companies from the United States, Europe, India, from Asia, from Africa, South America, Central America.
It’s those contractors–civilian contractors or military contractors–who are sometimes called Subs. They have to go and then find staffing to go and work in these war zones including Iraq and Afghanistan.
When they are hiring people they’re hiring people to do manual labor and technical jobs they need working on U.S. military bases or for the military in various capacities. Whether it’s providing food service, water, transportation. They could be working on the weaponry. They could be building and constructing in Iraq or Afghanistan.
Deaths or Injuries between 2004 to 2011
Most of the clients that I talk to or potential clients that I talk to that have family who have been injured or killed. The biggest conflict arose between say 2004 and 2011 and then the troops withdrew from Iraq in 2011.
That doesn’t mean that the contractors did anything wrong. See these things happen on a daily basis. I had a call come in from a person who was injured last week and in Afghanistan and they came back and they called.
So it’s sort of a step away from the contractor and the U.S. Government. And if I’m a mother and I’ve lost my son who was in Turkey, who was hired by a subcontractor to go to Iraq or Afghanistan.
And that subcontractor let’s say he or she is from Ireland or from the Philippines or from Africa, there’s a disconnect from the U.S. Government. And how would they know how to find who’s responsible for their son’s death? They just know that their son has died.
One Year Statute of Limitations
And that’s what’s happening and the good part about the law is that there is a normal statute of limitations. That you know if a person dies or you’re injured severely and you know you can’t work, there’s a one-year statute of limitations that applies if you don’t notify the Department of Labor by that time your barred.
Claim Should Be Timely
However there’s a presumption in the law that that your claim is timely. From the point when you knew that you actually had or you should have known that you had actually had benefits under this law.
And if the employer does not report it to the Department of Labor within one year and the employer doesn’t explain what the situation is: that you may have rights under American law, many judges will make that leap and say this person should not be held to this limitation because there’s no way to get there have actually found out about this until recently. And that the employers and the insurance companies have a duty to notify people of a death under their watch including all subcontractors. And they don’t always do it.
So to be clear: we’re not pointing fingers. I mean this is a war. There is going to be losses and that’s a horrible thing, but we’re not saying that there is necessarily a deception. But that there is a whole group of people who are not being compensated and cared for after serving the needs of a larger group who’s fighting a war.
Sharing DBA Law With Contractors
I wouldn’t say it’s a decision necessarily. It’s just there’s no mechanism in place overseas that forces a subcontractor to tell an injured person or a dead person’s family what their rights are under the Defense Base Act.
There’s no mechanism in place that forces them to do that other than they’re supposed to file a claim within one year when they find out about a death. They don’t always do that.
Subcontractors Don’t Always Know About DBA Laws
So it’s more it’s more an act of silence. It’s simply a subcontractor may not even know if the general contractor doesn’t tell them. I mean these other foreign companies may not even know to tell the people their rights.
So it may not be deception it maybe it’s complete ignorance. But whatever it is these, people are covered under this law and they don’t know about it and they’ll never find out about it unless it’s someone like me or someone that’s interested.
Like these gentlemen they were hoping they’re helping Turkish families on their own by finding people and explaining to them and saying, “where did you work? How did this happen to you? What were you doing at the time in Iraq or Afghanistan?”
And then once that diatribe comes out we can then figure out if they’re actually covered and they usually are. So if I’m a family member of somebody who has died and I live in the Philippines, or in Pakistan or India, or any other countries where there are subcontractors how would someone get in touch with an attorney like myself?
That’s difficult because a lot of people aren’t Internet savvy and they aren’t necessarily you know capable of finding my website. Do they have Internet access? That’s always the question. If they have Internet access and they put in Defense Base Act law hopefully sooner or later my name will pop up or my face will pop up and they’ll be able to contact me.
If it’s an issue of not being able to speak English we have translators who can help. And that’s what I’ve been trying to do for a long time now to try to touch these people that had no idea what their rights are and they’re hard to find.
Sometimes Injured Contractors Can’t Get Home
Because what happens is they get injured. They get sent back to where they came from. Hopefully they can get back into their country which sometimes is an issue and then they’re just forgotten about. And so if they get a ticket home hopefully they can go back home. They get a ticket somewhere away from Afghanistan or Iraq where they got injured after they get out of the hospital and they just say goodbye.
And there’s the chance they don’t know what to do after that. They just figure “I was unlucky I got hurt and I’m going back home. Hopefully they’ll hire one of my family members in my place,” and that’s about all they can think to do.
So if somebody wants to contact Garfinkel Schwartz they can write a letter. There’s an address on the website and we’ll post that address here as well. There’s e-mail and we’ll Skype or video conference if possible.
If we’re talking a remote village or town or city no matter where it is outside the United States at some point maybe there is a mail system so we’ll make sure that the addresses for Garfinkel Schwartz law firm in Florida is left available to people.
Garfinkel Schwartz, P.A.
Attn: Attorney Brian Wiklendt
300 N Maitland Ave
Maitland, FL 32751 USA
Well, we care because this is something that just helps families across the world that need the help. And the benefits are there and it’s just a connection between getting the benefits and finding the people that they are entitled to them so thank you.