To most Louisianans, it might sound pretty cool. “Hey, I am the Zone of Special Danger!” But most Louisianans haven’t spent time overseas working on U.S. national defense or public works contracts. To you and your loved ones, the Zone of Special Danger might have less of a cool factor.
The DBA protects America’s workers outside America
The Defense Base Act (DBA) is a federal law that provides coverage similar to more familiar workers’ compensation insurance plans.
Exactly who is covered by the DBA is a bit complex and has changed after a variety of court decisions. But the DBA is essentially for private contractors and subcontractors working on U.S. military bases. Public work contracts that are overseas and federally funded are also included, So are foreign assistance, USO and other various other projects.
As with regular private jobs stateside and most other employment situations, the idea is that injuries or illnesses you suffer because you have the job you have should be compensated by whoever you work for. It’s only fair.
Yes, there’s a good chance you’re in The Zone
Over the decades, a variety of court cases have tested special situations where a worker didn’t seem to be working and wasn’t at their workplace but sought compensation under the DBA. As an overall trend, court decisions have gradually expanded the circumstances in which such workers were eligible for compensation, thus expanding a Zone of Special Danger to surprising shapes and sizes.
Several of the cases are famously memorable to attorneys experienced in Defense Base Act litigation, in part because the facts of the case can be a little strange. One case was won by the family of a man electrocuted from a tape recorder while in a hotel room in Vietnam. Although there was no evidence the tape recorder had anything to do with his job, he was in a war zone only because he was employed, and he was therefore covered.
Another man was injured on a small island 750 miles southwest of Hawaii, the Johnston Atoll, where there isn’t much to do. His hip injury was sustained in a bar while off-duty, in the course of losing a $100 wager regarding his karate skills. The court found the man’s injury was foreseeable given the conditions of the man’s employment.